By: Evie Tate, PT, DPT at Sapphire Physical Therapy
Have you ever had an overuse injury like a tendinopathy (also known as tendinitis)? A common misconception about this injury is that rest is the most important piece to recovery. Though rest is important, it is not the most important part of your recovery. While adjusting your training volume during a time of injury, you should also be progressively loading your tendon. Tendon fibers become stronger when they are put to use in an intentional way.
We know that tendon injuries for runners are typically due to overuse. Running can put up to eight times one’s body weight through the Achilles tendon with each step (1). We also know that a single, unweighted calf raise only puts around 3.5-3.9 times one’s body weight through the Achilles tendon (2). In order to withstand the demands of running, we must perform exercises that are heavier than just our body weight alone.
When introducing exercise with heavier weights, it is important to start out with lighter weight and higher reps. Every week or two, as your body adjusts and becomes stronger, you can increase the weight you are lifting and decrease the reps. This is what we mean by “progressive loading.” This is the best strategy to use when introducing heavier exercises into your workout routine. Some excellent exercises for runners to start implementing into their routine include calf raises, squats, Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) and lunges (3). Depending on the amount of running you are doing, you most likely only need to complete these lifts two to three times a week, with at least one rest day in between to ensure you are allowing your body optimal time to recover.
1 Willy RW, Halsey L, Hayek A, Johnson H, Willson JD. Patellofemoral Joint and Achilles Tendon Loads During Overground and Treadmill Running. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Aug;46(8):664-72. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2016.6494. Epub 2016 May 12. PMID: 27170525
2 Effects of minimalist and maximalist footwear on Achilles tendon load in recreational runners. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281406583_Effects_of_minimalist_and_maximalist_footwear_on_Achilles_tendon_load_in_recreational_runners. Accessed January 7, 2021.
3 Blagrove RC, Brown N, Howatson G, Hayes PR. Strength and Conditioning Habits of Competitive Distance Runners. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 May;34(5):1392-1399. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002261. PMID: 29023328.