Barely a day goes past when I see someone foam rolling, voodoo flossing, nerve flossing, doing some primitive pattern work or slapping fish together to try to fix one of the most common problems associated with hard training – tendon inflammation.
I’m going to steer clear from any of the definitive semantics, all I care about it that if you train for long enough sooner or later something will start telling you that it needs a rest. Now, given how many moving parts the body has we need to narrow this down a little – what I’m about to say has nothing to do with joint injuries and if you’re suffering from these you absolutely need to go get checked out, have an MRI done and see an orthopedic specialist to make sure you’re following the right plan. But, if the problem is tendon related, then what I’m about to say has massive effect in a short period of time.
Do high rep isolation work for the area.
I know, I know, that is functional movement sacrilege. But there is a lot of benefit to isolated movement during a rehabilitation phase or even long term as a preventative for what we can call structural work (i.e. the work done to maintain structural integrity needed for high intensity training). A with all things we’ve over reacted to what body building and isolation training did in to our performance and made an effort to remove it entirely. But there is such a thing as functional isolation training, and when it comes to rehab it fits perfectly.
Over the last six months I’ve had a terrible case of Achilles issues. This started around Christmas time as I was getting ready for Ironman Melbourne and was a result of a quick jump in my weekly run mileage. It got to the point where I would almost be in tears when I started running because the pain would be so bad. But after a few minutes the pain would subside and I could run pain free. It never got absolutely unbearable but it did get to the point where I was dreading running.
Post Ironman I steered clear of running for about six weeks and the pain had completely gone. But, after a few runs it was back again. By this stage, well and truly sick of the problem, I started looking for THE guy. You know how there’s always A GUY. That one guy who everyone says is the man when it comes to a particular thing. Well, after speaking with a very smart therapist I know and train he sent me to THE GUY.
And you know what THE GUY told me to do for my Achilles problems? Calf raises.
It’s a little more in depth than that, and I developed my own treatment plan based on some of the advice offered in Eric Orton’s The Cool Impossible, but my problem has gone from pretty bad, to minimal in just two weeks.
And this reminded me of a piece of advice an old school meathead once gave me for elbow tendon issues. Namely to do high rep, low load tricep pushdowns for elbows and high rep, low load bicep curls. At the time I had some wicked stuff going on courtesy of heavy benching, pull ups plus BJJ. So I dug out a light band and would do two sets of fifty every day for each. Within two weeks the problem had gone.
Now, I’m not a doctor or physiotherapist, nor do I play one on TV, but this stuff works. To be honest, it’s pretty simple – tendon issues are caused by connective tissue remodeling taking place far slower than muscle tissue (like about three times slower) and becoming annoyed at a certain volume of work to which they’re not accustomed. But the answer isn’t to back it off entirely. The answer is to lightly address it and make it stronger- because movement cures lack of movement. I wish people would look for simpler answers – like more static stretching and easy high rep work to address their issues rather than reach for the voodoo floss bands, lacrosse balls and whatever other little toy is the rehab trend du jour.
Try it for yourself and see the next time you have a flare up. Back off the intensity and add a lot of volume to get the clean blood flowing in. I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly and easily it works. For older guys )i.e. anyone my age or older) you may want to think about having this kind of stuff in either your warm up or cool down daily as a preventative.