Strengthen Your Tendons To Maximize Training Gains
I had a complete tear in the tendon attaching my right pectoralis to the humerus (upper arm). It was not fun. In fact, it left me in a sling for 4 months followed by 6 months of physical therapy and then another year of impaired use. In fact, I still have some problems in that shoulder today due to other issues brought on from injury compensation. It was the horribly painful gift that just kept on giving. SO instead of following my example let’s attack the problem before it manifests in a catastrophic injury. Let’s strengthen the connective tissue in the most injury prone spots: Achilles and pectoral attachment.
First, you can strengthen your tendons with eccentric work at the end of your usual workout. Eccentric loading of tendons is when the muscle is elongated (opposite of contraction). Eccentric calf raises and eccentric bench press are great ways to target the two most commonly injured tendons. The pectorals’ tendons are eccentrically loaded as you lower a bar to your chest or lower yourself into the bottom of a push up. With a spotter you can use the bench press. Otherwise, use pushups with strict form on the way down and then “snake” up to the top of the pushup. The calf muscle and Achilles tendons (along with a few more tendons in your lower leg) are eccentrically loaded when you go from plantarflexion (going onto your tip toes) to dorsiflexion (bottom of a calf raise. A great way to do this is to have yourself weighted down and then use your arms to pull yourself into the extended position then let your calves lower your down. DO NOT GO TO FAILURE ON ANY OF THESE EXERCISES. Attempting repetitions to failure is a good way to get injured which is what we’re trying to avoid. So, leave a little something in the tank. This method is great for rehabilitating injuries. Think about completing 3 sets of 10-15 reps of each. Volume is your friend here.
Explosive isometrics is the application of force against an immovable object. An example would be trying to push over a building. Application for the pectoral tendon would be to overload a bar while it’s siting in the lower rack position and then press up for a 3 second count. Ensure that you have good form and are within the appropriate limits of your range of motion. Do the same with a calf raise. Make sure you warm up to maximum effort when applying this technique and maintain perfect mechanical form. There’s potential for injury when applying this technique incorrectly. Try 3 sets of 3-6 reps at 3 seconds of effort with 10 seconds of rest between reps. 3 minutes of rest between sets. Because it’s explosive work, it will be more taxing and require increased rest to work.
The safest option I can share with you is increased general movement. You were born to move. The more you move your body through a full range of motion each day disperses the synovial fluid in our joints (think of it as greasing the wheels). So wherever possible, add more movement into your life. Your call how that is applied. Standing is better than sitting. Walking is better than standing. Upper and lower body full range of motion movement is best.
Just know that tendons and other avascular tissues in your body need more time to adapt compared to muscle tissue so give your tendons some thought as part of your training program. Make training your tendons a part of your recovery routine.
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