In our obsessive pursuit of stronger muscles and hearts, we’ve failed to understand how to train and feed connective tissue like ligaments, tendons, bones, and cartilage.
Almost everyone is told that the tendon doesn’t have much of a blood supply and takes ages to recover from an injury. We do nothing with this information.
There are no real tendon fitness regimes. Certainly there are none that join up therapy drills with, effective strength drills, stretches and diet and rest.
Obviously, my free tendon fixing courses do, (check here) but for now, let me support you at home. You need to understand how your tendons feed and when and how they get stronger.
We start with “Optimizing an intermittent stretch paradigm using ERK1/2 phosphorylation results in increased collagen synthesis in engineered ligaments” by Paxton et al which discovered that following a single 10-min bout of cyclic stretch, the tendon cells remained refractory to a second stretch for up to 6 h.(“refractory” means “stubborn or unmanageable”)
In practical terms this means that after 10 minutes of tendon work, the tendons don’t want to know about anything. If you are trying to fix tendons with exercise or stretching or deep friction it needs to be done and dusted in 10 minutes or you need to wait 6 hours to do it again.
To expand this, in the first 10 minutes of any training, your tendons get strong, after that they sort of degrade.
You need to combine this knowledge bomb with some nutrition hacks as what you eat can positively affect collagen synthesis in musculoskeletal tissues (Shaw et al., 2017).
Brieﬂy, it was demonstrated that supplementing with 15 g of gelatin, 1 h before loading, resulted in an increase in whole-body collagen synthesis and increased mechanics and collagen content of human-engineered ligaments (Shaw et al., 2017). This lab experiment suggests that supplementing with gelatin combined with a slug of vitamin C can increase collagen synthesis.
Check out Shaw, G. et al. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016; 105(1) and Shaw, G., et al. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation prior to intermittent exercises: Strategies to enhance anabolism: Nutr. Metab. 2017; 105:136-43.
The big take-home is this. Even if your tendons are currently healthy, start the habit of consuming collagen ( or gelatin if you can cook) plus vitamin C 60 minutes before you train. This nutritional collagen enhances what happens naturally in your tendons. For the first 10 minutes of training, your tendons get stronger then they start to degrade. As you will see elsewhere there are different types of stress your tendons have to put up with.
If you are currently in tendon pain, let’s say Achilles, and you are limping around, ideally, you want to proceed with your tendon fixing with a slug of collagen and vitamin C 60 minutes before you train. This means your first 10 minutes of activity becomes tendon fixing. We know that tendons really “sort of” shut off for the next 6 hours. This means that if you had an eccentric exercise to do for your achilles, you could structure your training to fit in 3 sessions a day
Get up at 6am, take onboard some collagen and vitamin C.
7am 10 minutes tendon fixing
12 noon take onboard some collagen and vitamin C
1pm 10 minutes tendon fixing
6pm take onboard some collagen and vitamin C
7pm 10 minutes tendon fixing
You may not have any tendon issues at all or your sport may come in 1-4 hour training lumps ( distance running, rowing, etc). However, it’s worth taking on board a slug of collagen +vitamin C an hour beforehand. This means you’ll get the benefit of that super tendon building 10 minutes.Your poor tendons do put up with a lot
Of course after 10 minutes, your tendons will degrade, but compared to what you were going to do (sneak out without eating) it gives your tendon health an edge.
If you have tendon issues or are worried by your tendons, all it means is smart training.
Let’s use lateral elbow tendinopathy as an example. You go down with tennis elbow. You find out the exercises you need to do
You take on board your collagen then an hour later you do your tendon fixing in 10 minutes: some good stretching and let’s say your “bicep curl into finger role” exercise. Now leave that tendon alone. Nothing says you cannot proceed to kill your leg: you can box jump, air squat run, etc, just leave your arms out of it.
Then in 5 hours time, you could take another slug of collagen/vitamin c and 1 hour later do a 10-minute pull-up program: after that 10 minutes, you could try and kill your legs again.
So from here you simply play with it, if you have major issues and pain, each session is a 10-minute therapy session on that tendon, then leave it. If its “not too bad” you can mix and match.
This doesn’t mean you cannot continue to train and hit other areas, so, split training will be extra useful.
If you are doing a tendon fixing regime, you should interrogate regimens that call for 30 minutes of work on a specific tendon.
I should say that collagen is also super good for your hair , teeth and skin, so its win, win.
Obviously, if you want specific help now, I’ll do my best to help you fix your tendinopathy. Drop me an email Andrew@andrewstemler.com
Do check out my free courses here or you can join the mailing list