Increased Strength of Tendons Due to Exercise

Person running on path

Exercise does more than make you look good. Exercise makes you feel good. It also improves the strength of your tendons. This benefit may be low on your list of reasons to continue or begin an exercise program, but strong tendons contribute to your overall strength, protect you from injuries such as muscle strains and can help increase your bone mass.

Build a Bridge

Tendons are bridges between your muscles and bones. Located at the end of your muscles and made of collagen fibers, tendons are bound together in tight sheaths. When a muscle contracts, the tendons pull against the bone to cause the movement. For example, when your biceps muscles contract, the tendon pulls against your lower arm bone to raise your hand toward your shoulder.

Lack of Oxygen

If a tendon is mature, it contains a small amount of cells. The cells do not require a large amount of oxygen or nutrients to grow, therefore aerobic exercises -- such as cycling, walking, swimming and dancing -- are not the best for strengthening the tendons. A tendon responds with strength improvements when it is moved against a heavy, resistive force. You do this with anaerobic training, also known as resistance training.

Location, Location, Location

As you increase your muscular strength with resistance training, your tendons respond with an increase in tenacity. Tendon strength improves in two places. The first is where the tendon attaches to the bone. The second is within the body of the tendon. These adaptations occur prior to muscle growth, as stronger tendons are required to lift heavier weights.

The How

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, resistance training improves tendon strength in four ways. One way is the individual collagen fibers increase in thickness. A second way that tendon strength is improved is a result of the number of horizontal fibers within the tendon increasing. There is also a stronger bond between the chemical compounds of each adjacent collagen fiber that is formed. The final way is when the tightly packed arrangement of the collagen fibers increases in density.