The importance of tendons and ligaments

2. 2. 2018

The importance of tendons and ligaments
Tendons and ligaments are essential in terms of weight training. They are very similar in composition, serve different functions and significantly assist with the process of muscular extension and contraction. Both are designed to passively stabilize joints. A tendon connects to the ends of a muscle belly to bone tissue and can be likened to a tough strap-like cord.

When properly developed, a tendon has good elasticity and is strong and capable of great strength. Tendons essentially cause the bone to move as they transmit a  tensile load produced by the muscles. A tendon will strengthen concurrently with the muscle usually, but if great increases in weight are desired they need to be targeted separately. Tendon injuries are relatively common in those who use anabolic steroids to increase muscle, but tendon, strength at the same  phenomenal rate.

This illustrates the need to train them independent of muscle under these circumstances. On the other hand, tendons can become stronger than muscles and muscle ruptures can result. This is why it is important, when looking to increase weight lifted, to incorporate specific tendon training power assistance exercises into established muscle training routine rather than training exclusively with heavy weights or with power assistance exercises or weights that can be handled with ease.

With either approach tendon or muscle ruptures could occur and, besides, massive increases in weight will not be realised if these approaches are not used concurrently. Tendon ruptures are very serious, with a 50 week full recovery rate being about average.

Ligaments are tougher cord-like fibres with greater flexibility. They tie, or bind, bones together at the joints and allow for movement in a specific direction.


Strength Training and Strength Exercises for Injury Prevention
Strength training has been a part of sports conditioning for many years. It is touted that its effects on speed, strength, agility and muscle mass. Often overlooked though are its benefits for injury prevention.

Strength training is moving the joints through a range of motion against resistance, requiring the muscles to expend energy and contract forcefully to move the bones. Strength training can be done using various types of resistance, with or without equipment. Strength training is used to strengthen the muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments and to increase muscle mass.

Strength training should be implemented in the conditioning program of all sports, not just strength sports. The increase in speed, strength, agility and muscular endurance will benefit athletes of every sport. Strength training comes in a variety of formats. The formats are defined by the type of resistance and equipment used (machine weights, free weights but also own body weight exercises).


How does Strength Training prevent injury?
Strength training in athletics is common practice today. The benefits are obvious and the immediate crossover of those benefits to the playing field makes it ideal for off-season conditioning.

Strength training improves the strength of the muscles, tendons, and even the ligaments and bones. The strongest muscles and tendons help hold the body in proper alignment and protect the bones and joints when moving or under impact. The bones become stronger due to the overload placed on them during training and the ligaments become more flexible and better at absorbing the shock applied to them during dynamic movements.

When an area of the body is used less during an activity it may become weak compared to other areas. This can become a problem when that area (whether a muscle, ligament, joint, or specific bone) is called into play suddenly during an activity. That area cannot handle the sudden stress placed on it and an injury occurs. Strength training, using a balanced program, will eliminate these weak areas and balance the body for the activities it is called to do.

Muscle imbalance is  one of the most common causes of injuries in athletics. When one muscle, or muscle group, becomes stronger than its opposing group, the weaker muscles become fatigued quicker and more susceptible to injury. A forceful contraction, near maximal output from the stronger muscle can also cause damage to the weaker opposing muscle due to the inability to counter the force.

Muscle imbalances also affect the joints and bones due to an abnormal pull causing the joint to move in an unnatural pattern. The stronger muscles will cause the joint to pull in that direction causing a stretching of the opposing ligaments and a tightening of the supporting ones. These can lead to chronic pain and an unnatural wearing of the bones. A balanced strength training program will help to counter these effects by strengthening the weaker muscles to balance them with their counterparts.


The program
To develop great power and strength, and consequently muscle size, it is important to specialize with exercises that stress the major muscle groups such as the thighs, chest, back and shoulders. Squats, bench press, dead-lifts, bent rowing and barbell shoulder presses are obvious examples of compound exercise puts stress on these muscle groups.

However, to develop strength in the tendons and ligaments, which will lead to increased strength in subsequent work-outs and ultimately greater muscle gains, the idea is to execute these movements over a shorter range of motion.

The short range movements will allow more weight to be lifted and a greater emphasis will be placed on tendons and ligaments rather than the muscle bellies. The idea with short range movements is to progressively increase the distance the weight has to travel over time. An example of a short range bench press will illustrate this point. The use of a power rack, where the weight can be rested on a cross bar, is ideal.

Place a flat bench under the power rack, set the bar to a position where the negative part of the movement is , beginning with arms extended completely. Use a weight that is sufficiently heavy and complete six repetitions. A good rule of thumb is to lower the bar every week by one sixth of ones total arm length .

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