Fingers : How to develop stronger and healthier tendons for climbing
Fingers : achy tendons and joints are the bane of hard-training athletes. To a passionate rock climber, a tweaked finger tendon pulley and sore elbow can stall your training advances. And maybe even ruin your climbing season. Sound familiar?
You may be excited to learn, then, that recent research has discovered ways that you can promote healthier and stronger connective tissues!
Tendons Are Plastic, Not Static
Traditionally, tendons and ligaments were viewed as inert structures that did not respond to day-to-day training and nutrition. Except in response to injury. Over the last decade, however, researchers have discovered that connective tissues are in fact “smart tissues”. Because they can sense and adapt to chronic mechanical loading.
By utilizing recently discovered training and nutritional interventions, climbers can develop stronger, stiffer ligaments, tendons, and muscle matrix that will increase performance. I.e higher rate of force development and increase muscle efficiency.
They can reduce injury risk (via increasing collagen synthesis in tendons and ECM). These findings are revolutionary for a hard-training climber with the desire and discipline to employ these new technologies!
Fingers : tendons and Ligaments Degrade Slightly from Intensive Training, Just Like Muscle Fibers Do
It’s been shown that tendon and ligaments of fingers degrade slightly as a result of training and then regenerate to regain homeostasis and strengthen slightly during the recovery period.
This is quite similar to the process by which contractile muscle fibers hypertrophy as a result of training. A critical difference between muscle and connective tissue, however, is the limited blood flow and nutrient supply available to tendons and ligaments.
Whereas well-perfused muscle recovers rather quickly (typically 24 – 48 hours), connective tissues can take 48 to 72 hours (or more) to recover from an intense workout or day of hard climbing.
While submaximal climbing and training are possible during this recovery period, frequent back-to-back days of high load and/or high volume training will result in a homeostasis perturbation that may reveal as slight transient pain in your finger tendon pulleys, elbows, and shoulders.