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Stronger Achilles for faster running

From the Sole

How to make a stronger Achilles for better performance.

Article by: Steve Manning – Podiatrist and coach at intraining Running Injury Clinic
Article by: Steve Manning – Podiatrist and coach at intraining Running Injury Clinic

One of the best ways to run faster with less effort is plyometric drills.  These drills exaggerate a part of the running action while having a forced dynamic stretch component before springing back.  They include mainly jumping, skipping and bounding.

Research has shown that these drills have the greatest effect on running performance in the least amount of training time.  The downside is that they have an increased injury risk while doing them.

The reason that these drills are so effective is that they work on the elastic component of the muscle.  That is the part of the muscle that stores the energy from landing and then returns that energy like a spring as you push off.  This elastic component is critical to distance running efficiency.

The Achilles and deep fascia connective tissue that surrounds the calf muscle are the most important elastic tissues for runners.  The thicker and stiffer the Achilles the better it is able to store the energy from landing.  Plyometric drills are able to increase the strength of the Achilles by changing the size and strength of each fibre in the Achilles as well as its overall width and resistance to stretching.

Bounding – Plyometric drill for strength

Three ways to incorporate plyometric drills into your training

  1. Initially only do the drills for 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a week and for a training block of 6 weeks.  This will reduce injury risk.  After that you only need to incorporate a few minutes of drills with each speed session.
  2. These drills need to be dynamic but controlled.  Do not strain or reach while doing the drills.  Focus on staying on your forefoot and having as short ground time as possible.
  3. Warmup properly before doing the drills with a run of at least 10 minutes.  Doing some coordination drills like high knees and bum kicks can also help warm up the Achilles for the harder plyometric drills.

Plyometric drills can be a very effective way to faster running through a stronger Achilles.  Our podiatrists at the intraining Running Injury Clinic can instruct you on how to use the best technique to do the drills for the best result with the least injury risk.

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If you are interested in improving your running technique, reducing risk of running injury or keen to learn more about running form, find out more about the Running Form Workshops available.

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