The record number of soft tissue injuries experienced by players at the Essendon FC during the recent 2012 AFL season highlights a number of important principles we must learn from when embarking on a strength training program. While the large number of soft tissue injuries occurred in elite athletes at Essendon, the lessons learned can be applied to those of us training for general fitness and health.
Essendon FC had more than 21 soft tissue injuries during this AFL season, which de-railed the teams early season success. The team went on to lose eight of the last nine matches for the year, leaving them out of the finals race. The goal for the club in 2012 (making finals) was clearly impacted – just as injury can be a major obstacle between you and your health and fitness goals.
The strength training and fitness program employed at Essendon FC in preparation for the 2012 season has been widely reported as overly focused on building bulk and strength. The club has publicly stated that they had intended to aggressively build players’ size through an accelerated weight training program. From an outsider’s perspective, this accelerated program would appear to have had an excessive focus on load, without the necessary attention on ensuring players’ were positively adapting to the training stimulus. As a result, there were significant consequences for the athletes’ quality of movement, and motor control, and ultimately, their performance.
So what can you learn from Essendon FC about your own fitness?
One of the fundamentals of strength training is to ensure that you maintain your flexibility, posture, and correct biomechanical movements while increasing your strength, training load, and power. Maintaining these physical attributes is vital for proper movement in either your day-to-day activities or in your chosen sport. When any of these attributes are negatively affected by strength training, your risk of injury significantly increases.
The excessive number of injuries at Essendon FC supports the need for Corrective Exercise in the programming of strength and fitness training. Corrective exercises are used to restore and maintain the body’s ideal biomechanics. The purpose of corrective exercise is to ensure that specific stabilising muscles are “switching on” and engaging correctly within your body, to maintain your normal and healthy joint and muscle function. The application of corrective exercise also ensures your body is engaging the “right” muscles during the performance of loaded (weighted) strength training exercises.
Corrective Exercise plays a pivotal role in reducing injury, and improving and optimising your training results. Whether you’re an athlete, or someone training to enhance your health and wellbeing, the achievement of your goals will be determined by both the quality of your training and by your ability to remain injury-free. Remember, injury is the biggest obstacle to anyone achieving their training goals.
As each individual person will have different biomechanical deficiencies and postural faults, the application of corrective exercise needs to be tailored specifically to each person. Exercise programs must take into account the unique needs and body conditions of individuals separately, and then adjusted in accordance with how each person is adapting to the training load and exercise stimulus.
As a personal trainer, I am a strong advocate for both corrective exercise and the need for individually tailored exercise programs. As with this Essendon FC example, our team at Inspire Fitness are equally amazed by individuals who are striving to improve their health and fitness, but are taken through exercises that are completely unsuitable for their body – all for the purpose of just getting “hot and sweaty”. Exercise is the most important thing you can do to improve your health, but generic exercise without strategy and without an individual approach is just plain dangerous!