Ask the Doc: Be Kind to Your Achilles

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As athletes, it is essential to continue to grow in your knowledge of proper training techniques, knowledge of your own body and how it functions, knowledge about nutrition… you get the idea. Our PT team behind the “Ask the Doc” column took some time to respond to a few of our readers’ questions posed on our Facebook page in December, and we look forward to continuing this dialogue with all of you.

High-rep, quick rebound box jumps are evil because they cause a lot of trauma to your Achilles tendon, but how would you prepare an athlete for them in a competition (or the Open) — which may require it — while mitigating the consequences?

Marcus Herou/Stockholm, Sweden

Marcus not only posed this question; he also started to answer it by sharing out some of the movements he utilizes to prepare his athletes for box jumps, especially after experiencing the pain of watching someone tear his Achilles during Open WOD 11.2.

Low rep low box (20-50cm) bounding (e.g. 15-12-9 PP 50kg + BJ + TTB)
Double Unders
High rep Single Leg Single Unders 
Toe Raises (eccentric)
Calf Press (10x3set heavy)
High rep Box Jump step down
Box Jump Overs
Burpee Box Jumps

In addition, he does “real” plyo work: 20cm box, over a 60cm box into a maximum broad jump

Our PTs also responded below.

Missy says…

Here are a few good MobilityWOD videos to start off watching:

KStarr briefs how to loosen up the Achilles with some basic self-myofascial release.

In this episode, KStarr describes how many athletes are missing dorsiflexion in their Achilles tendon, also known as the heel cord. A healthy range of motion is to be able to flex your foot back toward the body — keeping the leg straight — 30 degrees. To improve this position, he highlights three pieces of homework:

  1. Accumulate 5 minutes in a squat position to “close the ankles down.” Wearing a weight vest or holding a plate or kettlebell can make this even more effective.
  2. Use the lacrosse ball to loosen up the skin on top of the heel cord. This skin should be “supple” and slide easily (instead of being glued to the tendon). “Pop” the skin wherever it feels tight.
  3. Last but not least, put on your shoes and do some calf stretching against a wall or post. This should feel particularly good if you have done the first two pieces of homework already.
KStarr shows us how to utilize a band to help loosen up your ankle to create more range.

With guest athlete CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus, KStarr demonstrates the “Mulligan technique” with a band. Step into the band facing the wall so the band wraps around the back of your heel cord. Either with partner to stabilize the foot in a good position (or solo), close down the ankle as far as possible and release. To prep/recover from running, deadlifts, and/or box jumps, try pressing a lacrosse ball into your calf (seated with your leg crossed ) while making circles with your ankle. You can also “smash and shear” the outer heel cord area on a rumble roller/foam roller — again, a partner can create the pressure, or you can use the weight of the opposite leg (ankles crossed) to get more bang for your buck.

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