Gen­eral strength train­ing pre­vents in­juries, im­proves game: trainer

El­liott Richard­son stresses re­siliency, sport non-spe­cific ap­proach in ath­letic train­ing

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA WOLFVILLE Sara.Eric­s­son@kingscountynews.ca B3

Re­tired pro foot­ball player El­liott Richard­son says strength train­ing would have helped make him not only be­come a more re­silient foot­ball player, but a bet­ter one.

This is why he set up shop in Wolfville with his Aca­dia Per­for­mance Train­ing Inc., a strength train­ing pro­gram de­signed to strengthen ath­letes’ abil­ity to with­stand high im­pact sports, and pre­vent in­juries.

The pro­gram has grown from two ath­letes to more than 120, and con­tin­ues ex­pand­ing as more ath­letes, coaches and par­ents re­al­ize the ben­e­fits of strength train­ing for ath­letes whose gains in­clude longterm re­siliency, and longer ca­reers in sports, ac­cord­ing to Richard­son.

“At the end of day, if you be­come faster, more pow­er­ful and bet­ter con­di­tioned, your chances of be­ing suc­cess­ful are fun­da­men­tally in­creased – that’s all this re­ally comes down to,” he says.

A ‘sport non-spe­cific’

ap­proach

Richard­son founded the train­ing pro­gram at Aca­dia Univer­sity in 2012 af­ter play­ing foot­ball with the Ax­e­men and then pro­fes­sion­ally in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League.

He says his own lim­i­ta­tions dur­ing his rel­a­tively short pro­fes­sional ca­reer, along with feel­ings that he’d have ben­e­fit­ted from gen­eral strength train­ing, in­spired him to cre­ate a train­ing model de­signed to give all ath­letes the tools they need to ex­cel in any sport.

“I al­ways felt like I needed some gen­eral train­ing to round me out as an ath­lete. Prac­tic­ing one set of skills and us­ing one set of mus­cles is risky, and I wanted to ad­dress that,” he says.

The pro­gram there­fore uses a sports non-spe­cific ap­proach and works with ath­letes of all dis­ci­plines on strength­en­ing their over­all gen­eral fit­ness, fo­cus­ing on both speed and strength.

Richard­son says the em­pha­sis is to start strength con­di­tion­ing at an early age – some­thing he says scares some par­ents due to old stig­mas about drills like weight train­ing.

But Richard­son wants par­ents to know these drills are at the core of his meth­ods for a rea­son: they de­liver the best re­sults and are far from danger­ous.

“It’s the idea that strength train­ing is risky, leads to in­juries and can stunt growth. That’s just not the case,” says Richard­son.

“In fact, stud­ies ac­tu­ally show the in­jury rate is sig­nif­i­cantly less than any other sport.”

Re­siliency leads to more suc­cess, fewer in­juries An­other hall­mark of the pro­gram is its em­pha­sis on re­siliency, as it works with each ath­lete to in­crease their abil­ity to bounce back from the strain sports can cause. Strength train­ing, agility drills and ba­sic flex­i­bil­ity ex­er­cises are used by Richard­son to pro­duce ath­letes in whom the risk of in­jury is re­duced. He says this ap­plies even to some­thing as high-im­pact as run­ning be­cause of stronger mus­cles, and stronger joints.

“A lot of it has to do with the im­pacts of land­ing – this is where ath­letes get in­jured most of­ten,” says Richard­son.

“Re­search shows im­prov­ing ba­sic strength – think­ing of flex­i­bil­ity, sta­bil­ity – helps an ath­lete be bet­ter able to ab­sorb forces and ac­cept strength.”

Richard­son’s train­ing is also de­signed specif­i­cally to coun­ter­act early sports spe­cial­iza­tion, which he says sees many young ath­letes play­ing a sin­gle sport year-round.

He says this can lead to the overde­vel­op­ment of cer­tain mus­cles, and in­juries down the road.

This is why he en­cour­ages ath­letes not only to join his pro­gram, but to also en­list in dif­fer­ent sports through­out the year to build up that re­siliency, and to keep them from burn­ing out.

“The chal­lenge is not to make some­one stronger, fit­ter and faster – the harder part is choos­ing ex­er­cises that pro­mote bet­ter ath­leti­cism over­all,” says Richard­son.

‘No one was do­ing this’ When he was pre­sented with a one-way ticket af­ter re­tir­ing from the CFL, Richard­son says he knew he was headed back to Nova Sco­tia.

Think­ing of his own days play­ing sports at Aca­dia, Richard­son knew there was a solid pool of ath­letes who could ben­e­fit from such a pro­gram.

And now, as the pro­gram con­tin­ues ex­pand­ing, Richard­son feels he was right to bring it to Wolfville, and to ath­letes out­side the prov­ince’s ur­ban core of Hal­i­fax.

“It’s an un­der­served area where I knew we could make an im­pact. I thought of that as a pos­i­tive, be­cause no one was do­ing this,” he says.

He tells all of his ath­letes their most im­por­tant phys­i­cal abil­ity is avail­abil­ity – no mat­ter what level of team they play on.

“If you can’t be there, if you don’t show up – it doesn’t mat­ter how good you are,” he says.

“This is why re­siliency is so im­por­tant.”

SARA ERIC­S­SON

El­liott Richard­son founded the train­ing pro­gram at Aca­dia Univer­sity in 2012 af­ter play­ing foot­ball with the Ax­e­men and then pro­fes­sion­ally in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League.

Clau­dia Ful­ton faces chal­lenges ad­mirably.

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