Posted on Leave a comment


This is a great website. The resources have solid research behind them and it is easy to navigate. The site is a great tool to help the average person educate themselves on all aspects of health and fitness.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Importance of Activity for Children with Special Needs

Over the last 10 years, the population of children with special needs has increased over 165%.  According to Autism Speaks, the diagnosis of autism affects 1 in 45 children. As this segment of our population continues to grow, our society needs to have a better understanding of autism and other disabilities. It is important that we offer programs and treatment for both children and adults with disabilities. While many early intervention and cognitive programs have become available, there is still a lapse in the accessibility of fitness programs. In fact, there are very few exercise programs or physical fitness centers available to accommodate these children.

Parents and schools are earnestly focused on academics and social interaction in the classroom. Physical fitness is the last thing anyone worries about, and in most cases kids with special needs are allowed to skip gym class. The classroom is an integral part of development, while physical fitness is often overlooked, meanwhile it is actually one of the most crucial components for these kids’ development. This is because academics and social interaction can be integrated into physical activities, and the combination has the potential to cause greater results than any of these methods alone.

Science shows that physical activity stimulates the nervous system and forces the body to work as a unit rather than in parts. Improving nerve function is beneficial for anyone with a disability. Exercise creates and improves motor pathways and proprioception, stimulates serotonin production, helps regulate the energy systems, builds a mind body connection, strengthens the immune system, helps control weight, and builds muscle. Additionally, the nervous system and the immune system are more closely connected than people realize. For example, stress causes the body to go into a state of fight or flight. This can disrupt hormone levels, especially cortisol, which can lead to a weakened immune system. Therefore, exercise is good for neuromuscular health and for immune function, so it makes sense to increase physical activity.

Special needs children are 58%more likely to be obese and to have below average muscle mass since physical activity is usually pushed aside. Physical, emotional, and behavioral issues can be addressed in a workout session demonstrating that education can be achieved through physical activity in a social setting. In fact, it is quite simple to make fitness both fun and educational.

Fitness programs will vary depending on both the child’s ability to participate and his/her physical and cognitive limitations. For example, if a child does not have physical issues and is high functioning, he/she can participate in a circuit that includes a mini obstacle course with ring jumps, an inertia wave, and balance walks, this can be followed with a simple math or English question before moving on to the next obstacle.  For a child with more physical challenges, you can make an easier obstacle course that includes tossing a light medicine ball back and forth while counting out loud how many times he/she throws it, thereby incorporating social, mathematical and physical activities into the workout. For children with even more limited physical constraints, the activity can be adjusted to fit their abilities. For instance, a child in a wheelchair with limited limb movement would need assistance moving his/her limbs in order to improve upon the movements he/she already has.Further, if the child is non-verbal, he/she can engage with number puzzles and use a peg board to count the amount of exercises performed.

While it may be intimidating, personal trainers should not be fearful since training special needs children is just like training anyone else.  As with any client, a trainer should evaluate the child’s current state of fitness and address weaknesses. Therefore, if balance is poor and core muscles are weak, exercises should be assigned to make improvements. Just because some kids cannot perform higher intensity exercises does not mean they cannot benefit from simpler tasks, such as standing on one foot while holding a rail.

Physical activity is crucial for children to function in everyday life. Walking, bending, sitting, standing, balancing, and carrying are all activities needed for daily living. Exercising and training builds strength and confidence in children. Additionally, physical activity can be a social outlet through playing on the playground or during group activities and gym classes. The socialization from playground interaction and a gym class far exceeds the benefits compared to classroom socialization. By nature, children like physical activity, and they will request it when they are exposed to it as part of their routine. Special needs children have the same nature, and they are physically capable of activity. However, many of them have a great deal of anxiety and therefore may not participate for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, noise, lighting, touching and fear of groups. Non verbal children are more likely to experience excess stress. Exercise is a great way to burn off excess nervous energy which can improve calm attention in non verbal children.

Activity should be introduced slowly and carefully and take into account both the child’s physical and emotional requirements. A small task such as rolling a ball back and forth will get a child moving while interacting with another person. Furthermore, playing catch and rolling a ball are both equivalent to a conversation, and it is a great way to introduce your child to social play, especially for non-verbal children. All these small interactions add up to create change and to improve the quality of life for any child. By combining purpose-based exercise and education into group and one on one sessions, you will see vast improvements in other areas.

Fitness and nutrition are intertwined to improve both function and health. Nutrition is a key factor in maintaining a healthy nervous and immune system, since 80% of the immune system is housed in the gut. With Autism, it is important to rule out intestinal dysbiosis, check for environmental toxicities, investigate impaired detoxification, and look for heavy metal toxicity. Additionally, check for high levels of inflammation, evaluate mitochondrial dysfunction, assess food sensitivities including gluten, monitor oxidative stress, and look for nutrient deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega-3 fats. These issues can cause inflammation and cause leaky gut syndrome, which may disrupt digestion, nutrient absorption, pH of the blood, the lymphatic system, and the nervous system. When toxins and large food particles enter the blood stream, they can cross the blood brain barrier and cause both behavioral and cognitive issues. Changes in diet and supplements are good tools to help combat these nutritional concerns and enhance the benefits of exercise. Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies can contribute to behavior issues and diminish the body’s ability to regulate energy.



Author: Charles DeFrancesco CPT

Collaborator: Denise Groothuis MS RD CFMP Pn1 CPT





Posted on 1 Comment

The Truth of the Trend

Research has shown that training the nervous system with Olympic lifting, plyometrics or any type of explosive high intensity training can be beneficial to the athlete when done correctly. There is much debate on the subject of CNS (central nervous system) fatigue and whether it is a real phenomenon or a false naming of adrenal fatigue, muscle fatigue, etc. Whether or not CNS fatigue truly exists or is being named correctly is beside the point. The fact is that explosive exercises with weight such a Olympic lifting place very high demands on all systems of the body and carry serious risk of injury if not learned and practiced properly.

Olympic weightlifting requires a high level of understanding and skill. Bompa has a suggested that the optimal number for training the nervous system is 1-3 repetitions with a rest period of 6 minutes between sets. In addition ATP is only present for 6-8 seconds which is about 3-5 reps before needing at least 2-3 min of recovery. Once ATP runs out the lifts will become compromised because the muscle does not have the energy to elicit the contraction the nerve is demanding. Anything beyond said rep range starts to overload the joint because form is compromised. Since these methods are designed to tax the central nervous system it does not make sense to try to change them into strength and endurance movements for high reps. Despite the research and proven science many mainstream programs will suggest doing a set of anywhere from 10-20 repetitions or even do as many reps as possible in a 30-60 second window. Using these methods for endurance is like telling a sprinter to sprint through marathons for training.

The other issue is that these methods require a very high level of motor control. Proper movement patterns need to be practiced without resistance at a low level until the client shows proficiency in the movement. Of all the lifting methods, Olympic lifting is the most difficult to master because of the required flexibility and motor control for explosive movements with heavy weights to get the max benefit. Olympic lifting is a sport in itself and can take years to learn. From our experience it takes the average person 4-6 months just to be able to get into the positions required to properly perform the movements. Once they can move it can take another 6-12 months to actually learn how to correctly do the lifts with weights. Olympic lifting is a professional sport yet everyone thinks they can do it without training. Even professional athletes should be cautious because the lifts were designed not for football, soccer or tennis, but for Olympic lifting.

Athletes should integrate Olympic style lifts into their strength and conditioning programs to reap the benefits of these movements but not duplicate them exactly. I suggest most athletes train from the power position which is called the hang (bar just below knees) since that is what most sports require. If a super elite athlete wants to learn the full lifts, it should be determined by a very high level coach.

Most courses that teach this method are 2-4 days and then a certification is received allowing one to teach the lifts. Since we all agree Olympic lifting is just like basketball or any other pro sport, then how is that possible? One cannot learn basketball in 2-4 days, let alone teach it, right? The answer seems obvious, yet people still spend millions on extreme home training videos and going to training facilities to do trendy high intensity programs that make no scientific sense.

The videos are the most dangerous, in our opinion. Any professional knows you cannot learn plyometrics by watching a video, and that the average person does not have the knowledge of the basic physical requirements and proper progressions. The science behind plyometrics is similar to Olympic lifting and should not be done for high repetitions either. The sad truth is that a majority of programs break the laws of proven science and safety, but their obvious flaws are overshadowed by attractive instructors, celebrity endorsements, extreme marketing tactics and industry politics. These companies are commendable, in a way, because the business intellect required to achieve such enormous revenue is impressive and there are some very good components in many of these programs. The main issues with these programs are that the parts that are wrong are so wrong it negates any of the positive aspects.

So the big question we get is  “why do they work if they are wrong?”

The fact is that if you do anything consistently and intensely while eating well you will obtain results. If you were to move bricks from one side of the yard to another for two hours a day with a 15 minute jog every 30 minutes for two months, you can be assured there will be fat loss and muscle growth. This is especially true for people who have never exercised or have done very little. So does that make it right? This sounds crazy but one of the best NFL receivers of all time, Jerry Rice, did just that growing up. He played a lot better when he started training like a football player instead of moving bricks.

Why doesn’t everyone get hurt? I know a guy who has been doing that stuff for years! Well, there are people who smoke until they are 90 and have no issues while others who never smoke die of lung cancer at 40 years old. In most cases smokers will develop health problems before 85, but there are always the exceptions. Everyone is different. There are countless variables that contribute to our physical constitutions and what our bodies can handle before we break down including genetics, nutrition and mental/emotional patterns, just to name a few. Some people are born athletes and can tolerate these programs because they have a natural ability to perform most plyometrics correctly and are strong and flexible enough to weather the storm of poor training.

Are all cookie cutter programs bad? No. There are some great instructors out there who can run programs that follow science and elicit even better results. This article is meant to educate you and serve as the WARNING LABEL. This is not meant as an attack on any particular company or program. It is simply meant to provide information based on common sense and science so that better results can be achieved safely.

Written by

Charles DeFrancesco

Dr. Robert Inesta


Bompa, T. (2005) Periodisation Training for sports. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics (taken from

Peinado AB, Rojo JJ, Calderón FJ, Maffulli N.

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2014 Apr 24;6:17. doi: 10.1186/2052-1847-6-17. eCollection 2014. Review.

Posted on Leave a comment

Tennis Program

Training tennis players requires a multidimensional approach that includes strength and conditioning training as well as the sound principles of injury prevention. Tennis is a sport that requires a lot of repetitive movements and full range of motion in every joint. The goal of this program is to discuss proper biomechanics, importance of flexibility, outline proper training techniques and how nutrition affects performance.

Biomechanical Evaluation

It is important to evaluate the body as a whole to detect weakness and any joint dysfunction. To avoid overuse injuries screening for muscle imbalances is an extremely important part of any training program. The rationale behind it is that there are detectable and correctable abnormalities of muscle strength and length.  These imbalances can affect basic movement patterns such as running or swinging a racket and lead to unexplained musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.  Once detected, a specific functional rehabilitation program can be implemented.  This can include but is not limited to soft tissue release, corrective exercises, core strengthening through tri-planar movements, and balance and flexibility training. The focus is on restoring function and stability by correcting irregular muscle patterns and treating the body as a whole.


Flexibility and balance are the two most important concepts to build a solid foundation.  Moving incorrectly will hinder the body’s ability to create maximal force which will undoubtedly affect your game and workout. Repetitive incorrect movements actually shut muscles off and create synergistic dominance, reciprocal inhibition and altered neurological pathways which will greatly inhibit your form. Tight muscles cause compensation patterns that will disrupt proper movement and hitting mechanics. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), active and dynamic stretching should be part of your program. We find that most athletes move incorrectly due to poor flexibility and balance. Most tennis players have very tight hips, shoulders and pecs. You need to stretch just about every day especially after a match or practice. If you do not stretch you will have a short lived career riddled with injuries.

Core Training

Core training needs to be specific to tennis and should include balance and proprioceptive exercises. Sit ups, bicycles and leg raises should be eliminated totally from a tennis program. According to research these types of exercises further tighten the hips which are already prone to tightness. These floor exercises also put tremendous torque on the spine irritating disks and do not recruit as many abdominal muscles as you might think. Athletes do not play tennis lying down on their back, so why train that way.

Training should include core stabilization and tri-planar exercises that mimic movements specific to tennis.  Training with medicine balls and using chopping motions with balance devices are a good idea.  The core is the center of all movement so it should be trained in a way that is optimal for each individual.  Building a strong core creates a solid base for supporting your body through specific movements.   A weak core will increase the risk of injury and can lead to loss of power on the court. You need to set up the training environment that challenges balance and proprioception specific for tennis players. Implementing cuing exercises will improve motor skills and promote proper movement patterns. Poor balance and flexibility create wasted movements and will inhibit the body’s ability to decelerate properly and change direction explosively.

Strength and Power Training

This is the most overlooked aspect. All athletes can benefit from strength training and should do at least 2 days a week even in season. The exercises should relate directly to tennis and incorporate full body movements targeting weak links. You should be training using multi sets mixing resistance with endurance training. It is crucial to train at a high velocity since tennis is a fast sport.

You need to establish core strength and proper movement patterns before moving onto plyometrics and explosive exercises. Plyometrics should be added only after a full body movement analysis is performed. Too many times athletes do plyos without being able to move or absorb force properly.

Endurance training

Most of your cardio and endurance training should be on court since that is where you perform. Running 5 miles has little benefit to a tennis player since the court is only 78×28. Interval training should be the staple of your program. Ex. Set up cones on a tennis court or measured area and have athletes run to the cones and explosively change direction while rotating. It would not be a bad idea to do a 30-40 min weight session and then play a practice game. This method can be effective for endurance strength because in a real game you are never doing prior weight training. This method is called pre-exhaustion.

Riding the bike doesn’t make you better on court either. It is ok for a cool down or an infrequent change of pace but should by no means be substituted for court work. You stand during tennis so why sit when you train? You should not even sit between points.

You should be training according to time. The average 3 set mens match is about 2 hours but a 5 set match can be up to 5 hours. There are short rests of 10-15 sec between points and about 120 sec between sets. An average point is about 15 sec but can go longer. If you play multiple opponents at a tournament Juniors have a minimum 1 hour rest but it can be longer depending on length of previous match. So it is important to train in the same time frames that the game demands. Would it make sense for a boxer to train 2 min rounds and 1 min rest, when a round is 3 min with 1 min rests or to only do 2 or 3 rounds in training sessions? Running and most cardio is aerobic so training that way limits carryover greatly. Research proves that too much aerobic activity is actually detrimental to sports training. 


This is the absolute most important aspect to any training program. Poor nutrition will hinder performance no matter what sport you play.

  • Water
  • Calcium/Potassium/Magnesium
  • Pre workout carb loading facts
  • Pre game carb loading facts
  • Restoring glycogen stores after a match or workout
  • Importance of multiple meals
  • Use of supplements
  • Use of BCAAs during long matches

Recovery between multiple games

During this time you need to stretch and rehydrate with carbs to replenish glycogen stores and some protein (BCAA). Gatorade in any form is not recommended, drink something with natural electrolytes and carbs. Zico makes coconut water which has more potassium than 10 Gatorades. An organic protein bar or some type of easily digested form and fruit is a good idea for long days.


It is necessary to rest. Working out is not good for you every day regardless of how it is done. The body needs to recover, more is not better. Over doing things leads to injury and only hampers results.

At Pure Fitness, we believe that restoring optimal function is the most important concept in eliminating pain and preventing injury. With the combination of our evaluation, treatments and structured program, tennis players will find improved performance and playing satisfaction.

914 774 3644

Charles DeFrancesco

Posted on Leave a comment

Don’t Fear the Weight Room

Some women still fear the weight room.  The existing myth is that women who lift weight will end up with big bulky muscles and look too manly.  Ideas like this are giving resistance training a bad name.  We as trainers have to remember that men and women are physiologically different in the fact that the increase muscle mass that is acquired by men is due to testosterone.  Yes, women secrete and deliver testosterone just like men do, but at much lower rates and volume.  This allows for women to build tone lean muscle and increase metabolism to enhance weight loss.  Many times the main objective for women to start an exercise program is to lose weight and look better, but there is more to it than this.  We have to remember that resistance training has various benefits that will help women’s health, both now and in the future.  Looking tone and fit is great, but what else can exercise do for women?  Looking great now is always a plus, but resistance training may also decrease day to day stresses from our fast paced lifestyles.  Stress is a very important factor that may lead to decreased motivation and eventual increase in body fat storage.  Studies have shown that proper exercise can reduce stress dramatically.  Another important factor for women is bone mineral density (BMD).  Because of a higher level of estrogen, women are at a higher risk of low bone mineral density than men.  A consistent moderate resistance program can increase BMD in women and dramatically reduce the possibility of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis.  The proper resistance training program can also increase posture, balance, flexibility and stability for all ages.  These are all very important aspects to our daily lives, but for many women, it becomes all about looking better.  How is exercise going to do this?

What is Metabolism?

Sure, running on the treadmill will help women lose weight, but so will every other daily activity we are engaged in.  Whether it’s walking, eating, or even sleeping, our bodies are using calories to function properly.  Losing weight all depends on the intensity and duration of what we are doing each day.  like I mentioned, running on a treadmill will help us lose weight more than walking, and walking will help more than sleeping, but if there were an easier way, we would do it…right?  Luckily there is.  It’s all about our metabolic rate.  Our metabolic rate (or basal metabolic rate BMR) is closely related to resting metabolic rate (RMR) and measures the total amount of energy expanded while at rest or sleep.  The term thermogenesis refers to the measure of total energy exhausted as heat disposal.  As we age, a decrease in BMR will coincide with the amount of lean body mass that we possess.  New scientific research has shown that aerobic exercise alone doesn’t correlate with an increase in BMR, but anaerobic does due to maintaining lean body mass.

Cardio vs. Weight Training

In the last paragraph we discussed the physiological differences that cardio (aerobic) and resistance training (anaerobic) play in exercise via metabolism.  Anaerobic exercise may contribute to an increase of metabolism, but aerobic exercise is important too.  Aerobic training is very important for the cardiovascular system (“heart health”).  Some people have trouble combining the cardio and resistance training.  There are important factors that a trainer must know before incorporating cardio and resistance training together.  First, if the trainee wants to increase power and strength then including cardio exercises can be detrimental.  This is due to an increase the muscle capillary density, increased number of mitochondria (both help in oxygen consumption to keep the muscle going), and a possible change in fiber type (type IIx to type IIa to type I).  Inversely, a trainee that wants to increase their aerobic power can achieve this by combining both cardio workouts with resistance training.  This will allow for an increase in aerobic power due to an increase in VO^2 Max.  VO^2 Max is the amount of oxygen exchange within a muscle for adequately supplying and keeping the muscle cells functioning properly (contributing factor may also be stroke volume SV).  For weight management the optimal goal is to combine both types of exercise by using circuit training.  Circuit training will allow a trainee to increase their aerobic and anaerobic power by incorporating moderate to high intensity (keeping the heart rate up) exercises with resistance training.

Frequency of Weight Loss

Weight loss can vary.  Some people go on extreme crash diets and lose 8, 10, or even 12 pounds a week.  Depending on the trainee, losing this much weight this quickly will almost certainly be put back on in the long run.  Furthermore, some may be able to safely and effectively lose 4 pounds a week, while another may only be able to lose 1 to2 pounds a week.  This all depends on the trainee’s starting weight.  A good table for measure can be a 1% rule (1% loss of starting body weight per week).  If a trainee’s starting weight is 150 pounds then a maximal weight per week should not exceed 1.5 pounds a week.  Whereas, someone with a starting weight of 300 hundred pounds may affectively lose 3 pounds per week.  The 1% rule can adequately allow for weight lose without becoming macronutrient deficient.  Macronutrients are the three essential nutrients that consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats).    When people attempt some of these “fad” crash diets they ultimately fall short in the proper percentages of one of the three essential nutrients.  This may put the body in a particular nutrient deficiency that may change the body’s physiological chemistry.

Women’s Resistance Training Program Design

A proper program design should be specific to the person being trained.  Each trainee will begin at a different level based on their condition, so a tailored exercise program is crucial with the adequate amount of progressions for optimal results.  Each exercise program should begin with some sort of active/dynamic warm-up to help promote proper muscle activation for the following workout.  To circuit train affectively, three to four multi-muscle functional workouts can be grouped together to optimize increased heart rate and aerobic and anaerobic power output.  Between 2 to 4 sets and 10 to 15 reps of approximately 3 or 4 exercises should be performed in a continuous cycle with little rest (30seconds to 1 minute after completing each cycle of the 3 to 4 exercises).  Each group of three to four exercises may primarily target different areas of the body.  After the warm-up, the first group of exercises may focus on legs.  The second group may focus on the upper body, and the third may focus on the core muscles.  This exercise structure can help save time and effort with a busy schedule and may also maximize overall fitness results.  Ending each workout with a form of static stretching may also be a good idea.  Static stretching AFTER exercise can keep the joints from getting too tight.


Mike Mcgrew, BS, CSCS

Posted on Leave a comment

Strength Training for Children and Adolescents

Many parents focus on helping their child reach their full academic potential, with tutoring, homework, and structure.  Children have an athletic potential as well that is often overlooked, or thought that team sports alone will help them reach it.  While I don’t discount the importance of learning teamwork, team sports alone will not help a child reach that potential.  If they excel at a sport or sports, getting them involved early in strength and conditioning training can mean the difference between playing at the varsity level, possible college scholarship, or reaching the dream of professional sports.

For some parents strength training may seem risky and unnecessary for their child.  As a kid I was always told, “You play sports so you’re already in shape.”  Or one of my personal favorites “if you want to get stronger just go do pushups and sit ups.”  These commonly heard statements are absurd and could contradict the sport specific goals of nearly all sports.  One thing that trainers, coaches, and parents should know is that children and adolescents are not just small adults and need a training routine specifically designed for them.  Children and adolescents are physiologically different from adults, but this doesn’t mean that with the PROPER training that they cannot benefit greatly from strength training.  With the aid of resistance training, boys and girls are capable of significantly increasing muscular strength in addition to their natural growth and maturation during development.  Studies have shown that with the proper intensity and volume, children as young as 6 years old have benefit from resistance training.  Like sports, there is no minimal age requirement to participate in strength training.

How can strength training affect children and adolescents?

Early/late childhood: boys age range from 1-10 and girls age range from 1-8

Adolescents: boys age range from 10-22 and girls age range from 8-19

First and foremost, for children and adolescents, trainers must find a way to make training FUN as well as beneficial.  The concept of training can be intimidating.  Some children and adolescents look at strength training as work, and that’s exactly what it is.  Making up games/competition to incorporate into exercise programs can help keep the trainee engaged and excited to work hard.  So therefore, training children and adolescents has that added dynamic that requires some extra attention and focus by the trainer to ensure maximum gains/improvements and to inhibit frustration/boredom.  Another important aspect of training children and adolescents is language and communication.  Using appropriate words and tone can help encourage a trainee and maintain self-esteem; inversely, using too harsh a tone or using too strong or negative language can damage self-esteem.  If a child has low self-esteem and gets frustrated with exercise the odds of them working at 100% is low.  A trainer should ensure that there is not a negative correlation between exercise and satisfaction and self-worth.  Educating children and adolescents on the benefits of strength training and how it can make them feel better, live better and be happier will only help promote healthy living.

In adolescents, puberty is when we see a substantial increase in muscle mass (hypertrophy), and for most people this increase in muscle size is associated with an increase in strength and signifies the turning point at which training can begin.  Although this could be one view, neurological adaptation (nervous system development) is the main contributor for pre-pubescent children.  This helps with motor development and coordinated movements, illustrating how our athletic development is started even younger.  For example, throwing a baseball or catching a football requires an extremely high level of coordination and motor skills.  It should be looked at as a fundamental foundation to help aid in proper athletic movements later in life.

The main concern of training a child or adolescent is not only making significant gains, but also ensuring the safety of the trainee.  Whether it’s a trainer, coach, or parent that is working with a child or adolescent trainee supervision is very important.  Form and posture mistakes can be most detrimental to a new trainee of all ages and can ultimately lead to poor mechanics and/or injuries.  The proper biomechanics of an exercise can greatly benefit children and adolescents.  Taking the time to advise proper form and movements should be the first priority to any new exercise.  Sometimes it is easier to master the technique of an exercise with little or no weight added.  This will ensure that the proper movement patterns can be instilled with the program.

Avoiding injuries

A person that is training at any age has some potential of injury.  Proper training significantly decreases the risk of injury but cannot guarantee an athlete won’t get injured, just as an athlete could be injured in the heat of competition with any sport.  What proper training does guarantee is that the injury potential in competition will reduce dramatically.  Functional sport specific training will allow for identification of weaknesses and subsequent increase in balance, flexibility, strength, and coordination in vulnerable positions and movements.  This leads to an overall increase in strength and ability to perform in the athletic arena.  Regardless of the individual, when introducing resistance training it is always important to underestimate ones physical abilities regardless of how big or strong the child or adolescent may seem.  For most children and adolescents, resistance training will be a new experience, and pushing and exceeding their abilities too soon may put them at a greater risk of injury.  Starting slowly and cautiously to complete an evaluation and moving up when the foundation is established is the safest approach.

Should trainers worry about growth plate injuries in children and adolescents?

Growth plates are areas of bone that is still in development.  The growth plates are cartilage tissue at the ends of long bones and are important to normalize the length and shape of mature bone.  Growth plate fractures can be classified depending on the degree of damage to the plate itself.  All children that are still growing are at risk and the injury rates increase into adolescents.  Growth plate fractures occur twice as often in boys then in girls (this could be due to boys having higher involvement in high impact sports).  1/3 of growth plate injuries occur in competitive sports, such as basketball, football, and gymnastics.  1/5 of growth plate injuries are due to recreational activities, such as skateboarding, skiing, biking, and sledding.  There are five different classifications of growth plate fractures.  A type I fracture is a break in the bone that separates the bone end from its shaft; this type may require surgery which involves pins.  A type II fracture is when the bone breaks partially through the growth plate and partially through the cortical bone itself; this is the most common type of fracture.  Type III fracture is a break off of a portion of the growth plate and piece of the end bone; this type is more common in older children adolescents.  Type IV is a break through the bone shaft, growth plate, and end of the bone; these fractures commonly stop bone growth and are treated with surgery.  Type V is when the growth plate is compressed due to a crush impact; this type will almost always disturb bone growth but is very rare.  There are two major reasons for these types of injuries.  First, in children and adolescents, bones and muscles develop at a different speed so the bone may be weaker than the ligament tissue that it is connected by.  The second reason for these injuries can be attributed to high impact movements on the bone such as; falls, contact sports, or high rates of joint stress.  For trainers there has been an increasing concern for these injuries, especially with plyometric workout programs.  Plyometric workouts can be best defined as exercises that involve rapid stretching and contracting of muscles to gain an increase muscle power.  Even though there are limited studies on plyometric workouts in regards to children and these exercises there’s an increase concern focused on the high intensity impacts with plyometric exercises.  The major concern within plyometric workouts has focused on the intensity of depth jumps.  The depth jump is rated as the highest intensity of all plyometric workouts because of the amount of stress it puts on the lower extremities.  The proper mechanics of a basic depth jump consists of jumping forward off of a box on the ground with both feet.  Then rapidly descending into a squat position and exploding in the upward direction with a powerful jump.  The height of the box that is descended from will determine the amount of impact within the exercise.

Signs of growth plate injuries

A child that has experienced a growth plate injury may have some visible deformity.  Another telltale sign of a growth plate injury is consistent or severe pain at the joint.  If the child is unable to move or put any degree of pressure without experiencing pain then there could be a growth plate issue.  If any of these sign are apparent while training a child, then the trainer should immediately stop the session and should inform both the parent and child to get an examination by a licensed physician (trainers are not licensed physicians and should never diagnose a trainee).


Bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) are very important in a maturing body.  Bone mineral content refers to the amount of bone mineral in grams.  Whereas, bone mineral density refers to the grams per centimeter squared (g/cm^2).  Children are considered “moving targets” and bone mineral content may not apply to them the same way it does to an adult (heavier bone may not reflect stronger bone).  The age at which bone mineral content will most likely reflect bone density is post-adolescents.   Bone mineral density is most advantageous to the strength of children and adolescents bone make-up.  The most crucial time for development and strengthening is between the ages of 10-15 (for most this is adolescents).  Bone mineral density can be developed by performing weight bearing activities.  The more vigorous the activity or exercise is the greater the increase in bone strength (BMD).  This may seem to contradict the theory on growth plates, and it does.  This is why children and adolescents are not miniature adults.  There is an overlap in performing more intense exercise as children and adolescents because of the risk of growth plate injuries.  Keeping the trainee in a healthy intensity range will help benefit the child without injury.  Medium to high intensity plyometric workouts can be safe for a child to maximize healthy bone strength.

Make training children and adolescents simple

There seems to be a simple solution to this concern with children and adolescents, and that is to avoid this particular plyometric exercise or any workout that can put a high level of stress on joints.  There are plenty of resistance training exercises, including plyometric exercises, that children and adolescents can do without over stressing their joints such as most power lifts, most strength training lifts, repetitive jumps, bounds, different throwing exercises, etc.  Some times as trainers, we focus more on what we can’t or shouldn’t do in regards to training children and adolescents and inadvertently forget what we can do.  There are far more exercises that are safe for children and adolescents then ones that are not.  Some other important factors to keep in mind for training children and adolescents are nutrition, proper recovery times, and educating youth sport coaches about the benefits of strength and conditioning training.

Written by

Michael Mcgrew, cscs

Posted on Leave a comment


The facts are that the drop-out rate for dieting is 99%.     Dieting alone is proven ineffective for long-term weight loss.

Resistance training is by far the most efficient form of exercise for long-term weight management because it changes your body’s energy needs and combats one of the biggest challenges with stand-alone dieting which is that frequently you lose muscle mass along with the fat, which in turn reduces your body’s energy needs.   The fact is that muscle burns fat and the more muscle you have the more fat you burn.  This is true even at rest. With appropriate resistance training you can maintain and even increase your lean body mass as you lose fat which ensures your fat loss success for the future.

Cardiovascular training helps your body spend your fat stores and aids glucose tolerance.  This training is the most overdone and misused aspect of exercise.  The common myth of doing cardio before beginning a weight training program is absolutely incorrect.  Weight training should be the staple of your program and cardio, done properly, should be the compliment.

Interval Training helps you burn more calories during and after your workouts. It also dramatically improves your cardiovascular capabilities.  Mixing bursts of high intensity work with low intensity periods of recovery overloads both the aerobic and anaerobic systems and provides the benefits of both aspects of training simultaneously.

HOW IT’S DONE!                                                      

 The general aim in HIT (High-Intensity Training) is to include short, high bursts of exercise followed by slightly longer “recovery” periods.  As your level of fitness and stamina increases, you can begin to increase either the duration or the intensity of the intervals.  For example:

  • Interval 1: High Intensity (1 minute)
  • Interval 2: Low-Intensity (2 minutes)

If you are running, begin with your normal 5-10 minute warm-up and then increase the pace to a high sprint (say 11 mph) for a 1 minute burst.  Once the first minute is up, reduce your speed by half and continue with this for 2 mins.  Repeat this cycle 6 times or more. The benefits of Interval Training are numerous:

  • It’s more effective in less time
  • It burns more calories during and after workout
  • It builds up your endurance faster
Posted on Leave a comment

How To Evaluate A Personal Trainer

When seeking a personal trainer, it is necessary for the public to educate themselves on how to interview the right person for the job. While there are many certified personal trainers out there, only a select few of them are truly competent. You should always ask and verify where their certification is from and what their credentials are. There are different types and levels of training certifications, only a handful of them are good. Most tests are multiple choice questions that are moderately difficult and some others require some essay or program design but are usually easy. A few of the certifications allow the trainer to take the test at home unsupervised. You should also not be fooled by a college degree. There are colleges out there teaching old cookie cutter information. More times than not these college programs do not create an environment that requires the trainer to demonstrate text book principles in an actual real life situation. What you need to look at is the continuing education courses the trainers have taken and how often they attend seminars. It is the seminars and practical workshops that make a trainer more knowledgeable.

It is difficult for the public to decipher a good trainer from a bad one. In many cases, even the worst trainer knows more about physical fitness than the average person. Below are some fundamental questions that should be asked before making your choice. They are designed to save you from choosing a bad apple.

  • What certifications or degrees do they hold?
  • Do they attend workshops and seminars? Which ones?
  • How long have they been a trainer and where have they worked?
  • How thorough was your evaluation? Did they do a medical history and test flexibility, balance, core strength, proprioception, muscle strength and endurance?
  • Are they familiar with functional training (training according to daily activities or a specific goal)?
  • Have they explained the importance of flexibility?
  • Do they stress how important it is to properly brace the core and preserve the lumbar spine?
  • Do they know what P.N.F(Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching is?
  • Have they explained that function is more important than vanity?
  • Can they explain what they are going to do in the routine and how it benefits you?
  • Did they explain that cardio alone is an inefficient workout?
  • Do they have a basic understanding of nutrition?

If you already have a trainer you can evaluate them:

  • Does your trainer understand that a core routine is not a series of floor exercises?
  • Do they understand current research that proves traditional sit ups, leg raises and many of the common exercises that flex the spine can actually be harmful even for healthy people?
  • Are you doing more free weights and medicine balls than machines?
  • Do they ever take notes?
  • Are you being properly warmed up at the beginning and being stretched at the end?
  • Does your trainer change the routine periodically?
  • Does you trainer incorporate balance boards, swiss balls, single leg exercises and other challenged environments?
  • When training the core (midsection) does your trainer explain how important it is to do dynamic multiplantar movements as well as isometric exercises and the importance of low back exercises?
  • Does your trainer target weak areas?
  • If you feel pain in places that you should not like your knees, low back and neck does your trainer change or modify the exercise to a pain free range?
  • Do you truly understand what you are doing while you train?
  • Are you really getting results?
  • Do you do more back exercises than chest and abs?
  • Are you setting goals?
  • Are you talking about you and your needs?
  • Are you getting undivided attention?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then your trainer may be lacking key knowledge that is necessary for you to reach your fitness goals. More importantly, your trainer may be doing you more harm than good. It is simple for a trainer to deceive an unsuspecting client into believing they are knowledgeable. This is due to the general public not being educated about the fitness industry and trusting a gym will provide them with a competent trainer. In most cases, gyms are not always concerned with the quality of the people they are hiring. If a gym thinks a trainer possesses strong sales skills, they will hire them as long as they have some type of certification. A qualified fitness professional will understand at the very least everything listed above. Remember when hiring a trainer to make sure they are a full time professional. Part time does not cut it when it comes to your health. Would you go to a part time Medical Doctor?
Be aware of trainers that are charging low rates. The going rate for a high level trainer in a gym like Equinox or New York Sports Club is around $85-$90/hr. Even their entry level trainers are $65-$70/hr and they are newly certified if that and have little or no experience. There are other gyms that charge way more than the rates just mentioned. In homes for a high level professional trainer are around $125 and can be more. You may be able to get a really good trainer for $90-$100 depending on travel time, trainers charging much less are either just starting out, not that good or a close friend. You get what you pay for. It is important you research the trainers’ certification and check to make sure they are currently certified by multiple accredited agencies.
It is important to understand that certifications and degrees are important but do not mean everything. You want to know about their clinical experience and the workshops they attend. Ask who they work with and get at least three references to call from current clients. See if they work with any local doctors, all the good trainers work with at least one doctor. Also see if they have written any articles. A bad trainer can hurt you, do your research and make sure they are experienced.
Charles DeFrancesco

Posted on Leave a comment

Guidelines For Dining Out

  • Eat a healthy snack before going out to dinner, so you do not arrive at the restaurant famished and then overeat.
  • Drink a glass of water before the meal and continue drinking water throughout the meal.
  • Do not eat the bread on the table before the meal. Request that it is removed from the table or place it out of arm’s reach.
  • To start the meal, order a salad (with non-creamy dressing on the side) or a broth soup.
  • Do not order fried or breaded foods.
  • Share your appetizer or entrée with a friend. Alternatively, cut your portion in half and ask for the second half to be brought home in a doggie bag.
  • Ask for extra vegetables instead of rice or potato.
  • Ask questions about how items are prepared. Choose foods that are baked, broiled, roasted, poached, grilled or steamed.  Stay away from items that are sautéed, cooked with cream or butter, scalloped, au gratin, Alfredo, or batter dipped.
  • All sauces and condiments should be ordered on the side.
  • Reduce the amount of cheese in the meal.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. If you are drinking, make sure to drink plenty of water with a goal of 2 glasses of water for every alcoholic beverage.
  • Avoid high calorie desserts. If you must eat dessert, try the “three bite rule.”
  • Avoid buffets.
  • For lunch, choose whole-grain or whole wheat bread. Choose lower calorie meats, like turkey, chicken, and lean cuts of ham and roast beef.  Ask for less meat and more vegetables.  Use mustard, vinegar and low fat dressings rather than mayonnaise and oil.  If you must have cheese on your sandwich, limit it to only one slice.
  • For breakfast, choose Greek yogurt, oatmeal, eggs/egg whites/egg substitutes, non-sugar-high fiber cereals, fruit, and protein shakes. When splurging, remember that pancakes with syrup have one third less fat that French toast or a Belgian waffle with whipped cream and fruit.

Chinese Food

  • Drink tea to feel full sooner and slow down your meal.
  • If available, choose a lunch-sized portion.
  • Choose a soup as an appetizer. Egg drop soup and hot and sour soup are about 100 calories/cup. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and select fruits and vegetables with a wide variety of colors.
  • Select a chicken, shrimp or vegetable dish instead of a noodle or rice dish.
  • Ask for brown rice instead of white or fried rice.
  • Ask for twice as much veggies and half as much meat in your entrée.
  • Order steamed dumplings rather than fried.
  • Don’t eat the fried noodles!!!

Italian Food

  • Avoid the breadbasket, especially the garlic bread.
  • For appetizers, choose minestrone, insalata, bruschetta, and roasted peppers.
  • Select marsala, arrabiata and piccata entrees instead of scaloppini, pesto, or parmigiana. Avoid casseroles and cream filled pastas.
  • Limit the cheese.
  • When ordering pasta, only eat half. Choose marinara-based pasta dishes or red or white clam sauce.


  • Go light on the cheese. Do not add extra cheese!
  • Ask for vegetables toppings.
  • Choose a thin crust when possible.
  • Choose pizza with red sauce instead of cream sauces.

Mexican Food

  • Watch your sour cream, guacamole, and cheese.
  • Limit fried tortilla chips and nibble on tortillas instead.
  • Use salsa, which counts as one serving of vegetables.