Recap: What is eccentric loading?
An eccentric action is where lengthening of the structure occurs while that same structure is under contraction (Kravitz and Bubbico 2015). So eccentric loading is where the muscle (and associated tendons) are loaded and contracting during a lengthening action, in order to control that motion.
Eccentric loading of the Achilles
Loading the Achilles is widely recognised, amongst physiotherapists, as a leading treatment for tendon pathology. This refers to loading in an isometric, concentric or eccentric sense. However, eccentric loading has demonstrated superiority with regards to improving peak torque and therefore motor performance (Wellisch et al 2015).
From a rehabilitative point of view, as well as prehabilitative, eccentric loading has demonstrated significant effectiveness in pain reduction and functional improvements following injury and tendinopathies. The mechanisms as to why are varied, however neuromuscular output changes are seemingly one of the leading mechanisms, but are under researched (O’Neill, Watson and Barry, 2015).
Achilles eccentric exercise
Lowered heel raise:
- With the balls of your feet on a step and the heels hovering off, allow your heels to lower in a controlled fashion
- Once the heels have been lowered as far as can be controlled, raise them as high as you can so you are holding your body weight on the balls of your feet
- Repeat this movement, you should be feeling your calves working
Once you have mastered the above, repeat the movement with a small bend in the knees and maintain that bend throughout the movement – this will target the deeper calf muscle, the soleus.
*You can have a banister/worktop nearby for support with this exercise as it can challenge your balance. Or train strength and balance at the same time!
Kravitz, L. and Bubbico, A. T. (2015). Essentials of Eccentric Training. USA: Human Kinetics.
O’Neill, S., Watson, P.J. and Barry, S. (2015). Why are Eccentric Exercises Effective for Achilles Tendinopathy. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 10 (4), pp. 552-562.
Wellisch, M., Hamer, P., Hopper, L., Bulsara, M. and Debenham, J. (2015). Eccentric Loading Increases Peak Torque Angle of the Ankle Plantar
Flexors in Healthy Volunteers. International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine, 1 (2), pp. 1-6.