Achilles Strengthening is essential if you are going to make a full recovery from an Achilles tendon injury. But how do you strengthen? What exercises should you start with? How quickly do I progress? And what does the research say is the best type of exercise for my Achilles Injury? The Answers? Well, it’s not that simple. We do know you need to build strength. And 1 proven way is via Isotonic Exercises.
What Are Isotonic Exercises?
Isotonic exercises occur WITH movement. Unlike isometric exercises. Here we see the muscle change length while under tension. This length change can either be lengthening or shortening. An example of this is the classic calf raise exercise. A slow rise up on your toes. And then a controlled lowering yourself down again.
There are different phases to the isotonic exercise and this can simply be broken down into eccentric and concentric movement.
The concentric component is a contraction whilst the muscle shortens. The UP part of the calf raise. The Shortening of the muscle LIFTS your body. The eccentric component is the opposite. The DOWN part of the exercise. This is the muscle lengthening, as your body lowers.
What Does Isotonics Do for Achilles Strengthening?
When we injure a tendon, that tendon loses its capacity to cope with the forces generated by our normal movement. In the case of Achilles injuries, the calf muscles are also affected. In order for the muscle and tendon to heal, they need to be strengthened.
As with all cells in the body, tendons follow the natural cycle where old collagen cells in our tendons are replaced by new ones. Exercise promotes this cycle and therefore promotes the creation of healthy collagen – hence why we can use it to strengthen our tendons.
There have been many theories as to why Isotonic exercises help a damaged tendon. With a HUGE variation in the research. Some Focus just on:
- The Eccentric exercises. The lengthening exercises.
- Others just the Isometric exercises. A muscle contraction without a change in length.
- Some focused on heavy resistance training. Their aim? To strengthen the muscles and resist these movements.
The exact theory of how strength training heals tendinopathy is actually unknown. One school of thought is that the injured collagen fibers are replaced by healthy ones. Another theory supports the idea the injured fibers remain injured. But new healthy collagen fibers help to support these damaged fibers, like a brace or splint. And this support results in increased strength and function and less pain.
When, Do I Use isotonic Exercises?
It depends! This answer needs to be individualized to you. Your starting point needs to be assessed. What is your tendon’s current capacity? What can you do without increasing your symptoms? Our exercise selection is also guided by your end goal. Is your goal a jog around the block without stopping? Or is your goal of running a marathon? We also need to consider other factors. These. include:
- Your general health
- Are you taking any medication?
- Your Age
- Your Current fitness level
- Previous Injury.
These are just a few of the considerations we take into account when selecting your exercise prescription.
Keep in mind, a decrease in symptoms may not be the first thing you notice when performing these exercises! An indication that your Achilles is getting stronger, maybe the fact that you start to find your exercises easier. And that you’re able to progress them. It’s usually only after a few weeks of strength training that you will start to notice a greater reduction in symptoms.
Here Are Some of Our Favorite Isotonic Exercises For Achilles Strengthening:
1. Achilles Strengthening: Single leg calf raise
2. Achilles Strengthening: Wall Sit – Calf Raise:
3. Achilles Strengthening: 2 up 1 Down.
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