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The other day I got the beginnings of cramp in my left tricep putting a gel wrapper in my back jersey pocket, and it really wanted a stretch. This happens every now and then, especially when it's only just warm enough for bare arms, as it was on Sunday

Try as I might I couldn't find anything good. This bike with its aero bars isn't good for riding hands free (you have to go pretty fast to avoid a big slow oscillation, but then there's a quick and growing oscillation in the steerer) but I didn't want to stop. Eventually it eased from riding one (right) handed for a few minutes, trying various positions for a straight left arm, but a stretch would have been far better.

Is there a tricep stretch that can be used while going along?

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  • The bare-arm comment - do you not suffer this cramp while wearing long sleeves ?
    – Criggie
    Nov 15, 2022 at 20:23
  • @Criggie it's pretty random, so I can't really tell. I think warm arms help but I was sweating enough as it was, and unzipping my jersey on/after climbs to keep cool. I know if my calf muscles get cold they're much more prone to cramp, e.g. spinning to retain speed after a descent (high cadence/sudden movements not good)
    – Chris H
    Nov 15, 2022 at 21:07
  • I have some summerweight arm sleeves that somehow do an effective job of cooling. Might be a help at keeping the sun off while providing the tension.
    – Criggie
    Nov 16, 2022 at 0:55
  • @Criggie I think it's surface temperature rather than compression because none of my winter jerseys are tight on the arms and they do seem to help. And I run hot so need all the cooling I can get, just not for the underused muscles. Arm warmers but no jersey is, however, not a solution!
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2022 at 6:59

2 Answers 2

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Solve the root of the problem.

When I started riding long, hard, or, worst of all, long and hard, my calves would painfully seize up and jolt me in the middle of the night for an hour at a time.

I took my cue from football (aka soccer) coaches, who routinely recommend that their teams take Magnesium tablets before training and games.

After asking, my first attempt was banana muffins sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. (I prefer whole foods over tablets or powders.)

Imperically, it somewhat solves the problem.

My current go-to recipe, which wonderfully guards against this menace, is to take black bean brownies on long rides.

They pack a large supply of Mg. As a bonus, it's (surprisingly) impossible to tell either that they're flourless or that they're made from beans. If you want, they can also be made vegan—though in my experience that makes them far less pleasing.

Disclaimer

The use of Magnesium for muscle decontraction remains an active area of research:

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  • 1
    This was a rare occasion when I didn't use a magnesium-containing electrolyte drink (I always do in summer, sometimes including a bottle the night before, but I'm less rigorous in less sweaty seasons). However while that seems to help for post-ride cramp in bed (calves or inner thighs/adductors), it doesn't seem to help me with cramp during the ride. What does help with that is keeping the muscles warm, but that would have increased sweating (avoiding cramp was one reason I kept my leg warmers on - it was marginal). But Mg is good for cramp in many cases even if there's no definitive reason.
    – Chris H
    Nov 15, 2022 at 16:11
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds (checking out your linked Q)? My homemade bread includes both, but not in massive quantities, and I eat a lot of pulses and nuts being nearly vegetarian - so my baseline is probably OK but supplementing around rides might still be good
    – Chris H
    Nov 15, 2022 at 16:16
  • @ChrisH I had indeed been using pumpkin seeds, although it appears after a quick search that sunflower seeds are richer in Magnesium. That might be because unlike, the latter, the former roasts quite nicely on top of breads and muffins.
    – Sam7919
    Nov 15, 2022 at 18:18
  • Worth keeping in mind that the connection between muscle cramps and lack of magnesium is still the subject of debate. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8020016 Nov 16, 2022 at 18:01
  • @user2705196 Right. Despite Mg being commonly used for some time to ward against cramps in professional teams, the exact interaction is not well understood. What I can say from a sample size of grand total of one is that it works remarkably well (yes, that can be merely a placebo effect). Added disclaimer.
    – Sam7919
    Nov 17, 2022 at 10:06
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The only thing I can think of which doesn’t involve your second arm, a rubber band or some solid object: Try to reach with your hand between your shoulder blades. As far downwards and to the spine as possible. This should put tension on the triceps.

If my arms start to get cramped or numb, what I’ve found to help much better than only shaking them is windmilling your whole arm. This also helps the shoulder and neck. Could also help with the triceps.

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  • From the feeling at the time, I think getting into this position without the other hand pulling on the elbow might have been unhelpful, but cramp is so variable I can see it being worth a shot
    – Chris H
    Nov 15, 2022 at 12:18
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    @ChrisH: Yes, it’s much more effective if you can increase the tension with your other arm.
    – Michael
    Nov 15, 2022 at 12:31

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