Following on from my blog about Achilles tendinitis and exercises to help, here is my second favourite, also taken from sports newsletter Peak Performance.
This is to help develop flexibility and eccentric strength in the calf muscles so that the Achilles tendon can cope with the forces of running. If you’ve had tenderness in the Achilles, wait a week or two for it to calm down and then begin this exercise.
Firstly warm up, then gently stretch the calves, first with a straight leg, then again with the leg bent, for 20-30 seconds, a couple of times on each side.
The strengthening component is a simple heel raise using body weight with progressions in load and speed during the lowering phase, as follows:
Every day, perform the exercises so that the last few are hard but not painful. Increase intensity until you have reached the level 5 below, which may take a few weeks or a few months, depending on how long you’ve had tendon issues.
Level One – Perform a straight leg heel raise with uninjured leg from low step, then place ball of injured leg on the step and lower slowly with both legs until heels reach floor or are fully stretched, depending on height of your step. The drop should last a count of 4. Repeat x 10. Perform 3 sets. Progress by increasing lowering speed to count 2, then progress to a fast drop of 1 count. Once you can do this for 3 sets, progress to doing the same with a bent leg, which focuses the load on the soleus muscle (underneath the gastrocnemius).
Level Two – Heel raise with both legs for lowering and raising phases. 3 x 10. Increase speed as in level one, and then on to the bent legged version.
Level Three – Heel raise with only the uninjured leg during raising and only injured leg during lowering, thereby focussing eccentric load on injured side. 3 x 10. Increase speed as in level 1, then on to bent legged version.
Level Four – Heel raise with both legs during raising, and only injured leg in lowering phase. 3 x 10, progressing as in level 1.
Level Five – Heel raise with raising and lowering with only injured side. 3 x 10 progressing speed and on to bent leg version.
Sounds a lot, but you only need to do the level that you’ve reached, not all of it. As soon as you can do a level without pain or increased tenderness, move on to the next level.