Athletic Performance: Tendons Key to High-Speed Performance

When a person is running at high speed, their muscles stop producing energy while their tendons take over by releasing energy quickly using the energy return system.

Running

Running

To maintain your physical capacity for as long as possible, you need to train regularly to keep your tendons strong.

Does winning the 100 meters in the Olympics depends only on the muscles of the runner? Of course, but they weren’t the only reason for the victory. One of the key elements to this is the maintenance and use of tendons. They can be defined as the threads that connect muscle to bone. In this way, they transmit force to the skeletal system. For example, the fingers have no muscles but can move thanks to the tendons that connect them to the muscles of the forearm. Therefore, for everyone, but even more so for athletes, their role is crucial in order to achieve good results.

Read Also: Stem Cell Discovery Could Transform Treatment of Tendon Injuries

Muscle strength is provided by two proteins: actin and myosin.

Muscles are very strong, they can bear very heavy loads, move quickly, etc. Their strength comes from the interaction of two proteins. Their strength comes from the interaction between actin and myosin. The combination of these two proteins in muscle cells ensures muscle contraction. In detail, myosin attaches to actin in the form of a rod. In this way, the two proteins slide against each other. It is this movement that generates the force that muscles need in everyday activities, such as climbing stairs or carrying shopping bags. But when running at high speed, muscles face a problem: they can’t generate much force because the two proteins responsible for muscle contraction – actin and myosin – have a harder time connecting. As a result, they no longer play their role properly. At very high speeds, the muscles no longer generate force. So world speed records exist… thanks to tendons.

The tendons store energy for better release

For example, muscles alone cannot generate half the power needed for a sprint or a vertical jump. That’s where tendons come in handy, allowing athletes to store energy so they can release it quickly when needed. This phenomenon is called the “energy return system”. This is possible when a sufficiently long and flexible tendon is connected to a strong muscle. When the muscle generates force, it stretches the tendon, storing the elastic energy. When the tendon releases, it generates much more power than the muscle. That’s why we can say that our tendons are power amplifiers!

Read Also: Research: Why You May Be More Prone to Tendon Injuries as You Age

Maintaining ligament stiffness to maintain physical capacity

To get the most out of our tendons, here are some tips. Firstly, moving in the opposite direction of the desired movement, i.e. counter-movement, allows the muscle to already have a high force when the desired movement starts. This is the principle of a tennis serve: it starts from behind and then moves forwards. On the other hand, to improve performance, an athlete, like a normal person, needs to train regularly to make the tendons stronger. In fact, this stiffness decreases with age, and this reduces physical capacity. It is, therefore, better to at least do some walking every day and ideally to practice a sport regularly to maintain the stiffness of the tendons. For older people, exercising regularly will allow them to maintain their physical independence for much longer.

Read Also: Are Hormones Useful in the Treatment of Tendinopathies?

References

Elastic energy storage in the shoulder and the evolution of high-speed throwing in Homo

Effects of Increased Loading on In Vivo Tendon Properties: A Systematic Review

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