T Nation

Cramp While Benching

Frequently, as I get to my heavy sets and drive hard with my legs, one of my hamstrings will cramp up. It totally ruins the drive for that lift and makes me tentative for the next sets.

Has anyone else had this problem? Any ideas for a solution?



I would say stretch more before you train, check you hydration and your diet, then I would say post a video so your form can be checked if you don’t have someone that can do it for you that you trust. The hamstring is in play definitely but your quad is even more when you do your leg drive.

I can definitely see how a cramp in your leg would throw off your bench though.

[quote]dumbbellhead wrote:
The hamstring is in play definitely but your quad is even more when you do your leg drive. [/quote]

This is completely dependent on how he’s set up.

OP, it could do with your hydration levels, etc… but it’s probably just the position of your legs and how you push. I could get another inch or so on my arch when I bench, but my low back cramps up to the point where it’s just too much to even complete the lift.

Try to tweak your foot placement so you can find a sweet spot where you get the most out of your leg drive without cramping. A video would help give us suggestions… Or at least a picture of your set up.

Do you push yourself back with your quads? Or push your heels down?

[quote]rrjc5488 wrote:

[quote]dumbbellhead wrote:
The hamstring is in play definitely but your quad is even more when you do your leg drive. [/quote]
This is completely dependent on how he’s set up.

You’re right. Apologies OP. I made an assumption there.

I don’t think it’s a problem with hydration or diet. I drink a ton of water and I don’t cramp up doing anything else and the cramp is localized to my hamstring. I agree it’s probably something in my set up and push.

I’ll be in the gym later today and will take a couple videos. I’ve been training for years, but I’m very new (5 months) in powerlifting and using max effort days. In the past, when I was doing the old 8-12 reps, there was a lot of wiggle room form wise and close was good enough. Now, when doing more 1-3 reps sets, I can see where technique is huge and I figure I’m robbing myself of some weight.

If you guys don’t mind, I’ll take videos of my bench, deadlift, and squat and post them up here.

Thanks again,


Ok, I took some videos of my bench, deadlift, and squat. Unfortunately, this is the first time I’ve taken videos to post, so you’ll have to bare with me. The first three are better quality, but sideways (sorry, I didn’t realize my ipod recorded sideways, even though it was upright). The second three are the same lifts, right side up, but the qualities not as good (I had to recordings going).

Man, actually seeing my self lift for the first time was humbling. I was able to see just how bad my form is.

Here is my bench. The biggest thing I noticed, and probably the cause of my cramp, is that my leg drive isn’t straight down, but rather down and back (think along the angle of my shin). This requires the hamstring to contract hard.

Bench again


The biggest things I noticed were that I wasn’t going quite to parallel and my knees travelled too far forward.

Squat again


Here I was surprised just how much my hips rise up before my shoulders and the bar.

Deadlift again. Last one.

Any advice on any lift would be appreciated!

I think your hamstrings are cramping because they are detrained; are you doing any GHRs or Romanian/stiff-legged Deadlifts? As has already been mentioned, the leg drive is significant to the performance of the lift, so donâ??t underestimate the importance of having well-trained ham-strings for the bench.

I think your bench setup is similiar to mine; take a look at this video and don’t forget to retract your scapula and to drive your upper traps into the bench hard when pressing.

Just quickly, with regard to the squat - a couple of very minor things. Never take the bar out of the rack with your feet staggered, always bring your feet together and get directly under the bar. Also, when you are returning the bar to the power rack, always walk it all the way in and don’t try to set the bar on the pins.

In other words, walk until you hit the front posts and then bring the weight down - do not want to risk missing the pins. I don’t think your form is horrible. I would recommend that you try to sit back into the squat a bit further and that should take care of your knees coming out over your toes. I’m a big believer in box squatting to help a trainee learn how to squat properly.

Also, as you have no doubt learned, the video camera is a very powerful coaching tool. Based on your own comments, you already know what needs to be fixed. Deadlift - chest up and butt down - get that chest moving first, before the hips. Best.

Thanks. That’s a great video. It’s interesting to see the different foot placements. I’ll have to play around with that a bit.

I’ve been doing a lot of GHR’s, RDL’s, hip thrusts, etc to bring my hamstring strength up.

Thanks also for the tips on the squat and deadlift. I’ll definitely make those changes. I’ve been using a box to judge depth, but not really doing box squats. I’ll have to change that.

What I’ll do for now is set a camera up when I do the three lifts so I can analyze my technique and try to zone it in. I guess this is one of the reasons having a training partner to give you cues during the lift is so beneficial.

I never realized just how much of a role technique plays until I started reading everything I could here and on Elitefts and started going heavy (for me). For example, in the past, if I had more trouble with a weight than usual, I just figured I was tired or it was an off day. Now I see that it could just be a wrong set up, etc. I had a good reminder of this about a month ago with squats. I worked up to my final set, a weight I had got for 2 the previous week and was going for 3 on that week. I simply got pinned at the bottom - no chance. After thinking about it, I realized I let the weight get too far forward and was trying to push through my toes and good morning the weight up. I came back the next week, concentrated on sitting back and got 5 lbs more for 2.