Achilles Tendinosis: How to Strengthen the Achilles Tendon (Part 2)

This Part 2 of a multi-part series. Part 1 talked about the injury cycle and the 4 stages of diagnosing your injury.

Based on demand from Part 1, I’m going to jump right ahead and get to the physio and rehab exercises for strengthening your Achilles tendon.

There are only 3 reasons why you get injured:

  1. when there is an imbalance
  2. when you are tired or overworked
  3. when the mind wants to do something the body does NOT want to do

When reviewing strength training, there are several types of exercises, and a lot of S&C (strength and conditioning) coaches will argue on the taxonomy of the categories:

  1. Absolute strength, or Maximal strength
  2. Power, or speed-strength
  3. Explosive strength (Plyometrics is a good example)
  4. Reactive strength, or elastic strength

Now, just doing simple calf raises on a squat rack (i.e. absolute strength) won’t help with your Achilles injuries.  It might strengthen the tendon, but not in a way that will help you prevent the injury from coming back.  It will certainly help build muscle and strength in the calf muscle, and maybe even look good when flexed!

By strengthening the Achilles tendon in the same manner as a running or sprinting motion, you will help prevent the Achilles injury from coming back.  The only way you can get better at sprinting is sprinting.

But you can’t simply run more (in spikes!) to strengthen it, right?  That will hurt.  That’s bad.

Basically, you need heavy load eccentric contractions which have recently been shown to be very effective at strengthening the tendon (studies go back to 1998).  You have to emulate the running motion and start progressing with strength training, both concentric but mainly eccentric work loads.  (I’ll go in detail the mechanics of the running gait cycle that may cause the injury in a later article)

So, here is Part 1 of How to Strengthen your Achilles Tendon, and it’s called The Heel Drop.  I assume you are at the Stage 1 or 2 injury cycle before attempting these exercises.  If you are in Stage 3 or 4, you must wait until you recover (details in later articles on how to recover faster)

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Here is the executive summary from the video:

  1. Phase 1: 2 feet, up 2 seconds, down 4 seconds
  2. Phase 2: 1 foot, up 2 seconds, down 4 seconds, alternate feet
  3. Phase 3: 2 feet, up 2 seconds, then a rapid drop down, hence the name heel drop
  4. Phase 4: 1 foot, up 2 seconds, then a rapid drop down, alternate feet

If you want to get picky, you can breathe (inhale) when going up.  Exhale when going down.

Start with 6-8 reps, then go to 10 reps, then aim for 15 reps before proceeding to the next phase.

Once you can do Phase 4, you can make it harder by:

  1. doing up to 3 sets
  2. going to 20 or 25 reps
  3. wearing a weight vest or holding a dumbbell with one hand

Then you can proceed to the next exercise, the Eccentric Squat and Reach, which is next…

To be continued…

  • How many times per week should I do these? Also, should I keep doing them when I am not having issues as a preventitive thing?

    Thanks!