Why a strong Achilles tendon is the key to unlocking your best performance

Why a strong Achilles tendon is the key to unlocking your best performance

Steve Manning, intraining podiatrist, coach, runner and QUT podiatry lecturer

One of the best ways to run faster with less effort is by incorporating plyometric drills into your training. Plyometric drills can include things like jumping, skipping, split lunges and bounding.

Research has shown that these drills have the greatest impact on your running performance in the least amount of training time. The downside is that there is an increased injury risk while doing them, so it’s important to know how to safely incorporate them into your training regime.

Why are plyometric drills so effective?

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

How to safely incorporate plyometric drills into your training

  1. Initially, do the drills for 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a week for a training block of six 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 while doing the drills. Focus on staying on your forefoot and having as short ground time as possible.
  3. Warm up 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 tendon for the harder plyometric drills.

Plyometric drills can be a very effective way to faster running through building a stronger Achilles tendon. The podiatry team at the intraining Running Injury Clinic are all runners and can provide advice on the best drill techniques and training tips to minimise your risk of injury.

Come in and see us at the intraining Running Injury Clinic. For bookings, Book online, call 3367 3088 today or email clinic@intraining.com.au