If you’re reading this, you’ve likely experienced patellar tendon pain. You know that little area just underneath your kneecap that hurts after your dunk days or after you’ve been hooping for hours? That’s your patellar tendon. And once you start experiencing that pain, getting the pain to go away is often more difficult than it needs to be.
One of the main challenges is that the forces you experience during basketball are so intense that your tendon is constantly overloaded with stress to a level that doesn’t allow the tendon to heal. So eventually the pain leads you to have to take days off from playing or significantly affects the way you play until you start sitting out practices and eventually games due to the constant aggravation. That’s when you start resting.
But here’s the thing..
“Just Resting” Doesn’t Work
I imagine you’ve already tried the “rest for a while then come back to play” method with little success. You rest until your knee feels better, then come back to play and are able to hoop pain-free for a short while. You figure you’ve gotten over it, then one day you feel the pain level flare back up during practice, and in that moment you realize that the problem hasn’t gone away at all.
You then begin the cycle of dialing back your basketball related activity and reducing how much you’re playing until you’re only left with the option of once again sitting out your practices and games.
Here’s why resting doesn’t work: when a patella tendon is inflamed, it’s basically your body telling you that your tendon can’t handle the amount of stress being placed on it. When you play basketball, there’s always going to be an extremely high amount of stress placed on it. So since the stress level of basketball will never change, you’re left with two choices. Either give up playing basketball since your tendon can’t handle the force, or train your tendon to be highly resilient to basketball forces.
Since there’s always going to be an incredible level of force placed on your tendon while playing basketball, resting can never work as a long term solution. Why? Because your tendon’s capacity to handle stress hasn’t changed. AKA, you haven’t trained your tendon to handle higher levels of stress, therefore it can’t tolerate basketball no matter how many days or weeks you rest for. So the solution to the patellar tendon problem is stressing the tendon at a level that your tendon can handle without significant amounts of pain, so that the tendon will grow stronger.
This is where resistance exercises come into play. Since your tendon can’t handle the forces from jumping at the moment, you have to find another way to begin training the tendon to handle more force by using exercises with a lower level of force than what you get from intensive plyometrics or playing your sport.
Resistance Training is the Best Solution Early In The Rehab Process
One of the most important, and potent, methods of increasing tendon strength is utilizing eccentric strength training. The eccentric portion of an exercise is what leads to stronger muscles and in this case, a stronger patellar tendon.
Work with me for a second: in terms of force handling capability, imagine there’s a gap between where your tendon is at and where you want the tendon to end up. You need to find ways to bridge that gap.
Poliquin Step Ups Are Transformational For Your Patellar Tendon Health
One of the most transformational exercises for improving patellar tendon pain is Poliquin step ups.
Poliquin step ups involve elevating your heel and stepping down from a box up to 6 inches high. One of the challenges you’ll face is you may not be able to step down from 6 inches without pain when you’re starting out. Without specific equipment engineered to simplify step ups, you’ll be relying on finding something in your garage or at your local gym at a height low enough for you to complete the exercise without pain. To continue increasing your tendon strength to a level that will allow you to play basketball pain-free, you’ll need to gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise as your tendon begins adapting. This inevitable adaptation will require you to find another platform that isn’t too high, but is higher than the lowest platform you started with. Finally, you’ll need a platform six inches high and each of these respective platforms will need to be able to fit a slant board (or some other sort of heel elevation tool) on top of them. If the slant board isn’t securely attached, you run the risk of seriously injuring yourself through slipping off the board or having the entire slant board slip off the step.
Watch Victoria's video showing a complete breakdown of The Slant Stack and how its used and why its an important piece for your training.
Just writing out the steps you’ll need to take was exhausting for me, and I feel slightly annoyed thinking about jumping through those hoops just to do a damn exercise. And for reference, I’ve jumped through those hoops often enough to be in the Cirque du Soleil. Shit gets old quickly!
If you’re fortunate enough to belong to a gym which has all these required tools, you’ll have to find a time to go when you’re able to use them together.
Heel Elevated Split Squats Are Another Potent Tool For a Resilient Patellar Tendon
In addition to Poliquin Step Ups, Heel Elevated Split Squats are a potent tool for transforming your patellar tendon strength. A study performed on Olympic Weightlifters who performed a full range of motion exercises, including squats, revealed that their tendons were 37% thicker than those of their counterparts who didn’t include full range of motion training. A thicker tendon is a stronger, more resilient tendon.
The split squat with the heel elevated is an excellent tool for strengthening that tendon through a full knee bend, since When you elevate your heel using a slant board during split squats you emphasize your knee going over your toes to put an greater physical demand on the patellar tendon than you would without the heel elevation.
Similar to Poliquin Step Ups, the split squat on flat ground, the highest level of difficulty, will likely be too difficult for you or too painful for you when starting out. To regress the exercise to a level where you don’t aggravate your pain, you’ll need to elevate your front foot off the ground. An easy task to accomplish with The Slant Stack.
The Slant Stack Makes Saving Your Basketball Career Simple and Safe
The Slant Stack comes with three two inch platforms that stack on top of one another. Each platform contains attachments that allows you to securely place The Tib Bar Guy slant board on top. So whether you’re working at a 2 inch height or at a 6 inch height, you can be sure your slant board will be securely attached to your step, allowing you to transform your patella tendon strength using the Poliquin step up without worrying about potentially serious injury from an accident.
The three two inch steps also allow you to easily progress or regress the movement as needed, which will allow you to not only continue growing stronger but also avoid working at a level that is detrimental to your tendon health.
As an example: let’s say you’ve been completing Poliquin Step ups at a 4 inch height but after your second practice of the week, the next day you wake up with slight knee aggravation. When you go to do your Poliquin step ups, you feel the 4 inch height is bothering your tendon. With The Slant Stack, you can easily remove one of the steps, perform your first couple of sets at a 2 inch height to warm up your tendon through increased blood flow, then put the second stack back on top and return to doing 4 inches pain-free for your remaining sets.
The benefits The Slant Stack provides for Poliquin Step Ups are similar to the benefits The Slant Stack provides for working on your split squats. The steps that can be easily adjusted to the height that challenges your tendon and forces it to grow stronger, without aggravating your pain. The simple and secure placement of the slant board. Each of these elements will allow you to reap the rewards of more flexible hips, stronger quads, and a more resilient patellar tendon.
Adding The Slant Stack into your training regimen will empower you to train, practice, and compete at your highest level. You’ll regain the confidence to hoop without having to worry about knee pain forcing you to continually take days off for rest and recovery. You’ll no longer feel anxious about whether or not your knee pain is going to return and force you to miss out on your favorite moments.
Even if you do start to feel some pain, you now have a tool at your disposal that will allow you to manage that pain and continue playing without the need for a long break.
So don’t hesitate.
Save your basketball career today.