Eccentrics are a common exercise we use in physical therapy to strengthen a muscle while its lengthening. It’s very useful in rehabbing chronic tendonosis injuries such as tennis elbow or achilies tendonitis/osis. However, it can be tough to learn how to strengthen a muscle while lengthening it.
So in this blog I would like to share with you the protocol we use when working on eccentrics for a achilles tendonosis problem.
The strength protocol consists of two exercises: a straight-kneed and a bent-kneed eccentric heel drop. The protocol calls for three sets of fifteen heel drops, both bent-kneed and straight-kneed, twice a day for twelve weeks.
Standing on a step with your ankles plantarflexed (at the top of a “calf raise”), shift all of your weight onto the injured leg. Slowly use your calf muscles to lower your body down, dropping your heel beneath your forefoot. Use your uninjured leg to return to the “up” position. Do not use the injured side to get back to the “up” position! The exercise is designed to cause some pain, and you are encouraged to continue doing it even with moderate discomfort. You should stop if the pain is excruciating, however.
Once you are able to do the heel drops without any pain, progressively add weight using a backpack. If you are unlucky enough to have Achilles tendon problems on both sides, use a step to help you get back to the “up” position, using your quads instead of your calves to return up.
The eccentric exercises are thought to selectively damage the Achilles tendon, stripping away the misaligned tendon fibers and allowing the body to lay down new fibers that are closer in alignment to the healthy collagen in the tendon. This is why moderate pain during the exercises is a good thing, and why adding weight over time is necessary to progressively strengthen the tendon.