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Effects on tendon stiffness


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Hi all,

My question is to do with the effects of stretching on tendon stiffness and elasticity, for example as we get older it seems like we loose the ability to jump or even to manage landings, jumping down off a chair for example 

 

Do we loose our shock absorbers..

Would ballistic or even a more pulsing approach to stretching, help maintain springiness in the tendons, muscles, fascia..

Hoping I’m making some sense here.. and would appreciate any feedback from experiences anyones had 

 

Andrew 

 

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@andyfitz

On 3/20/2024 at 9:51 AM, andyfitz said:

as we get older it seems like we loose the ability to jump or even to manage landings, jumping down off a chair for example 

That is only because of what we don't do, Andrew. I know this for a fact, because I make sure I can do all this, and it's not a matter of tendon stiffness from ageing—it's about confidence, knowing how to land (what is should feel like), coordination, and learned behaviour. As people age, they stop doing these things (think about adult movement patterns compared with children) and because they don't do these things, they can't.

As an adult, though, you want to get back onto plyometric activity slowly and gently: tendons and ligaments will have de-conditioned, and they have about 1/10th of the nutrient supply that muscles do—so the muscles (and neural system) adapt much faster than these tissues. 

WRT using stretching this way, the loads are nowhere near enough to do what you want. There are other good reasons to do what you are thinking about though. If you want that springiness back, you will have to do the activity itself, at a suitable (conservative) loading level, and do less than you want in the beginning. I have found that bouncing on your toes (I do this in the shower) for high counts works extremely well to recondition Achilles' tendons, for example. When rehabbing a calf injury, I started with very gentle bounces, and over a few months worked up to a thousand (takes way less time than you may think). Only create a small space between the floor and the ball of the foot, and you'll be doing 3 or 4 per second. Keep lower legs relatively stiff and use as little effort as needed. I did these daily.

And similarly, start your gentle jumps on up onto small heights (every park or playground has somewhere you can do this) and not down, in the beginning. And jump and land as quietly as you can. Moving like a cat is your goal. Increase heights slowly, and when you feel ready, jump both up and down (as quietly as possible!). Catlike movement can be yours again!

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Thank you so much Kit, I’m still playing basketball and feel way better than I did in my twenties, but just terrified I might lose that bounciness

 

ive had 18 major injuries from sports between brakes and dislocations but the information you’ve made available and stretch mastery course have been the main source of my transformation from a stiff gym guy trying to play sports to a more durable freer moving athlete.

 

The last couple of years my main training includes a lot of gymnastic and entry level acrobatics exercises, which I’m hoping to progress muscle more now in my 40s

so again, thanks so much for your response and the tools you’ve provided for making these changes to the body possible.

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11 hours ago, andyfitz said:

just terrified I might lose that bounciness

And that's just a thought that you can gently let go of!

Keep the bounciness going, and it will keep going with you. Do let us know how you are going from time to time, please.

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Here is an excellent and relevant YT video I found today:

It's very good.

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What Kit said. Also, as we get older, one of the first muscle changes is reduction in fast twitch muscle fibres. That is one reason why jumping etc gets worse as we age. This needs to be countered by fast twitch exercises - as Kit mentioned, jumping UP onto something is excellent, because there is less of a problem with the landing. As part of my routine, after a maximal muscle workout with lots of slow eccentric contractions (which I hope has clobbered the slow twitch fibres, and led to recruitment of fast twitch fibres), I then stress the fast twitch fibres further with jumping up, which I hope gives them the signal to get stronger, or at least, stop getting weaker. I dont know if this is the best way though.

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@Jim Pickles: I am not sure that the percentage of fast to slow twitch fibres changes after middle age (but please correct me if you are sure about this). My feeling is that the capacity to access FTF decreases as we pass middle age and I am arguing that, 1) this is not necessary, and 2) happens because we simply don't use them.

And everything I know about FTF tells me that these should be used first in a workout that features them, not at the end. So, Olympic lifters will do the fastest movements (snatch, clean) early in the workout, and then the work, less speed dependent, sets (like squats) after this. As the video points to, accessing plyometric capacity requires maximum neural effort. Slow twitch fibres can be worked by applying will power, even when fatiguing.

IOW, I think that tiring STF in the hope of recruiting the FTF is just that, a hope! Do let us discuss. 

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@Kit_L Kit - the loss of type II fibres in ageing has been mentioned in many places - I found this early on in a quick look through my saved papers - its mentioned on the 6th line of the section headed Epidemiology and Pathophysiology.

As for training, I am aware that the get maximum speed from a muscle, one should test at the beginning of a session, rather than at an end, because the fast fibres tire faster. However, to strengthen a muscle, isnt it true that one should overload it? My logic is that asking it to do something (that only it can do) once it has been exhausted is a way of encouraging it to do more. This may deal with the muscle fibres themselves; the neural innervation pattern is another matter, as that is probably developed best when undertaking its optimal pattern of activity. Happy to be guided on this. I need to so some reading on this, since I just made it up*.

But I want to be sure that I include lots of resistance training, as that has been shown to be effective.

*Disclaimer.

Cho et al 2022 sarcopenia review.pdf

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@Jim Pickles: I see I wasn't clear. The question should be, "does the body reduce its type 2 fibre percentage if not used?". No research that I am aware of can sort out the correlation vs. cause picture here, IMO, because the aging population changes its use profile so predictably (most people, anyway). We simply do not know which is the cause and which is the effect. The jury's still out on that one, I'd say.

17 hours ago, Jim Pickles said:

However, to strengthen a muscle, isnt it true that one should overload it?

  • Yes, definitely—but plyometrics yield the greatest overload, if time is factored in. The overloading is really intense, but if done well, very fast. This requires maximum neural energy, and hence my recommendation of doing fast things first. But there's many other solutions to the apparent contradiction; have one (say) lower body workout where fast stuff is done first, and other things later, and another workout where heavy things are done first. Different goals > different strategies.
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"... because the aging population changes its use profile so predictably (most people, anyway). We simply do not know which is the cause and which is the effect. The jury's still out on that one, I'd say."

I agree entirely. Yes, people are reluctant to do what they find difficult, and things become difficult with underuse. I dont know any studies that address this issue, though maybe there is some indirect (and hence less reliable) information out there. A "proper" study would involve assigning people randomly to two groups, making them do different sorts of exercise as they got older, and then assessing after a decade otr two. Pie in the sky if that was going to happen.

As for the other issue, as neural input is so important at keeping the fast twitch fibres activated properly, clearly it needs realistic exercise, which means, as you say, doing it early to get maximum effectiveness. However I like your suggestion of doing different types on different days, and I'll take that up. The fast stuff at home (when I can do it at any time I want), the slow stuff at the gym, at a time chosen so that the chatterers arent sitting on the machines for ages.

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