Here you can see an overview of the most important Achilles tendon exercises that you can do at home to help your healing process. With the help of these exercises, your Achilles tendon will become stronger and more elastic.
Types of training
- What do I need to bear in mind when doing Achilles tendon training?
- Eccentric Achilles tendon training for tendinopathy (middle of the tendon)
- Eccentric Achilles tendon training for tendinopathy (base of the tendon) and bursitis
- Achilles tendon heavy slow resistance training exercise
- Sensorimotor Achilles tendon training, coordination
- Achilles tendon prevention
|Note: people often speak of stretching the Achilles tendon or of stretching exercises, such as eccentric stretching. Here, the Achilles tendon is placed under load and the Achilles tendon is even lengthened until mini injuries appear in the tendon. And this is a good thing as these mini injuries trigger the healing process, that is, healthy, resilient material is formed in the Achilles tendon.
This stretching has nothing to do with the stretching we do before a training session. That would be called warm-up stretching. In that case, the tendon is not stretched as far, and no mini injuries can occur.
In the case of eccentric stretching, or training, the calf muscles are tensed so that the Achilles tendon is lengthened under tension. This is then the correct stimulus for the necessary regeneration!
So, as not to confuse this with the generally used term ‘stretching’, we here prefer to use the term 'training’.
1. What do I need to bear in mind when doing Achilles tendon training?
How can the Achilles tendon be given a proper workout? This is widely discussed in scientific spheres with results in all different directions. What can be drawn from these discussions?
- An Achilles tendon only heals when it is ‘stimulated’, that is, when it is placed under load. So, training, training and more training is the key!
- It all depends on the extent of the load. If the load is too low, the Achilles tendon reacts very little or not at all. Therefore, high loads are necessary (90% of the maximum discretionary contraction capacity).
- Duration and speed are also crucial. So, it is better to train for longer, that is, to stay in the loading phase for longer and do fewer repetitions, rather than shorter loading with many repetitions (do the exercise for 6 seconds). The total duration in the loading phase is important, whereby the eccentric phase (stretching downwards) should be considerably longer.
- Pain may be experienced during training. This must not be too intense or increase. So, work with the pain but don't overdo it.
- The type of loading chosen (eccentric, concentric, isometric, slow resistance) appears to be secondary. Many scientists even say that it makes no difference. We will be focusing on two types of loading.
To get an idea of how strong the pain is and to be able to classify the pain sensibly, set yourself a scale of 1 to 10: 1 = no pain, 10 = maximum pain.
Achilles tendon exercises should be in the range of 3 to 5. During breaks, the feeling of pain should be less than 3.
2. Eccentric Achilles tendon training for tendinopathy (middle of the tendon)
Variations of this Achilles tendon exercise:
- once with your leg straight
- once with your leg bent
Example of an eccentric Achilles tendon training plan:
- 3 sets of 15 repetitions
- slow movements
- 2 min. break between sets
- all exercises once with your leg straight and once with your leg bent; 5 min. break between these two variants
- morning and evening, 7 days a week for 12 weeks
- the load can be slowly increased with a backpack on your back; the guideline for the maximum weight is the feeling of pain: no more than 5 on the scale
- please note: the greater the load becomes, the more important it is to adhere to a 36-hour break until the next training session. Before that, the Achilles tendon is still in the recovery process and any new load will undo all your hard work.
3. Eccentric Achilles tendon training for tendinopathy (base of the tendon) and bursitis
- All of this should be done from floor level, that is, the affected foot should not be overstretched when lowering.
Achilles tendon exercise step 1: with both feet on the floor
Achilles tendon exercise step 2: on the floor with one foot on tiptoes
Achilles tendon exercise step 3: on the floor, lowering the foot that is off the ground
4. Achilles tendon heavy slow resistance training exercise
Example of heavy slow resistance training (this should be carried out together with a physiotherapist or they should show you how to do it before you train in a weights room or gym):
- 3 different Achilles tendon exercises, each for both legs (see pictures)
- 3–4 sets with 2–3 min. break between each set; 5 min. break between the different Achilles tendon exercises
- the number of repetitions per set should be carried out with so much additional weight that the specified number of repetitions is the maximum – you should not be able to do more repetitions, otherwise the additional weight was not enough.
o Week 1: 3 days, maximum 15 repetitions (reps)
o Week 2–3: 3 days, max. 12 reps
o Week 4–5: 4 days, max. 10 reps
o Week 6–8: 4 days, max. 8 reps
o Week 9–12: 4 days, max. 6 reps
Both types of training or plans have similar total times ‘under load’; the heavy slow resistance training shows longer breaks between loads (3 times a week) and so corresponds with the idea that the Achilles tendon needs enough time to recover.
5. Sensorimotor Achilles tendon training – coordination
This training will be explained by your physiotherapist and you will do it in their company.
The following exercises for the Achilles tendon can be done at home:
- standing on one leg and doing different exercises such as arm exercises or with your eyes closed
- standing on one or both legs, doing different arm exercises on a soft base such as a balance pad or balance board, with your eyes closed
Training motor skills for different types of sport
This involves coordination exercises that are related to your sport and which should ease you back into exercise after a break:
- running ABC for joggers
- ball exercises for soccer player using the feet and head
6. Achilles tendon prevention:
All exercises mentioned can also be done as a preventive measure against Achilles tendon problems. This not only helps to protect the Achilles tendon from injuries (we must of course also think about other measures), but also to optimize the characteristics of the Achilles tendon.
With an optimally strong, elastic Achilles tendon you can gain additional strength for your jogging/running and other movements!