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What Does It Mean When Your Legs Shake When You Squat?
Provided you are a healthy individual with no neurological conditions (Parkinson’s disease, stroke, etc.), then legs shaking in the squat is caused by muscular fatigue.
Muscular fatigue happens when you are training hard via either maximal loading (such as a 1 rep max), when you are pushing close to failure (maximal rep sets), or when overall workload is too high (you are doing too many reps, sets or too much load in a single session).
The Shaking Should Not Be Every Rep
Shaking occurs due to muscular fatigue, so should only be present in a fatigued state.
Your legs should not be shaking during the first few reps of a set of 8-10, but towards the end of the set the last couple of reps you may notice the shaking as the set gets harder and your muscles fatigue.
If your legs are shaking during the first rep of a lower rep set (1-5), then perhaps the load is too heavy (or simply a maximal attempt) or you have not had enough rest between sets.
As you train more, your body will be able to handle higher loads, volumes (total reps and sets) and even frequency (more sessions per week) before the onset of shaking. This is often referred to as “work capacity”, by building this, your muscles can train more before fatiguing.
If Shaking Is A Sign Of Fatigue, Is It A Good Thing?
While we want to be training hard enough to stimulate the muscle and cause an element of fatigue, there is a scale of how much fatigue we want present in a training session, week and even longer.
If you are commonly training to the point of muscular shaking, then you are likely pushing beyond the fatigue levels you want to see in a training program and put yourself at risk of overtraining and even injury.
Shaking occasionally in your heaviest or hardest training sessions towards the end of a training block is not an issue.
Frequent leg shaking in the squat could be indicative of other issues though, which is why you need to look at your technique, recovery and overall programming factors to understand if there are any other reasons why you may be excessively fatiguing.
Are you having the same issue in the bench press? Read our article Why Do Your Arms Shake In The Bench Press?
Shaking in the squat is a sign of muscle fatigue. This occurs when training close to failure, introducing new movements, inefficient techniques or due to recovery issues. Identifying the cause of your shaking is important in addressing and reducing its occurrence.
Other Factors Affecting Shakiness
There are a few other causes of shaking that you might want to consider. Keep these in mind and try to identify if the shaking is part of a normal training process, or if you might need to adjust your schedule a little (and pass on that afternoon coffee before you hit the mat!).
4. You’re not getting enough sleep
Yes, your brain starts to malfunction when you’re sleep deprived as well. The body uses sleep to reset and repair cells. So if you’re not getting your recommended hours, which for adults is about 7-9 hours a night, you’re forcing your body to function in a stressful situation. To keep afloat, your body will start pumping out adrenaline to try to keep you awake and running. But that, in turn, can cause your heart to work extra hard and your limbs to shake. Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to many other health problems besides hand shaking, though; it may increase the risk of heart disease.
Yet another reason to keep your water bottle by your side! Dehydration can cause all sorts of shaky, light-headed behavior. Remember to hydrate before you train (ideally far in advance, so you can be ready to jump in when the time is right). There are all sorts of other benefits to staying fueled with H20. Did you know it can lubricate your joints and regulate your body temperature? It also keeps your skin refreshed—so sip water and show off that glow!
What to do about your tremors
If you think chronic stress, too much espresso, hunger or lack of sleep are the cause of your shaky hands, most likely, the best solution is to make some lifestyle changes. Catch those eight hours of sleep, maybe trade in the coffee for some water, have a snack, and see if the shakes improve.
But if you believe that your condition is not improving and has more serious consequences, book an appointment with your primary care doctor (or a specialist) ASAP. They will help you determine the next best steps.
In the days leading up to the appointment, write down the nature of your tremors. Do they get worse when you are anxious or depressed? Do your fingers tremble when you’re texting or when they are by your side? Ask about your family’s medical history. Write down any medications you take. And when it comes to alcohol and drug use, don’t be afraid of being honest. Any good physician will have your best interest at heart and want to get to root of your concerns.