Thursday, July 17, 2014

Synergy Fitness: Helping Young Athletes Get Better

Ask just about any elite athlete from high school through college and into the pros and they’ll tell you about the importance of having a personal trainer. This person won’t help the athlete perfect a curveball nor analyze the way they throw a football nor help find a flaw in their batting. In most cases these trainers help the athlete simply get stronger, faster and more agile.

Dave Von Ruden is one such trainer. Locally, he’s been working with athletes for nine years, the last couple of those years out of his western Elk Grove location near Elk Grove Blvd. and West Taron.

“I love the one-on-one interaction and to help people gain results,” he said.

Von Ruden, through his business, Synergy Total Fitness, helps young athletes, some as little at nine-years-old, right through the professional ranks not only strengthen their “core”- the main body muscles – but, also help them from getting hurt while playing their sport.
Synergy Fitness has a unique facility in West Elk Grove for personal training.

“I want to see these young athletes get faster, strong and prevent injury, as well,“ he said. “I see too many of these young people get injured. It’s because they over use their muscles all the time.”

Von Ruden helps the athlete to work what he calls a “pre-hab” program so that the chance of injury is minimized.

“We get them to build up their over-used muscles while getting them bigger and stronger, helping them get their agility up,” he said.

Von Ruden isn’t a big fan of athletes playing their sport year-round, either.

“They don’t take breaks,” he observed of many high school and college-aged athletes. “You see the professionals now (take a break). Professional baseball players, a handful may go to the winter leagues, but for the most part those guys let their bodies heal up from a long season.”

“This is one thing I want to instill in the young athletes – you won’t leave your skill. It will always be there, but if you can get your body built up –bulletproof and injury-proof – for the upcoming season, your performance is going to be so much better,” Von Ruden added. “I see too many kids get injured and that hinders the opportunities for them in their sport.”

One reason he likes coaching athletes one-on-one and in small groups is to help them build up the entire body. That’s why he also consults each athlete on what sort of food they are eating.

“I tell them the number one thing is that what they put into their mouth is going to result in the kind of performance they will have,” Von Ruden said. “So, if you’re eating fast food, processed food and sugar, you’re not putting the right type of nutrients in your mouth to build that muscle, to repair that muscle tissue and to put the fuel in that ‘tank’ for your exercise. I tell them you have to stay with whole foods.”

He doesn’t recommend supplements very often, either, but occasionally a protein “shake” is helpful along with taking fish oil.

“Supplements are just that – something you are deficient in,” Von Ruden explained. “If you are deficient in, say, protein then you need to fix yourself a protein shake.”

His favorite student is his son Kyle, a former Franklin High School and Cosumnes River College pitcher, who now is on his way to the University of Hawaii on a full scholarship.

The younger Von Ruden is coming off an excellent season for the Hawks. Last summer Kyle had several offers from summer teams to come play for them. David didn’t allow it.

“I told him, ‘You’re going to work out this summer and get bigger, stronger.’ And that translated into an excellent season and now he’s off to (Hawaii) this year on a full ride,” he said.
Austin Friello (CRC), Cameron Keup (Franklin HS) and Jonathon Hallman (Chr. Bros.) warming up for their workout at Synergy Fitness in Elk Grove.

Generally, Kyle is a part of a twice-a-week workout his father schedules with a small group of local high school athletes. Included in last Thursday morning’s session were another former Franklin hurler, Cameron Keup, now enrolled at Cosumnes River College; another CRC player, Austin Friello, who played his high school baseball at Pleasant Grove; and a recent Christian Brothers’ graduate, Jonathan “Ditto” Hallman, who will play next spring at Northwest Nazarene University.

Von Ruden and his assistant trainer, Devin Oliveira, had the boys going through a series of quick warm-ups using aids such as large rubber bands, giant vinyl balls, dumbbells and benches.

In a few moments, they had all worked up quite a sweat.
Devin Oliveira helps "Ditto" Hallman in a unique barbell lift.

As Keup and Hallman were swinging heavy medal weights above their heads and to their side, Von Ruden said, “See, they are working on strengthening their core. That’s where all your speed, your ability, your explosiveness comes from.”

Unlike many gyms locally, there are no machines. Just a rubberized floor and walls lined with pull-up bars, weighted balls and dumbbells.

“We go into functionality here,” Von Ruden explained. “We’re more into flexibility here, into core, we do a lot of leg work, glute work, because they are the biggest muscles in the body.”

Also noticeable is the lack of mirrors on the walls.

“We’re not into building the biceps, triceps. We’re into building the back, the core of the body,” Von Ruden said.

Though there are several baseball players spending their summer days at Synergy, Von Ruden says he also works out football players, too.

“When you’re putting together a program you have to look at what sport they play and then look at the muscles they are going to use,” Von Ruden explained. “Then we build up the muscles that surround that area to stabilize those muscles and make certain they don’t break down.”

Though he charges the local athlete around $160 a month for two weekly one hour sessions, he sends them home with directions to do some exercising in their spare time.

“My goal is for these young people to be healthy,” Von Ruden said. “I want to do what I can to make sure they remain healthy, teach them the pre-hab exercises that are needed to prevent injury and at the same time work on their strength, their speed, their agility, also about nutrition and how to eat right.”

By mid-August, he’ll add an additional two thousand square feet for a larger work-out area.

“We’ll have more room for the athletes to move around and add a few other stations, as well,” Von Ruden said.

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