Resiliency Series: Bulletproof your Achilles

Welcome back for the resiliency series, ACHILLES EDITION!

Over the next few months (or however long it takes for me to run out of content), I will be covering the most common areas of the body where people have their aches and pains. Each week will cover a specific area that we suggest people work on in order to resist injury. 

This will NOT serve as a way to treat an injury or direct medical advice, but it will be a resource that will house the most up-to-date information on how to make yourself stronger and and more… RESILIENT! We ALWAYS suggest you seek medical attention if you feel you need more help.

If you don’t know what the Achilles tendon is then you probably won’t read much further. That is unless you really love to read what I write and want to gain some knowledge 👩🏻‍⚕️…

The Achilles tendon is a structure that connects your calf muscles to your heel! It serves as a very important structure that we use everyday when we walk, stand, run, climb stairs, etc. It is also a common structure to be torn and the most common population who tear are middle-aged, active men. Those who participate in recreational sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer or any quick start / stop play. I am not saying that it’s a common injury, I am saying that when it does happen, it’s the middle-aged population who suffer more from it. You do NOT want this injury because it can be a long, long road to recovery.

I am going to take you through some of our favorite exercises and ways to prescribe exercises to help strengthen and protect against injuries in this area.

One thing to remember, and this is a common theme in these types of posts, injuries can NOT be 100% prevented by any program, we can only reduce our risk. The best way to reduce our risk is to get stronger!

The key to improving the durability of our tendons is to work on heavy, slow resistance training. This means exercise that uses weight, is performed slowly and is challenging enough to make changes in the actual structures within. What we know from research, which is consistently proven time and time again, that exercises have to be challenging enough to make changes within. We don’t have to pose great challenge with every single exercise we do, but for the ones that we are hoping to make measurable gains with, we must challenge ourselves regularly.

Now, onto the good stuff. Here are a few of our fave exercises to perform to help improve Achilles durability. It is suggested that you begin at a level that you think will be challenging enough, but not so hard that you are sore for days, but sometimes it takes a few sessions to figure out the difficulty level.

We suggest that each of these exercises be performed twice weekly to make measurable changes. We also suggest repetition ranges of 8-10 for 3, challenging sets.

Double leg calf raises off a step

FYI… This exercise can be done with or without shoes. I was trying to be cool without shoes but as the weight goes up, the step will feel more and more sharp and shoes may allow you to go heavier 🙂

This is a great exercise to target the upper calf which has a direct correlation with the Achilles. This can be loaded with a dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, weight vest…

Soleus heel raise

This is a new one for most (myself included), but a really important muscle in the Achilles connection is the Soleus or lower calf. This one is not the easiest one to set up but you have to find a way to weight your working leg with a bent knee. Some gyms have those seated, bent knee calf raise machines? You can use that!

Double leg Soleus raise off a step

Also can be done with shoes, LOL

This one targets the same muscle group as the previous, but is a little easier to set up. However, I do find that most people get a pretty good quad burn here taking away from the calf work that is intended. You have to keep your knees bent the whole time and then coordinate holding some weight once 8-10 of bodyweight exercise gets to be too easy.

Lastly… getting in some regular jumping is always a great way to train the Achilles to take on the activities that we want to perform in our regular, daily lives! I am referring to things like playing tennis, basketball, playing with kids and grandkids, etc.

Jumping rope

If you aren’t proficient at jumping rope, not to worry. Simply jumping up and down, in place for about 20 seconds for 4 rounds is a perfect place to start!

This concludes our Achilles edition of the Resiliency series. If you learned something, give us a shout! If you know someone who would learn something, pass it along with a share!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more next month… topic is TBD.

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