How to Improve Tendon Health in 5 Steps

Are you trying to improve your tendon health? Maybe you’ve experienced an injury or think you have a little something going on…here are five things to include in your training!

What is a tendon?

A tendon is connective tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone and therefore allows you to move.

Tendons are passive stabilizers of your joints (along with the joint capsule and ligaments).Muscles, on the other hand, are active stabilizers, as muscles are contractile tissue.

Step 1: Include eccentrics in your training

Eccentric training optimizes tendon remodeling. This is probably the most important thing to consider with tendon health, as this training is most supported by the research.

You have 3 types of muscle contractions:

  • Concentric contractions – muscle is contracting and shortening (think the pull up part of the pull up)
  • Isometric contractions – muscle is contracting, but staying the same length (think about adding a pause at the top of a pull up)
  • Eccentric contractions – muscle is contracting and lengthening (think about a slow lower part of a pull up)

Step 2: Optimize muscle length

Aka stretch! Rule of thumb is about 1 min of total stretching per muscle/major muscle group. You can split this up into 2 sets of 30 seconds, 4 sets of 15 seconds, etc. I like to do 3-5 sets of 30 seconds, as people tend to count fast!

Since tendons connect muscle to bone, having a tight muscle can increase the pull of the tendon on the bone. This increases the risk of injury, due to increased forces. Stretching can improve your muscle length and reduce the amount of force going through the tendon in different parts of the range of motion. This improves tendon health.

Step 3: End range strengthening

End range strengthening supports joint and tendon health throughout the full range of motion. Often times end range strengthening is neglected, so it’s often an area where people are weaker. Also, a muscle’s capacity for strength at end range is less compared to the middle of the range due to active insufficiency. Essentially, due to an overlap of muscle fibers, the muscle can’t contract as easily (aka the actin and myosin proteins in the muscle can’t interlink as efficiently due to their position).

Step 4: Gradual progressive overload

Progressive overload is increasing load (aka resistance/weight/etc.) as your muscles get stronger to constantly provide enough stimulus to challenge them to become stronger. You need to gradually improve loading so your muscles and tendons can adapt to the new stimulus, before providing an additional stimulus.

This example is a little extreme, but it’s not unheard of for those who take anabolic steroids to tear tendons. The amount of weight lifted is quickly increased due to increased strength, but the tendons haven’t had time to adapt yet.

Step 5: Muscle and joint balance

I dive a bit deeper into this topic in this blog post here. But, essentially, optimizing joint mobility and muscles surrounding the joint reduces stress on any one particular area of the joint. Because tendons often attach close to joints (and in some joints have connections to the joint capsule itself), optimizing your joint and muscle health will also optimize tendon health.

Hope you found this helpful! Remember, no one is perfect and that in itself is perfect!

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Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here. 

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