Most people associate weight lifting exercises with muscle building. It's true that muscles can get bigger and stronger in response to weight lifting, but weight lifting also helps build bone mass and strengthen connective tissues, including tendons. By strengthening your tendons with weight lifting, you may reduce the likelihood of sustaining tendon injuries. Specific weight lifting exercises can also help you recover from tendon injuries.
Tendons are specialized connective tissue structures that attach muscles to bones. Though tendons do not actively contract like muscles, and do not have the same growth capacity as muscles, they are dynamic tissues that are responsive to training. Weak or abused tendons are susceptible to injury, so maintaining good tendon strength is important.
Two common tendon problems are tears and inflammation. Tears of tendons are usually caused by some sort of trauma. They can vary in severity from mild strains to complete tendon failure, or rupture. Inflammation of a tendon, or tendinitis, usually results from repetitive stress, overuse or misuse of the part. Weightlifting exercises can play a role in prevention or rehabilitation of either of these problems.
Research published in 2007 in the journal "Medical Science in Sports and Exercise" clearly demonstrated that tendons quickly adapt to muscular strength gains achieved through resistance exercises. This means that you can focus on the muscle building aspects of your weight training without having to worry that your muscles will grow too strong for your tendons. The same exercises that strengthen your muscles will cause changes in your tendons to make them proportionally stronger as well.
Rehabilitation specialists often recommend eccentric exercises for chronic tendon conditions such as tennis elbow or Achilles tendinitis. In an eccentric exercise, a weight or other form of resistance is applied to a fully contracted muscle. The muscle is then allowed to slowly lengthen while the resistance is maintained. For the Achilles tendon, this can be achieved by standing on your toes with your heels directed off the edge of a step. Begin the exercise by shifting all of your weight onto one foot. Slowly lower the heel through a complete range of motion. Repeat this 10 times per side. You can use your body weight or increase the load with dumbbells. An extensive review, published int the "Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practices" concluded that eccentric exercises are a safe and effective treatment for certain chronic tendon conditions.
Ron Rogers, a Washington chiropractor, has worked with local and national regulatory bodies in his profession and has provided consultation to the national chiropractic licensing board. He is recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Rogers' works have been published in several peer-reviewed professional journals, covering topics ranging from musculoskeletal diagnosis to research-based rehabilitation strategies.