THE STORY BEHIND ATHLETIC REPUBLIC's 28 year history
THE STORY BEHIND ATHLETIC REPUBLIC's 28 year history
ATHLETIC REPUBLIC ISN'T JUST A GYM WITH WEIGHTS AND TREADMILLS.
IT'S A WHOLE NEW WAY TO TRAIN FORGED OVER 28 YEARS OF PRACTICE AND APPLICATION.
That's longer than most athletes' careers. Exercise physiologist John Frappier developed the original Acceleration Training programs through careful research and input from a team of sports medicine professionals, athletic trainers, and elite coaches. The performance sports training program has evolved into a training system that has followed the same evidence-based approach that formed the foundation for Frappier's pioneering work: uniting proprietary equipment, sport-specific and age-appropriate training protocols, trainer education and operating resources to help athletes improve their speed, power, agility, and stamina.
In 1986, Frappier traveled with the U.S. National Team to the Soviet Union as part of the Goodwill Games gymnastics delegation. During his visit, he participated in a sports science conference and was introduced to several physiological and training concepts the Soviets were using to push the thresholds of human performance, including:
OVER SPEED TRAINING: The Russians were doing some unprecedented things with over speed training and neuromuscular training using electrical stimulation. Essentially, they were trying to determine if there was a way to trick the body's somatic sensory systems to do a little more than the body thought it could previously. In coaching terms, if you try and raise the threshold as to what the body thinks is safe, and implement a training modality that is performed safely and doesn’t result in injury, an athlete is going to inherently release some of the inhibition that is associated with trying to protect the body …. and performance gains can potentially be garnered as a result. That manipulation is really what neuromuscular training, also known as "over speed" training, is all about.
CHALLENGES OF INCREASING ELECTRICAL STIMULATION: Electrical Stimulation is another way to send the strongest signal possible to specific muscles. But the problem with electrical stimulation is that the input only goes one way and it interrupts the feedback system that takes place in the body. This is because there are all sorts of sensors in the muscle and ligaments that work to protect the body. Sending an electrical stimulus from an outside source can result in the muscle contracting at a higher force level, but it disrupts the feedback process and the control of the muscle is therefore compromised. John recognized this challenge while watching the Russians tow athletes behind cars in an effort to get them to run faster than they normally could on their own. While they were encountering some success, ultimately 'towing' didn’t work for a majority of the athletes.
RIGOROUS TESTING: Right after WWII, the Russians instituted a national fitness program. They wanted to make sure that they had the most fit athletes and best soldiers in the world. Drawing from a huge talent pool of athletes, the scientists were charged with the ultimate goal of pushing the limits of human performance. The experiments they performed, including some which may not be considered acceptable by today's standards, and their documentation of the process with outcomes, ultimately validated these new training techniques and the importance of incorporating sports science into sports training.
Understanding these boundaries allowed him to identify the most important metrics to test. He returned home to Fargo, North Dakota in 1986 with an idea of how he could apply some of the Soviet concepts for neuromuscular training and how to manipulate the body's neuromuscular system to elicit a stronger response. Within two years, he had three Fargo football players signed with University of Nebraska, a first. Fargo was not on head coach Tom Osborn's recruiting radar, so he made a visit to learn more about what was changing in the local sports community and to meet Frappier. Osborn was amazed at the techniques John was employing and the success he was having with local athletes gaining collegiate and professional tryouts.
Meanwhile, aspiring biomechanist Steve Swanson was playing football at nearby Concordia College and taking one of the classes John was teaching at Concordia. Steve started training with John in 1989 and was making significant improvements, ultimately leading John to ask Swanson to work at his training facility. By the time Swanson was a senior, he was managing what had become the first training center.
One former All-Pro Linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, who had played in the league for 10-12 years, moved back home to Fargo and was coaching locally. At the age of 46, he started coming into the center and training with Frappier and Swanson. After completing the first training series, he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash, having never run that fast even when playing professionally. He called the Bengals and they sent Tim Krumrie, Anthony Munoz, Eric Thomas, Ickey Woods and Jim Breech to train. The players would fly in to Fargo every week in the summer to train alongside all the local athletes and they all began registering tremendous improvements.
In 1990, Frappier was confident enough in his innovative approach to an athlete's development that he and several local orthopedic doctors formed Acceleration Products. He began fielding inquiries from other athletic performance centers interested in incorporating similar training methodology. Frappier and Swanson realized the existing treadmills on the market would not meet their standards. So with the help of others, they started designing a high-performance treadmill that had design specifications of supporting an NFL lineman running at 20 MPH at a 20% grade without skipping or slowing down, while also possessing the mechanical ability to change speed and grade quickly.
Soon, Frappier began to focus on the benefit of low impact, quick movements that would improve stability and foot speed. An early pioneer in plyometric training, Frappier developed the initial formations that have been refined for use on the present day Plyofloor. Swanson describes the early ‘90s as "a very interesting time, because we were trying to study as much as we could from existing literature, especially what the Europeans were doing in neuromuscular research, and apply it to this new training methodology."
Bismarck's Myron Cullen led the first center to actually buy the training program. He had worked with John previously and helped to train the Bengals players. The collaboration between Frappier, Swanson and Cullen led to the first generation of protocols for the treadmill, plyometrics and strength training.
During the early ‘90s, the Super Treadmill design was refined and the four-square PlyoFloor was created, along with the PlyoPress, Multi-Hip and ProImplosion machines. The SprintCords, KickingCords, ThrowingCords and PowerCords were also designed and patented.
At the request of local coaches and players, Frappier, Swanson and Jim Lepine from Standard Industries constructed the first Hockey Treadmill in 1991 that allowed players to wear their own skates. The group received a patent for their efforts a few years later in 1995.
Protocol development continued as more athlete outcomes contributed to the evolution of the training programs. Research studies were initiated to validate all aspects of the training methods, including several studies that would be part of Swanson's Master’s work at the University of Massachusetts.
Frappier's Acceleration equipment and training protocols were attracting attention and by 1995, there were 15 training centers across the Midwest using his program to train athletes. One of the athletes was Vikings wide receiver, Cris Carter, who credits the program with the longevity of his career and elevating his game. Carter was impressed enough that he purchased Frappier's Acceleration program and set up a center in South Florida in 1997. Over the next several years, Carter's FAST Center attracted some of the NFL's best and soon to be best athletes to train during the off-season. Randy Moss, Jake Reed and Larry Fitzgerald were some of many getting better, getting stronger and getting faster through Acceleration Training.
By 2000, nearly 80 training centers had purchased the Acceleration Program, the Acceleration protocol had completed its fifth revision, the Skating Protocol its second update, the first sport-specific training protocols for Football were distributed, the Education and Certification system was introduced for trainers across the FAN - Frappier Acceleration Network, and Swanson had built a 3D motion-capture laboratory at TOSH in Salt Lake City, with Facility Director and PhD Jim Walker to support the SLC Winter Olympics effort and continue research on improving the fundamental movement skills that define athletics.
Throughout the ‘90s, training centers would collect their pre- and post-test athlete data and send it on floppy discs to Fargo for organization. The volume and synchronization of information lead to the creation of the first internet-based performance testing database and in 2001, the company released AIMS. Swanson spearheaded the project and programming and recognized the potential for AIMS to manage more than athlete data and distribute protocols, as it could also help manage the training center's operations. The interpretation of the athlete assessment information data led to the creation of new training protocols and the ACL Bridge program.
In 2005, Swanson led a full cross-sectional analysis of all the training centers and spent the next year working with developers to construct an online system that would centralize and organize athlete and training center information in a form the centers could use with AIMS 2.0. His research also lead to the introduction of the Balance Protocol, a new adaptation to improve athlete performance outcomes and training center's athlete throughput.
AIMS also provided a forum to distribute the trainer education information and certification system online, as well as a database platform to construct an online athlete Locker Room. The Locker Room was created to support the synchronization of DartFish software, video and digitally collected test results the company was collecting on 500 players at the National High School Football Combine as part of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The same system is used to collect, organize and compare 3PQ scores and other data collected by centers during the athlete assessment process. This information is used to individualize the athlete's training experience.
This statement was the positioning statement used to introduce the rebranding of the business at the 2007 Facility Conference. Charlie Graves and a partner had stepped in to recapitalize the company. One of the first tasks for the new CEO was establishing a brand that would support the company’s new franchise model it had adopted in 2006. The franchise system combined specialized equipment, sport-specific protocols, trainer education and business operation under the Athletic Republic brand.
The introduction of business-building programs that would assist new centers through the start-up cycle and help existing centers master each aspect of their operations followed. Technology advancements bring an online scheduling system with integrated reporting and point of sale to the centers, along with digital and social marketing resources. Marketing campaigns and creative resources are developed and implemented at the local level and new training programs are developed to access new audiences and to expand training services into a more hours each day.
The Athletic Republic System is a complete athlete assessment, performance training and conditioning program that is the culmination of over 28 years of research and a relentless drive for improvement.
The training system features the following training programs:
Acceleration Training™ - Now in its 6th rendition, the program is designed for the student-athlete who is dedicated to improving their speed, power and agility. Applications of the training program are age appropriate and sport focused ... Baseball, Basketball, Cross-Country, Football, Lacrosse, Skiing, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Tennis, Track, Volleyball, Water Polo, and more.
Hockey Training – The training program is specific to the demands of the skating athlete who must be quick, agile, powerful and durable to compete throughout a complete a hockey season.
Endurance Sports Training - The program is designed to help the adult athlete, runner, cyclist, swimmer, or triathlete move better, stay healthier, become stronger and get faster.
Frappier's ground-breaking work has now benefited nearly one million athletes who train in more than 120 centers, located across on three continents. From pee-wee to pro, athletes of all ages have followed these well-established training programs to gain more than a step on their competition.