* "Helping athletes get ready for summer"
* "Interview with Strength Coach Mike Zappitelli"
* "Link to Chiropractic Resources"


As the summer season approaches, athletes should be preparing by training the groin & lateral movements, not just forward and backward sprinting. Many athlete training and preparation programs do not address the groin in strength training or speed-agility drills. Thus, lateral movement and groin strength development will suffer. One easy method to incorporate the groin in your strength training is to simply spread your stance beyond hip width while squatting or deadlifting. After that, make sure you add lateral agility drills to your regimen. Seek out websites that go over agility and explosive training. For more information, try this ISSUE #74. Complete your training session with intervals to prepare your muscles for competition conditions.




Mike Zappitelli, a fellow McMaster class of '98 Kinesiology graduate has gone on to become a massage therapist and successful personal trainer. In addition, Mike has attained pro bodybuilder status, drug-free. Mike is an inspiration to natural athletes and bodybuilders and is known to work wonders with his massage and ART ability.


CB: Mike, congratulations on all of your success. Can you describe your business and services a little more?

MZ: I own and operate HandZon Health Centre in Niagara Falls, ON, Canada. I offer Soft-Tissue Management: Massage Therapy and Active Release Technique along with personal training. This combination of training and treatment is great for not only my clients, but for the general public as well. I believe people today are starting to trust in those practitioners who actively take part in health, fitness, and wellness. We are seen as role models and great examples of what can be achieved and what these individuals can strive for in their lives and fitness.


CB: Mike, how much time do you devote to personal training and how much to MT & ART?

MZ: I can't really say that I devote more time to one practice more than the other practice. It's pretty much what people are looking for and what they want. If they have an acute or chronic (nagging) injury, then I treat them...on the other hand, if they want some physical conditioning, then I train them. At this point, ~75-80% is training; and about 15-20% is treatment.


CB: What an all-around center that must be! What type of interaction do you offer?

MZ: I provide clients with 100% undivided attention. I have a studio that offers one-on-one personal training by appointment only. This allows my clients to get the attention with no interruptions, something that is not the case within regular gym settings. The studio is equipped with the Cybex line that includes: Cable cross-over; FT 360 (functional trainer); Smith Machine; Power/Squat Cage; Dumbbells (5-50lbs); straight bar; E-Z Curl bar; Stability balls; resistance tubing. The setting is an attractive atmosphere that is inviting, clean, and comfortable. I also offer nutritional counseling with which I educate people on proper nutrition (not diet). I assess their current eating habits, and get them off the 3-meal a day/Food Guide eating regime (not an easy task, especially for older individuals).


CB: You are a graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and arguably one of the top Kinesiology programs in the entire world! What are some of things that you learned from Drs. Sale, MacDougall, and Tarnopolsky that have shaped your training strategies?

MZ: No argument there...what a great university and experience. I learned a lot of exercise physiology from these gentlemen. I learned the "how's" on increasing training potential and the "why's" of training responses. If you remember, I just started to train more intensely in preparation for my bodybuilding competitions/contests and I used a lot of what I learned from these professors on myself. I was a guinea pig...using myself as a subject in my own experiences. You can learn a lot from books and journals, but I completely agree with Coach Mike Gough. He said, "...a lot the ideas and theories I have and use today are not from studying from a book, but from practical learning experiences I have had along the way with some of the top names in the field."

Putting things into practice is very important because you will soon realize that one theory that is certified/justified and makes a lot of sense will not work exactly for every one of you clients. The Professors from Mac gave me a lot of tools...it's how I use them that makes the difference. They still today are there to answer any questions that I have, as is CB ATHLETICS, and that is very much appreciated.


CB: Great Mikes think alike! How did massage therapy differ from Kinesiology? Do you recommend any other pre-requisite courses before massage therapy or is Kinesiology the only way to prepare?

MZ: Massage therapy was very similar to Kinesiology in the courses offered, but massage therapy focuses on treating the soft-tissues. Knowing your anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics greatly heightened your treatment and its results. Kinesiology at McMaster very much prepared me for the two years at Massage School. Although, you can go straight to massage school from high school, I recommend against it. I went through massage school with very little difficulty and I attribute that to Kin. I was better able to apply myself in treating my clients, which may be difficult for some with little post-secondary education. Having a degree will also help with your professionalism and stature within the health care field.

Massage is definitely growing in recognition with government health care and with the general public for 'alternative treatments' (I like to call it 'complimentary treatment'). However, applying for other ambitions, let's say education, having a degree will allow you more credit...that is, you may be able to directly enter the program without any complimentary pre-requisite courses, which may last anywhere from 1-2 years.


CB: Mike, you have many certifications, but which ones do you recommend?

MZ: I try to credit myself nowadays with higher stature certifications like NSCA for training clientele. I find that this certification is recognized internationally more commonly.

My list of certifications includes: Personal Training (Can-Fit-Pro); Fitness Consulting (OASES); Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist - CSCS (NSCA); Clinical Exercise Specialist (ACE); Nutrition and Wellness (Can-Fit-Pro); Active Release Provider (full credentials).

I am constantly attending seminars and conferences (Can-Fit-Pro; SWIS, IDEA, Metagenics, etc) to keep up to date with the latest research. In the spring and fall of 2002, I hope to start my next venture in Acupuncture and Osteopathy, respectively.


CB: Obviously with your education, your clients are surely to be the best attended to in the Niagara Falls region. What types of people do you work with?

MZ: My clientele ranges from general public: those who just want to feel better about themselves or change body composition, etc., to athletes (hockey players, soccer players, golfers, mountain bikers/road riders). The majority has been the general public.


CB: Hockey? Excellent, that is an exciting and rewarding sport to be involved with. Any tips on training the athlete, hockey players in particular?

MZ: Always analyze the whole sport and what is involved. Hockey players do not need to only train their legs; there is a lot of physical play in the sport as well, therefore, upper body training, core training, balance training are also very important. This will definitely aid the players with and without possession of the puck. Their cardio training is also very specific. Some players get more ice time then others, and when on the ice, it is for only a very short period of time. This time has to be maximized as much as possible.

There is also the whole skating aspect, which is not continuous motion; stopping and starting, and the physical contact with opposing players will have a great impact on their endurance on the ice. So in short, assess what the player's job is on the ice (forward, defense, or goalie) and their role on the team. Once this is done, you can begin to develop a training program specific to that individual player.

Break your training seasons into different phases for developing hypertrophy, strength, and power. Do the same for aerobic/anaerobic conditioning. Once a new level is accomplished, the athlete has to be able to use his/her newfound skills in his/her particular sport/event, which leads to my next point.

Specificity: It all comes down to this when readying an athlete for an upcoming season/event. Transference of training to the playing field (ice) is what will make the difference between an A and B player.

Being a competitive player for 12 years to a junior level has definitely helped my understanding of the game of hockey and soccer. However, you do not have to play a particular sport to train an athlete in that sport. What you have to be able to do is break down the sport and understand what muscles are involved and what tasks are at hand. Once this is done, you will be able to help any athlete improve his/her performance, especially if he/she is not already involved in a specifically outlined training program.


CB: Mike, you are certainly one to practice what you preach, having been a competitive bodybuilder for several years now. How does this translate into success for your clients?

MZ: I am a natural competitive bodybuilder (lifetime drug free) and this past fall, I achieved a professional status within the NGA organization (National Gym Association). I am known for this in my area so people always are asking me to either help them get leaner or prepare them for bodybuilding competitions. I am proud to say that with the 4 bodybuilders that I have helped, all obtained first place finishes (2 of whom won the overall title). Outside that bodybuilding ring, one of my clients has trained pretty intense for that last 8-10 weeks and has achieved a weight level lower than when he got married. He started with me at ~226lbs. and reduced to <210lbs. (first time in 7 years). He is currently at 197lbs.

Another great accomplishment was helping a female client who had never exercised or trained in her life. At 57 years old, she now sees me 3 times per week and takes part in a spinning class 4x/week.

Finally, my last accomplishment I will mention was being able to work with a 70 year old man. Here is his schedule:

Mon: Spinning Class

Tues: 1 hr. weight training

Wed: Tennis

Thurs: 1 hr. weight training and Platform Tennis

Fri: Spinning

Sat: 7 mile hike

Sun: Hockey

If anyone ever tells you that they are too old to exercise, tell him/her to call this guy!


CB: You seem to have a huge range in your clientele. Do you have any clients with diabetes or other health conditions?

MZ: I had the opportunity to work with an overweight (obese) individual that was diagnosed with Type II (Adult Onset) Diabetes a year and a half ago. He came to see me in September 2001 to discuss what options he had. With his busy schedule, I managed to get him started on his nutrition dilemma. With the advice that I gave him, he ate properly for 2 weeks and lost 8 lbs.! Now this may not be a huge breakthrough for most people, but what you have to understand is that he attended hospital diabetic meetings regularly for one year and had not lost one pound, and then in two weeks, he loses 8 lbs.! By the middle of November, he had lost 27lbs.

Now that was just his weight...his blood sugar levels used to be at 8-9 sometimes as high as 13 and he was taking insulin 4 times a day. When we touched base those two weeks later, he was down to a 5 and insulin lowered to 2-3 times a day.


CB: That is fantastic. Congratulations to you and him for that success! Mike, what really sets you apart is your expertise in so many areas. You do personal training, strength and conditioning, and ART and massage. Tell us about the therapy aspect of your business.

MZ: One woman came to see me with plantar fasciitis. She had it for the past 3 years, all the time she was seeking care from other disciplines. I treated her 7 times...when she saw me in the gym the next day after the 7th time, she gave me a huge hug and called me 'miracle man'. That past weekend she went out for her first hike in 2 years and was able to go dancing that evening with her husband. You should have seen her face...nothing but smiles. That's what it is all about.


CB: It truly is.

MZ: Another friend of mine, a tennis player, injured his shoulder and had problems serving. I treated him twice the week before a weekend tournament. He played 8 matches with no problems and he also served up a couple of aces per game!

In terms of setting me apart from other trainers...I can't really comment. We all have similar and different approaches to each of our clients/athletes. You don't have to be a 'superstar' to train someone. You have to be someone that your clients can believe in and put trust in you. If you have the ability to do that, you can have an impact on anyone. I live the life of fitness, health, and well being.


CB: No doubt. Mike, those examples are all very impressive and the clients must be overwhelmed with the results. Getting back to the advanced athlete and bodybuilders, why don't you let the readers in on a pro's secrets for building muscle?

MZ: Train hard and heavy and more importantly REST & EAT!!! The only way the body will grow is to place a stress on it that it is not normally accustom to, and then the body will adapt if all other requirements are met (i.e. food and rest). Once the stress is placed, micro-damage is done (low and behold DOMS). Your biggest and most efficient gains will occur when not in the gym. If you actually think about it, you may only train 2-6% of your hours in a week (i.e. 3-9 hours per week out of 168!). The rest of the time is spent outside the gym, recovering and adapting.

The better you feed your body and the more that you allow your body to rest and recover...the more repair and growth. The body is a dynamic and complex organism, yet the one principle behind its survival is simple...PROTECT and DEFEND. The body only knows this principle...not "Let's build more muscle so this body can look better."


CB: Interesting point. Can you expand on that?

MZ: When you train hard, you are essentially damaging the body. During recovery, the body will repair that damage and add a few more "layers", if you will, so that the extent of damage the next time you train will be less. This is why you have to progressively train to attain more strength and mass (if that is your goal). The fact that you gain more muscle mass and strength is a secondary effect. Since the body has now protected itself, it has repaired the damaged tissue with more tissue (hence, increase mass and strength).


CB: Now that a bodybuilder knows how he should be training, what is the #1 thing you see the bodybuilder doing wrong?

MZ: First, I want to engrave the uselessness of liquid creatine in the minds of my clients.

Second, people are not setting definitive goals and only going half the distance each time they take a step towards their goal. For instance, most of my clients are either trying to feel better (about themselves) and/or lose body fat. When you do not set a goal to move towards, you get lost in what you are trying to achieve.

Dr. Phil McGraw uses this analogy and makes a lot of sense. Let's say you stand in a hot area...you don't like this area because it's too hot, so you begin to step away from it. As you move further away from the area, you begin to notice that it's not as hot. At this point you're in limbo. All you decided to do was not be hot anymore (very vague and non-specific). But you haven't really achieved anything. In this area you may become comfortable and eventually go back to the hot spot. If you pick an area that you want to move towards, then your focus changes. You set yourself a goal to achieve. Like the 100m sprint or any race for that matter, you set yourself a goal to reach the finish line...not to move away from the starting line. If the latter was the goal, you never actually have to finish the race because technically anywhere in between the start and the finish 10m, 20m, 30m,...etc. is away from the starting line. At the same time, if you only gain half the distance towards your goal with every step that you take, then technically (let's say digitally) you never arrive at your destination...even though you may be inches/decimals away.

Craig, I just want everyone reading this to understand that bodybuilding is not all about those big guys/girls on stage in bikini bottoms flexing their stuff. Bodybuilding is just what it states, "Building a body". Essentially, with proper educated guidance, you are changing your body composition in a positive way, while at the same time getting stronger (functionally too), leaner, and ultimately, more healthy. If you are blessed enough to get very lean 2-5% and to be able to show muscle in definitive detail, and if you have enough courage to step on stage (shows a lot of character) and show your newly transformed body, then all the power to you.


CB: Okay, time for a harder question on a popular subject. Can genetics be overcome, or will genetics forever be a "cop-out" for people that just can't reach their goals?

MZ: Here's a topic that people do run in with and to some degree it is unavoidable. First I'll speak on sport...then philosophically.

In the sport of bodybuilding and on stage, it often does not matter how much you workout, how much you bench, how you eat. A large majority comes down to your genetic make up of your body shape. Competitors with smaller joints (knees, elbows, ankles, wrists) and smaller waists (structurally), have an easier time displaying muscle development (as long as they have a moderate amount of muscle present). What I mean is that someone with 16" biceps and a 40" chest may appear larger and more aesthetically pleasing with tiny elbow/wrist joints and waist area, respectively.

Genetics can also help with muscle development and fat loss. Some people have an easier time gaining muscle and looking harder and fuller in competition. Some also have the ability to lose fat very easily in time for competition (some people are even lean all year round). No matter how much harder some people train, they just can't get big enough, lean enough, or achieve that perfect balanced look that judges are looking for.


CB: But Mike, there must be some hope?

MZ: Yes, certainly. For on the other hand, proportions (right to left, front to back, upper to lower) can be changed. This is what symmetry is all about. The problem is too many bodybuilders want to be able to bench a certain weight and have a certain arm circumference and they don't put enough emphasis into true "body building" and proportion development. You don't hear how much people can squat (except powerlifters) or how many chin-ups, skull-crushers, calf-raises (etc.) people can do.

However, bodybuilders can change their attitudes toward these exercises and their workouts because these are not limited by genetics. Genetically, you may not be able to develop some of these areas as well as others however the potential will never be discovered if the training is never attempted! Furthermore, the emphasis on bench pressing can ruin a bodybuilder's on-stage posture.

Posing is another important variable that a bodybuilder can control. You can have the best physique on stage (large muscle mass, 2% BF, good color, etc.), but if you can't show it properly (i.e. good posing), you will be forever limited in your success.


CB: What about the everyday client?

MZ: When I speak of genetics, I refer to what the person in made up of and also how they let their lifestyle and environment affect them. It's obvious that your genes come from your parents. But you likely have heard, "I have my mothers hips and thighs", and this unfortunately is a cop-out.

When people do not like the way they are...blame it on genetics. This is in regards to appearance, health (illness and disease), personality and characteristic traits, etc. Spiritually, I do not believe God designed people to have all these ailments. There are too many people born today with disease, allergies, etc. This is definitely attributed to our poor nutrition of processed foods and polluted environment. We are products of our lifestyle.

Growing up, being a good catholic boy and going to church, has taught me a few things that I relate to life. One in particular is, "God helps those who help themselves". In other words, you get from life what you put into it...you will get from your body what you put into it (garbage in, garbage out).


CB: Mike, on one hand you give the appearance of being blessed with superior genetics because you have great muscularity. Do you have any stories on your personal triumphs over genetics?

MZ: I'm 5'5" and I can't tell you when I had my growth spurt (I think when I was 5 or 6 years old...ha!). I have played competitive soccer and hockey since 8 yrs. up to junior and college/university levels but my "genetics" (parents are 5' - 5'1") did not slow me down. I gave 110% in training and competition play. This awarded me with starting line, penalty killing, power play lines, and scholarship offers for soccer in the U.S.

I have competed in bodybuilding since 1997, competing in both weight and height categories. Of ~12 competitions, I've finished 1st in 6, 2nd in 5 and 5th in one (a world competition of height categories...Natural Olympia...containing 9 competitors, I was the lightest on stage, outweighed by 15 lbs. from the closest competitor). I have also won an overall title (awarding me my professional status) as a bantamweight...lightest of all weight categories.

What I'm trying to say is that with what God and my parents gave me, I wasn't letting anything stop me. I did my best with what I was given and it paid off. This is the attitude that I try to instill in my clients. With some effort and proper nutrition, you can better help your body to deal with your body, health and ailments.

No one has the perfect genetics. Some are simply skilled more than others at completing certain tasks. It's when someone else is just as skilled that we try to challenge, hence competition. Once an athlete says that he/she "can't" do it, they fail and they fail the worst way...without attempting or trying at all.

Athletes take what they have and always try to improve hence making them more successful in their respective sport. Success is not thinking of doing something...it's taking a risk, to accomplish something you never had before. For some it's eating better, stepping on a treadmill/bike, or lifting weights, and for others it means reducing stress and spending more time with the family. In order to adapt the body, you have to give it something that it never had before.

So try something new...genetics will only be in your favor if you fuel and fine-tune your body and mind regularly.

Let's say you buy a car. If you continually clean the car, change the oil, check spark plugs, brakes, body, etc., this car may last longer and you may never have any severe problems. However, if you fuel it with dirty gas, leave the oil, spark plugs, never clean the salt off the car...you will soon notice that this car is breaking down. Poor fuel consumption, sluggishness, rusty...remember...Junk in...Junk out!


CB: So what are your goals?

MZ: My goals were to treat every client individually and give him/her the personal attention they deserve and expand my business with this is mind. This personal attention is not a huge focus with many practitioners. Clients/Patients are shuffled in and out of offices, or what have you. I met with a doctor yesterday and when I asked him how his week was so far, his answer was, "I saw 55 patients Monday (8-5), 63 Tuesday (8-5) and 29 Wednesday (9-12:30pm). So you can imagine how little time is actually spent with these patients.

I wanted to give them more than that. The only problem is I, myself, have only so much time in a day...so I have to expand because there are so many people out there that want this attention and so little time. So far I have part of my goal...expansion is the next part. My other goal will be becoming an Osteopath (D.O.) and D. Ac. (Doctor of Acupuncture). My commencement of this goal will commence this May for D. Ac. and then September for D.O. After this I hope to expand my centre to provide a holistic approach to treating individuals. Through proper exercise, nutrition and wellness and education on all three aspects. I hope that this will provide these people with the tools to take responsibility of their own health and make it one of their top priorities.


CB: Changing the world one person at a time. Do you ever do seminars Mike? If so, what do they consist of?

The seminars that I have done include:

Mike's Split-Routine: educating people on the principles of weight-training, myths, and proper split routines to optimize recovery.

Women on Weights: educating women on why and how important weight training is for them to help them accomplish their goals; and myths associated with women and weight training.

Managing Your Body: education on the injury cycle (how acute, cumulative trauma and eventual chronic injuries occur) and how to prevent and treat injuries.

What Are You Made Of?: education on body composition, how it is measured, and the most effective ways of training to change your body composition.

Show-Time!!!: Preparation for body-building contest and secrets to advance to the next level; includes supplement and posing tips.


CB: Very interesting. The "women on weights" information is well overdue. Can you sum up the 3 top things you have learned in your education, personal experiences, and bodybuilding competitions?


1. Be impeccable to your word

2. Finish what you start

3. Always say please and thank you.

I recommend approaching everything that you do in life with the 3 D's: Desire, Dedication, and Discipline. If people see your attitude towards life and its events that you set out to conquer, you will have a great impact on them to get self-motivated in achieving what they want to achieve...call it the "ripple effect". What you do will have an effect on someone else, and this will affect someone, and so on and so forth.


CB: Any closing words on motivation?

MZ: In the words of the late Napolean Hill (modified for my venture), "What your mind will conceive, your heart will believe, your body will achieve."


CB: Thanks again Mike. How can interested clients and readers get a hold of you for training and seminars?


MZ: Here is my contact info:
Michael A. Zappitelli B.Kin, RMT, CSCS, CPT, CES
Physical Conditioning and Soft-Tissue Management



www.shawnthistle.com - Professional fitness program design to meet any athletic or personal goals. Shawn is a kinesiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has worked with Apline Ontario, and is currently on staff as a trainer at Glendon College. Subscribe to receive a helpful monthly exercise tips by email, straight out of the current scientific literature - make the the most of your workouts.




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