Tend­ing to your tendons


The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - By Wina Stur­geon

You’ve de­cided to take re­sis­tance work se­ri­ously, and so you fi­nally joined a gym. Per­haps you once did re­sis­tance work­outs, but you took some time off. Maybe years. But once you be­gin lift­ing weights, you’ll see ac­tual strength gains within a few weeks. How­ever, be­fore you start those mus­cle­build­ing work­outs, build up your tendons.

Tendons are the white tis­sues at each end of ev­ery skele­tal mus­cle in your body. They con­nect the mus­cles to the bones. They are made of col­la­gen, which is like a dense bun­dle of fi­bres. Un­like the juicy red meat of mus­cle, tendons have very lit­tle to no blood flow. That’s why mus­cles can get strong quickly, but it takes a lot more time for tendons to get strong.

Be­cause mus­cle tis­sue gains strength rapidly, mus­cles can get so strong that they can over­power weak tendons, rip­ping them away from the bone, or even rup­tur­ing them. A small, par­tial tear may heal on its own. But a com­plete tear will re­quire surgery to re­pair. That’s the main rea­son to spend time build­ing your tendons be­fore get­ting car­ried away lift­ing heavy weight.

When you first be­gin your re­sis­tance pro­gramme, lift light. Never hoist as much weight as you may be able to man­age. A pro­gramme of light poundage with many rep­e­ti­tions will start the process of strength­en­ing your tendons.

Ac­cord­ing to the web­site Live Strong, “It takes ap­prox­i­mately 10 weeks of reg­u­lar re­sis­tance ex­er­cise to strengthen your tendons, and it takes longer for them to thicken.” Two and a half months is not much time to spend on build­ing a good foun­da­tion for your re­sis­tance strength gains, a foun­da­tion which will help pro­tect you against in­jury.

Stretch­ing is also part of the process. Stiff and con­tracted tendons will tear much more eas­ily than pli­ant and elas­tic tis­sues. A sim­ple test of ten­don elas­tic­ity in the lower body is the toe touch stretch. This can be done sit­ting down on a flat sur­face or stand­ing up and bend­ing over at the hips. Keep your back straight. Don’t curve it around to get more of a stretch.

Never force this stretch. You may feel dis­com­fort, but there should never be pain. You will be able to make quicker progress if you do a se­ries of brief stretches rather than one long at­tempt. Hold the first one for a count of

20, stand back up­right, then bend over and try again for an­other count of 20. This time, you will prob­a­bly be able to get an inch or two closer to your toes. Prac­tice ev­ery night be­fore go­ing to bed, when the mus­cles are a bit warmed up from the ac­tiv­i­ties of the day. Don’t stretch in the morn­ing, when the mus­cles and tendons are con­tracted from ly­ing in bed all night.

It’s also im­por­tant to stretch the shoul­ders, be­cause the shoul­der is the most mo­bile joint in the body, able to move the arms in all di­rec­tions rather than just up and down or back and forth. Un­for­tu­nately, some folks have such tight shoul­der mus­cles and tendons, they can’t even reach their hands back far enough to grab a bar in a squat rack and hold it on their shoul­ders to do a squat.

There are two good shoul­der stretches which can re­solve that prob­lem, both of them very sim­ple. For the first, hold your lower arm across your body so your arm is in an ‘L’ shape. Cup the el­bow with the other hand and pull it across your body. Hold that stretch for 15 sec­onds as shoul­der and ch­est tendons stretch out, then switch arms and re­peat. Do the stretch on each arm for three sets of 15 sec­onds.

For the next stretch, place your hands on the door frame of your bath­room at about the height of your ears and slowly lean for­ward. When you get to the point where you feel the ten­sion of the stretch, hold that po­si­tion for 15 sec­onds, then re­peat for a to­tal of three sets.

It takes ap­prox­i­mately 10 weeks of reg­u­lar re­sis­tance ex­er­cise to strengthen your tendons.

A sim­ple test of ten­don elas­tic­ity in the lower body is the toe touch stretch.

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