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Eccentric heel raises are used to prevent and recover from Achilles tendon injuries.
Everyone who likes to run or jump can benefit from performing eccentric heel raises because they strengthen the calf muscle, helping to prevent Achilles tendon injuries. When your foot strikes the ground, your calves help to absorb and decelerate your body weight. The stronger the muscles, the more effectively they do their job. Eccentric heel raises are easy to perform and don't require a lot of fancy equipment. All you need is a step, box or some type of ledge and your own body weight, but you can hold onto dumbbells to make the exercise more challenging.
Eccentric heel, or calf, raises, develop strength in your gastrocnemius, which is the major muscle in your calf. Helping out is your soleus, which is the smaller of the two calf muscles and also contributes to ankle movement. During the eccentric heel raise, the gastrocnemius and soleus are primarily working eccentrically, which means they're contracting as they lengthen.
To perform eccentric heel raises, set the balls of your feet on a step so that your heels hang off the edge. Both feet should point directly forward. Rise up onto the balls of your feet to lift your heels as high as you can. Shift your weight onto one foot and lift your free foot up, bending your knee heel to glutes to move it out of the way. Slowly lower the heel of the foot still on the step as far down as you can, heel coming below the step. Move with control: take about five seconds to lower the foot. Return your free foot to the step, then rise back up onto the balls of your feet and prepare for the next rep. Finish all reps on one foot and then switch sides.
Prevention and Rehab Benefits
Runners and other athletes can suffer from Achilles tendonitis and other issues with the tendon due to their high-volume training. The eccentric heel raise exercise is often included in training programs of those looking to prevent or rehabilitate from Achilles tendon problems. Performing the traditional version of the heel raise exercise, which doesn't accentuate the slow lowering of the heels, isn't as effective at preventing or recovering from Achilles problems.
Incorporating the Exercise
If you're using eccentric heel raises to help recover from an Achilles injury, complete the exercise seven days per week, two separate times throughout each day. During each of your two workouts, perform three sets of as many reps as you can do without pain, up to 15 reps on each leg. Continue this training schedule and volume until the exercise can be completed without any pain or discomfort. If using the exercise to build calf strength or to help prevent Achilles problems, complete two sets of as many reps as you can comfortably complete up to 15 reps three days per week. Walk or ride a stationary bike for five to 10 minutes to warm up your calves prior to each workout.