Tendon exercises are important to any athlete who is working to increase muscle mass, especially powerlifters and bodybuilders. Tendons are the parts of the body that connect muscle tissue to the bone, so it is crucial to the functioning of the muscle because it is the tendon that actually translates the power of the muscle into bodily motion. Tendon strength also is crucial to maintaining proper joint stability, especially as the muscles grow larger and stronger. Most tendon exercises are very similar to weight training exercises and should be familiar to most athletes who have knowledge of weight training practices.
Having adequate tendon strength is a vital part of any serious weight training regimen. Most athletes focus on muscle development, but the performance of the muscle depends on the tendon, so any athlete who lifts weights should also focus on tendon exercises. Doing so will ensure proper joint stability as the athlete gains the strength to lift higher amounts of weight. Without adequate tendon strength, the muscle could become strong enough to lift weights that the tendon cannot support and, when this happens, tendon tears or ruptures can occur. These can be very serious injuries; a rupture requires surgery and takes an average of 50 weeks to heal.
Any athlete who regularly lifts weights will already know how to perform most tendon exercises, because these exercises are so similar to standard weightlifting movements. All weightlifting is a form of tendon exercise, just as all tendon exercises are a form of weight training, because the muscle and the tendon work together in the motions that allow the lifting of weight. Tendon exercises, then, are designed to shift the focus of certain lifts so that they place a bit more strain on the tendon than the muscle does, so that the tendon will receive more benefit from the workout.
The first step in accomplishing this shift in emphasis is to perform fewer repetitions of each lift, but with greater weight. Tendons respond more readily to this kind of intense training than they do to longer workouts with lighter weight. Athletes must be careful when performing these types of lifts, though, because they will lead to increased strength in the muscle, thus allowing heavier and heavier lifts. The muscles will tend to develop strength faster than the tendon, so if, over time, an athlete increases the weight that he or she is lifting too quickly, this can lead to tendon injuries.
The second step in shifting the focus of weight training to the tendon is to shorten the range of motion during a lift. For instance, while performing a squat, an athlete might not go down as far as he or she usually would, or during a bench press, he or she might lower the bar only halfway toward the chest. Limiting the range of motion in this way also limits the strain that it places on the muscles, thus giving them less of workout, but the tendons still must support all of the weight. In this way, these shorter-range motions result in effective tendon exercises.