Learn From a 5-Star Fitness Professional, Part 1

On my brother site, PersonalTrainerCoach.com, I publish a regular feature titled, “5 Questions,” that follows a simple format; I ask an accomplished fitness professional 5 questions and they give me 5 answers.

Fitness consumers – that’s you, and me when I’m not training clients – as well as fitness professionals – personal trainers, strength coaches, physical therapists and athletic trainers – can learn a lot by listening to the people who are successful in the fitness field. 

We all can learn a lot about ourselves by hearing from 5-star fitness professionals. More importantly, fitness consumers can learn a lot about fitness by hearing from the people who are the real leaders in the field.


The first feature I posted at PersonalTrainerCoach.com features the best high school athletic trainer in the state of New Jersey, Joe Przytula (“Joe P”). Joe P is a National Athletic Trainer Association (NATA) certified athletic trainer, a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is certified as a massage therapist in New Jersey. 

Additionally, Joe P is a faculty member at Vern Gambetta’s prestigious Gambetta Athletic Improvement Network (GAIN) and has completed a fellowship with the influential Gary Gray Institute. To pay the bills Joe P is the Head Athletic Trainer at Elizabeth (NJ) High School, the largest high schools in the state and one of the largest high schools in the country, and is recognized as one of the finest ATs in the state.

With a career that spans over 25 years, Joe P has been an invaluable resource for strength coaches, sport coaches and other athletic trainers, and has helped countless athletes prevent, recover and rehabilitate from a wide-variety of injuries. Joe also publishes a blog titled, “Dedicated to the High School Athletic Trainer,” where he discusses his philosophy, shares his experiences as an AT and offers his views on training. 

Despite the title of the blog, all fitness professionals, and fitness consumers, can learn from what Joe P has to say, as he represents the high-end of the profession, a level that all professionals should all aspire to occupy.

1) What was your reason for getting into, and how did you get into, the fitness business? When I attended Rahway High, it was one of the only schools in New Jersey to have an athletic trainer on staff, albeit part time.  In the late 70’s there were only two full time athletic trainers in NJ and even in professional sports, the typical AT was a guy with some type of first aid training who knew how to tape.


I was always interested in physical therapy, but at that time it was a female dominated profession; not a field that guys went into.  So, I actually started out as a business major.  However, the AT at Montclair State University (NJ) happened to be president of the newly formed ATSNJ (Athletic Trainers Society of NJ). 

On my way over to the school weight room to workout I would pass the training room, and I liked what I saw.  It definitely wasn’t physical therapy – no curtains, no one hooked up to electrical modalities.  A lot of action, everyone up and moving and a lot of hands on stuff.  In my junior year I made the switch, took a few summer courses and went to an extra year of school.

2) How do you feel about the way fitness/a healthy lifestyle is portrayed in the media? The mainstream fitness business promotes a lot of disinformation and is driven by marketing more than sound pedagogy and research.  Performance enhancing drugs have clouded the issue even further.  Here in the U.S. there really is no long-term plan for athletic development like they have in Europe or Australia. It’s always some type of quick fix.  The influx of foreign players into U.S. professional sports is proof we are on the wrong track.

3) What is your training philosophy? I use chain reaction biomechanics, supplemented with manual therapy to prevent/correct movement dysfunction.  Whenever possible (which is almost always) get clients and patients up on their feet and moving!  My mantra is, “Rehab the athlete, not the injury!”

4) How has the fitness business changed since you first started training clients/working with patients? High school athletic training becomes more and more like remedial physical education, as the years have gone by. The information age has made a sound physical education program more important than ever. The sports specificity movement is a joke.  Let’s replace the term strength and conditioning with athletic development.


5) What’s the biggest problem/most common hurdle that you have to help your clients deal with? Nutrition issues, motivation issues, commitment issues, something else? Looking for a quick fix, a supplement, pill, or some type of “system” that will heal an injury faster.  Let’s take “shin splints” for example.  There really is no such thing.  It is a stress reaction in the bone. 

The latest rage is running to the doctor for a Fosimax prescription to build up the bone density, so the athlete can do more of the wrong thing.  People need to be taught that the solution is a lot more complex than that. 

It’s an matter of proper strengthening of the pelvic musculature to make the lower extremity more shock absorbent, proper training progression, good cycling of work/rest ratios, getting enough bio-available calcium/vitamin D in the diet etc.


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