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Unlock Optimal Strength & Wellness: Master Home Gym Training for Muscle and Tendon Health

Revolutionize Your Fitness Journey with Expert Tips for Balanced Muscle and Connective Tissue Development

image, iron blog, ironmaster, Unlock Optimal Strength & Wellness: Master Home Gym Training for Muscle and Tendon Health

In the past, strength training from home was often seen as inferior, with less-than ideal results. However, with the availability of excellent home fitness equipment and high-quality remote coaching, setting up a home gym can now provide a convenient, distraction-free five-star experience for achieving your strength, wellness, and fitness goals, without any compromises. 

With over 35 years of practical experience, I am a master trainer and physical therapist based in the UK. The purpose of this article is two-fold: to enhance your home training results and to strengthen vulnerable areas of your body through targeted strength training. 

It is important to give equal attention to tendons and ligaments, the connective tissue, as you do to muscles, ensuring a balanced approach to your health and fitness journey.

If you struggle with constant muscle tightness or chronic joint pain despite regular stretching and mobility movements, it may be necessary to shift some attention to your tendon and ligament health, as this can be improved through targeted collagen synthesis strategies. 

While muscle growth and strength gains can be seen quickly through muscle protein synthesis, it may take upwards of 12 weeks to see the physical benefits of collagen synthesis and improved tendon strength. 

This is due to the slow tendon growth and poor blood flow in tendons, compounded by their stiff nature. 

It is important to clarify that most of your connective tissue training efforts should focus on tendon health, as ligaments, which connect bones to bones, are indirectly trained through this type of ligament training. 

Understanding the distinction between connective tissue exercises and the repercussions of aggravating a ligament strain is vital, as the latter could lead to adverse outcomes. Should you feel any discomfort in a joint area, promptly seeking the guidance of a qualified health professional for an evaluation is highly recommended.

With that caring recommendation out of the way, adopting a cautious and intelligent training regimen can help minimize your risk of injury while optimising the benefits. In this context, a quick online search or consulting an AI chat service will often highlight plyometric training as the ‘optimal’ strategy for fortifying tendons and ligaments. 

Although effective training methods like plyometrics can be beneficial, they also carry training risks that might outweigh the advantages for certain individuals. 

Rather than indiscriminately adhering to generic advice, it's crucial to evaluate your own joint health and muscle tightness to determine the most suitable training approach. 

To achieve a well-balanced body that excels in both aesthetics and function, it's essential to address any underlying musculoskeletal imbalances. 

If you already proudly display the aesthetics and functionality of a great body, you're likely on the correct path. For others, I suggest employing reciprocal inhibition with muscle energy techniques to relax specific muscles during contraction, and integrating isometric tension holds to enhance ligament stiffness and boost force transmission between muscles and bones. 

Here’s what I suggest.

Utilise reciprocal inhibition: through muscle energy technique to relax certain muscles as others contract. 

Ligament stiffness: through isometric tension holds that promote the tolerance of transmission of force between muscle and bone. 

Slow, controlled eccentric overloads: contribute to the strength of tendons and ligaments, but it's wise to first become proficient in loaded isometric holds. While this may sound like specialised knowledge, grasping that training with scientifically proven methods can lead to tangible outcomes for individuals with precise fitness objectives is important. 

I must admit, as passionate as I am about this topic, it may come off as a bit nerdy. However, I’m willing to forego a little ‘dope-ness’ for dope results. I welcome the amazing potential that can be achieved both in and out of the home gym with these training techniques. 

Merging clinical with clanging & banging. 

Techniques such as muscle energy and reciprocal inhibition have been used for rehabilitation purposes for many years, but have only recently been utilized for strength training without disrupting musculoskeletal balance. 

In my experience, the Ironmaster Super Bench has been a cornerstone of workout equipment for both rehabilitation of injured clients and injury prevention in strong, healthy clients. By incorporating resistance bands, dumbbells, and kettlebells, I've enhanced their home fitness routines significantly. 

In fact, the Super Bench has been so effective that I've replaced my physio bed with it! Its versatility has allowed me to extend my coaching and clinical expertise to those committed to their home fitness journey, enabling them to meet their health goals. 

That is the focus of this article: to provide guidance and resources that can be used long-term by tapping into theory and practice. 

For this reason, I've compiled a video that features a variety of isometric exercises, muscle techniques, and tension techniques, such as muscle energy techniques, isometric tension holds, and slow, eccentric overloads targeting the major joints and surrounding muscles. 

The Super Bench is integral to the workout equipment I've selected for demonstration in this video.

Watch in a new browser window on Vimeo, or on YouTube.

As demonstrated, the exercises include reciprocal inhibition through muscle energy techniques and also integrate connective tissue exercises, enhancing the overall training effect. 

This approach means that while muscle energy techniques are a key component, they are complemented by other physical therapy and resistance training methods rather than being used in isolation, as typically seen in a clinical setting with a therapist. 

As such, these techniques are used in conjunction to foster both muscle and connective tissue health, ensuring that each aspect of physical well-being is addressed. 

Both aspects, including posture exercises and strength training, work in synergy to enhance posture, mitigate imbalances, and bolster overall strength and conditioning. 

Tendon health deeper dive: 

I’m not going to go deep into the science, I’m going to go deeper into what happens when you train your tendons (and muscles to a degree) through application. This will best steer you on to what is the right approach for you personally. Please note: It also assumes you are not injured or rehabbing any form of tendon issues. 

1) Load – When the load (or resistance) increases, this will increase the amount of force transferred through the muscle and the tendon. Load is key as this creates the practical means for tendon strengthening through remodelling. 

The most common mistake is to underload an exercise when tendon strengthening is the goal. Let’s take a calf raise as an example: If you can perform 30+ reps of the exercise, the loading is not significant enough to promote tendon strengthening and remodelling. The muscle will essentially handle most, if not all of the load. 

Loading to 80%+ of 1 rep max is a good example of significant load. 5 full reps moving VERY slow eccentrically before good form failure is a good indicator of your 80%+ 1 rep max load value. 

If performing slow, eccentric overloads causes pain or discomfort, then you might not be ready for tendon training through ‘eccentric loading’ yet. Point 2 might be a more suitable approach for you. 

2) Stretch rate – Plyometrics or isometrics? What’s a better fit for your needs at this time? 

Plyometrics. True plyometrics are fast and controlled movements. Let’s take a weighted jump wearing a weight vest as an example. Fast muscle contractions mean the entire muscle and tendons will move as one musculotendinous unit. 

In this process, the muscle contracts slightly, but the tendon lengthens more so and at a rapid pace. This is great for reactive, explosive tendon functionality, but also carries a lot of risk as a result. 

Fast plyometrics use the stretch shortening cycle – It involves a pre-stretch of the muscle, then a counter movement where the same muscle contracts. A lot goes on in this cycle – so I will keep it basic. Whilst the muscle lengthens and contracts, it does so to a lesser degree resulting in lengthening of the tendon – and this is where the risk of injury can increase if you go too fast and forcefully too soon. 

If your focus is more on athletic ability and speed than muscle growth, then this might be the preferred option over heavy isometric loading:

Heavy Isometric loading: Isometrics involve holding a sub-maximal* loaded non-moving position (known as a yielding isometric) to stimulate increased tendon length as the isometric holding time increases. * 80% of 1 rep max is a good indicator of a heavy, submaximal load

The muscle and tendon are actually working against one another in a tug-of-war style to hold the loaded position. A standard isometric hold period of 30 seconds, creates a shortening of the muscle and lengthening and yielding of the tendon to maintain the isometric hold position. 

This increase in tendon length (also known as ‘creep’) creates different adaptations than the plyometric approach – specifically the lengthening of the tendon is going to promote collagen synthesis to occur within the tendon through lower-level sheer force. 

This is encouraging as it means degenerated tendons have the opportunity to be regenerated. This is great news, especially as we age. 

That all gets a little deep on the biology, but essentially heavy isometric loading is much more conducive to tendon-focused strengthening over plyometrics. A great example of this is a leg extension where you kick out the legs under a heavy, but sub-maximal load and hold the semi-extended position for 30 seconds to allow the patellar tendon to ‘creep’ and subsequently promote collagen synthesis. 

If your focus is more on tendon health to support muscle growth, then this might be the preferred option over plyometrics. 

In an ideal world, you would train both – but for the sake of this article I’m simply outlining the individual benefits of both isometrics and plyometrics. 

3) Joint angle positioning – Mid-range is best to direct load to the target area. 

Let’s not overthink this one. We want to find the joint angles that promote tendon strengthening for any given exercise. Let’s use the knee as an example. If we fully extend the knee then the patellar tendon has very little lengthening potential, and if we fully flex the knee, then we have a lot of force and compression acting on the tendon, but very little muscle contraction of the quad – neither is good for our needs. 

Our goal is to maximise tension, minimise compression and find a position where we can sub-maximally load whilst reducing risk. In the case of a leg extension exercise, a 30-to-60-degree knee flexion angle is ideal to deliver load to the tendon, but also contract the quadriceps muscle. 

When you apply load, plus take into account stretch rate and joint angle positioning, you can target connective tissue favourably, and this is an absolute winning combination alongside muscular strength training for all-round strength, conditioning and athletic potential. 

In summary: 

While the primary focus of this article is on isometrics for tendon strength, it's crucial to recognize that muscle energy techniques are still employed, inducing reciprocal inhibition to relax opposing muscles, even amidst isometric holds or slow, eccentric loading. 

Therefore, when executed correctly, all the techniques discussed here can effectively contribute to connective tissue strengthening, fortify muscles, and facilitate the relaxation of opposing muscles. 

Whether your objective is muscle growth, enhancing connective tissues, or a blend of both, it is your prerogative to determine the extent to which you engage in traditional strength training for muscular development and tendon training with muscle energy techniques for musculoskeletal equilibrium and neurodevelopment.

About the Author

Scott Spencer is a master coach, physio, behaviour change specialist and above all else – a great listener! Having served 37 years in the health & fitness sector – he remains as passionate about helping others – help themselves to achieve their bespoke goals as he did when he started at the young age of 11!

As a proud former athlete (200m & 400m silver medallist in the British Masters Championships) who made a full recovery from a broken back in 2011, he enjoys being an active dad and husband and loves to travel for both work and pleasure.

Instagram: @theworkingbody
Website: www.theworkingbody.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/scott-spencer-twb/ 


Equipment seen in this video:

Super Bench

Resistance Bands


Ironmaster has been specializing in producing the best home gym, equipment since 1978.
Check out Ironmaster.com to learn more about our full line of personal strength training equipment. Weight benches, like our legendary Super Bench Adjustable Weight Bench are the foundation of any home gym. Our customer favorite Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells and it's system of interchangeable weight plates save you both space and money with their modular, multipurpose design. Another customer favorite, the IM2000 Self Spotting Machine (Smith Machine style half rack!) is so versatile you can build your ultimate gym in your common spare rooms, garage, or basement.

Learn how to build a custom package to take advantage of our everyday discount program, where the more you bundle on qualified items, the more you save!


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