How to protect your tendons from injuries while strength training?
There are so many recommendations for tendon and ligament health that are useless. They’re unsupported by science, and often lack even basic scientific plausibility. There are also many things you can do that may positively influence your tendons and ligaments tissue. This article brings the 12 most important steps for preventing tendon injuries. Find out how you can reduce your chance of tendon injury while strength training. Weight lifting injuries are more common than you think! Learn how to protect your tendons on time, while they are still strong and healthy.
Brief introduction about human tendons
What are tendons?
Tendons are bands of strong, fibrous tissue that attach muscles to bone. They are responsible for transmitting the force created in the muscle to the bone, making joint movement possible. Without tendons, your muscles are just useless chunks of meat. It’s important to point out that the human tendons are incredibly strong – about half the strength of a stainless steel cable. The strength of a tendon depends on its size, and a 1 cm thick tendon can support a weight of more than 1,000 pounds (450 kg). Nevertheless, tendon injury is a real concern for anyone who lifts heavy weights on a regular basis. In fact, the most common injury sustained in any gym is a tendon strain.
What causes most tendon injuries in strength training?
It’s actually very simple. Tendons may be damaged either through a traumatic injury or by overuse, which results in a repetitive strain injury. A tendon injury may seem to happen suddenly, but usually it is the result of many tiny tears to the tendon that have happened over time.
Any physical activity that requires repetitive wrist turning or hand gripping, pulling, pushing, jumping, bending, or lifting can irritate the tendons. Weight training is without any doubt an activity that requires such movements on a consistent basis. In addition to performing repetitive movements consistently, weightlifters must often perform these movements using relatively heavy loads to reach failure or near failure on various exercises. Because of the repetitive nature, overuse injuries are common.
Some of the most common places to get the condition are in the shoulders, elbows, hands, wrists, knees, and ankles.
Lifting weights improves tendon strength, but the adaptive change in tendon tissue occurs at a slower rate than the strength increase in the attached muscle.
Why are tendons so prone to injuries and difficult to heal?
Tendons are tissues that have relatively few living cells dispersed within an abundance of non-living extracellular material. This characteristic, along with a poorer blood supply prolongs the time period for training adaptations as compared to other types of tissue (such as your muscles). Poor vascular supply also increases the time it takes for tendons to recover from injuries. In many cases tendon doesn’t have the ability to heal itself or it heals at a rather slowly pace.
Tendon protection: the key to success
When it comes to tendon protection, science indicates that the force transmitted through a tendon is affected by the direction of muscle contraction (positive or negative) and the speed at which the load is moved (fast or slow). A fast negative motion is potentially the most damaging to the tendon.
Irrespective of the weight lifted, the stress through any tendon is larger during the negative phase of the movement, and even more so when the weight is lowered quickly.
Even though a tendon is almost half as strong as a steel cable, this crucial structure is vulnerable to injury whenever you lift weights. Now if you do not want to be the owner of a painful damaged tendon that places your workouts on hold for weeks, there are some simple steps you can follow to ensure tendon health.
12 STEPS TO PREVENT TENDON INJURY
You can reduce your chance of tendon injury with some simple strategic principles, as follows:
#1 Warm up thoroughly before you work out
Warming up prior to any workout improves performance by increasing blood flow, warming the muscles, and preventing rapid alterations in body physiology that might occur if an athlete simply started participating at full speed. This is essential to prevent unwanted injury. At the least, a warm-up should include 5 to 10 minutes of slow jogging to increase body temperature, followed by 10 to 15 minutes of sport-specific drills.
#2 Avoid overstretching the muscle or tendon during exercise
Avoid overstretching the muscle or tendon during exercise (e.g., lowering the weight too far during a chest fly). An extreme stretch under load can literally tear the tissue. A common problem is when exercise enthusiasts stretch while the muscle is still cold.
#3 Perform slow, controlled repetitions
Fast reps, especially during the negative phase, place excessive stress on the muscle and tendon.
#4 Avoid weights that are too heavy for you
The heavier the weight, the greater the risk of injury; it’s much safer to keep your reps at six or more for each set.
#5 Always allow adequate rest between workouts
Provide adequate rest between workouts (48-72 hours) for muscles that have been worked. If you exercise the same muscle group several times per week, inadequate recovery time will result in overuse tendinitis.
#6 Pay close attention on technique
When you lift weights, the bottom line is exactly the same no matter who you are, what your goals are, or where you train. If you want your training to be successful, and not cause injuries, you must use excellent exercise form. Regularly performing sloppy sets with jerky motions may lead to injury.
#7 Train for a new sport before you start it
Start building strength and flexibility in the muscles you will use a few weeks or months in advance.
#8 Don’t ignore sharp pain in the tendon during the workout or after the workout
It’s an indication that a tendinopathy may be present. The earlier it is addressed, the faster the recovery.
#9 Ensure an adequate daily intake of vitamin C (500 mg)
This vitamin is critical for collagen—the substance that provides structural strength in muscle
and tendon. Many studies so far demonstrated that both vitamin C and hyaluronic acid had therapeutic effects on tendon healing, especially in the late phase of tendon repair.
# 10 Try supplementing your diet with glucosamine (1,500 mg daily)
This essential building block for cartilage can help reduce joint pains and arthritis. Glucosamine sulphate will help with tendon repair, and chondroitin sulphate brings nutrients and fluids into the area to provide an optimal environment for healing.
# 11 Avoid smoking
Smoking restricts oxygen supply and expedites the aging process in numerous body tissues, tendons included.
# 12 Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet containing high-quality proteins
There is an evidence that muscle protein synthesis (which requires leucine-rich high-quality proteins) and tendon protein synthesis are linked, suggesting that high-quality proteins should encourage better collagen formation.
Tendons are most vulnerable to injury when:
- Tension is applied quickly and sustained without adequate warm-up.
- Tension is applied obliquely.
- The tendon is tensed before the trauma.
- The attached muscle is maximally innervated and contacted.
- The muscle group is stretched by external forces.
- The tendon is weak in comparison to the muscle.
All these factors can apply to athletes of all ages.
Closing thoughts: Tendon protection
Unfortunately, many people take an impractical and poorly planned approach to exercise. They focus on training and pushing their bodies to the limit to reach a particular result, be it to lose weight or to improve sport-specific speed. But in training this way they overlook the long-term consequences of physical activity—that is, until an injury occurs.
The best way to avoid tendon injuries is by taking care to stretch and warm up before working out and by observing proper technique when training with heavy weights. Remember, the stronger you are, the more strain you are able to put on your muscles and tendons, but often the muscles gain strength at a faster rate than the tendons, thus creating an imbalance that can cause problems. You must allow yourself to progress at a reasonable rate, and not attempt to train too intensely or with too much weight without proper preparation.
With stronger muscles supporting your bones, tendons, and ligaments, you will be much less injury prone. Furthermore, you will be able to perform most activities hard and strong all the time. However, if necessary weight training safety tips and precautions are not followed, injuries can result. So train smart!