10 Insider Tips from Athletic Trainers

Fitness secrets from the country's best female athletic trainers that will turbocharge your sweat sessions and send pain packing Fitness secrets from the country's best female athletic trainers that will turbocharge …It's not surprising these days to see women dominating inside the sports arena, but the number of women rising in the ranks behind the scenes is also growing. More female trainers than ever are working with the country's top athletes--from WNBA players to collegiate quarterbacks--and it's their knowledge of physiology, injury prevention, and rehabilitation that keeps the athletes performing at their peak. No matter what your fitness level, these athletic trainers' workout tips will make you a star performer.

TRAINER: Ariko Iso, 41, Head football athletic trainer at Oregon State University
Iso became the first female athletic trainer in the NFL when she was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002.

Train Smarter

If you want an all-in-one training tool, Iso says the TRX Suspension System is worth the investment. She likes the portability and how it makes any body-weight move more challenging. "The fact that it's suspended means you have to use your core to stabilize," she says. "You work more than one muscle during any exercise, and when you can do that, you save time." ($200, trxtraining.com) Don't know where to start? Try this Total-Body Sculpting TRX Workout.

Back It Up
People know to train their abs, but many don't realize how important it is to strengthen their entire back, says Iso. Add a few simple exercises in the quad ped position (on hands and knees) to your weekly routine. Try this: Slowly raise your opposite arm and leg until your body forms a straight line from fingertips to heel. Pause, then return to start. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps on each side.

TRAINER: Mary Kirkland, 48, Athletic training supervisor for InoMedic Health Applications at NASA (Kennedy Space Center)
As the first athletic trainer ever hired by NASA, Kirkland keeps astronauts and employees healthy and fit.

Tame the Insanity
Popular DVD series like P90X and Insanity are great workouts, but they're not for everyone, says Kirkland, who notices many people do too much too soon (despite the video's telling them to pace themselves). "An overuse injury can take three, sometimes six weeks to really start hitting you, so you could be doing damage from the start without realizing it," she says. Try the program in 15-minute increments or add just one or two new exercises and see how your body responds before doing the whole thing.

Sit Back
If your ab routine typically consists of things like V-sits and situps, it's time to rethink your approach. "You have five lumbar vertebrae, and each one gives you about seven to nine degrees of motion, for a total of 45 degrees," says Kirkland. That means to truly work your core, you need to stay between zero degrees (like a plank) and 45 degrees (like a crunch). "From 45 degrees to a full situp, you're engaging your hip flexors, which attach directly to your lumbar spine. Too many reps will not only make your hip muscles sore, but your lower back will start to hurt too." You can target every muscle in your core sans situps with this Killer Abs Workout from Jillian Michaels.

TRAINER: Kim Moseley, 53,
Head athletic trainer for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream
Moseley swaps best practices with her husband, Don, an athletic trainer for the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

To-Go Training
Take your workout anywhere with a resistance band like the Versa-Loop or Thera-Band, one of Moseley's favorite products. "I travel with one all the time because the bands are inexpensive and so compact they can fold up into a purse," she says. Try this: From either a seated or standing position, pull the band up around your thighs, then slowly pull your legs apart at the knees (it works your inner and outer thighs); do three sets of 10. Want even more moves? Try our 15-Minute Exercise Band Workout.

Fall Smart
As someone who has seen some tremendously hard fouls (like players going up for a basket or a rebound and getting knocked five feet to the ground by an opponent), Moseley says one of the worst things you can do is put your arms straight out to try to break a fall. "That could cause a shoulder separation or dislocated elbow," she says. Instead, roll with the fall to the side of your back, which can tolerate more impact.

TRAINER: Sue Falsone, 38, Head athletic trainer and physical therapist for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Falsone made history this year as the first female head athletic trainer in a U.S. professional sports league.

Eat After Exercising
Workouts cause muscle damage--it's how muscles repair that makes them stronger, says Falsone. "If all you do is break down muscle cells, you're on the path to injury," she says. "The first 10 minutes post-workout is the time to replenish those cells so they can begin to repair and be ready to work out again." Your stomach may not be craving a turkey sandwich, but grab something easy to eat like a banana and peanut butter or a protein shake. (Falsone likes EAS Myoplex Lite Ready-to-Drink shakes for her athletes.) You can make your own shakes, too. Try these 4 Recovery Smoothies packed with whey protein.

No-Gym Workout
Falsone's first priority is her athletes' health and fitness, which means some days it can be tough to schedule her own gym time. "If I absolutely can't fit in any kind of workout, I focus on my posture," she says. "Slouching shuts off everything, but fixing your posture changes everything about you and how your muscles are activated." Healthy posture means activating your shoulders and drawing them back; bringing your head back into alignment, which decreases tension headaches; and engaging your core (which, as a bonus, helps your stomach look flatter).

TRAINER: Julie Max, 59, Director of athletic training at California State University at Fullerton
In 2000, Max became the first woman to be elected president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association.

Get Stronger Stems

Athletic-training students learn that your quads should be stronger than your hamstrings, but for women, Max says it needs to be close to an even balance. After four of her nine Cal State gymnasts ruptured their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL), she took them off the leg-extension machines in the weight room and had them do squats and hamstring curls instead. The next three years, they totally eliminated any ruptures. "Going forward, I deemphasized quadriceps strengthening--which is a lot of what men do-for female athletes, and I emphasized hamstring strengthening," she says. Keep your ratio even by making sure you do at least one hamstring exercise for every quad exercise. (The leg-extension machine isn't always effective--or even safe. In fact, it made our list of the 10 Exercise Machines to Avoid.)

Take Practice Sips
"Water is the most underrated nutrient--it can change your performance overnight," says Max. "We underestimate the importance of how much water we need to drink in order to be at our peak performance." But while you may be aware of recommendations (eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses a day), it's hard to track how much that is. Try this tip from Max: Get an eight-ounce glass of water and count how many swallows it takes to drink the whole thing. Say it's 10. Now you know when you've checked off one eight-ounce serving, whether you're sipping from a fountain or a tumbler in a restaurant.

This post originally appeared as Fitness Secrets From Top Trainers on Women's Health.

--By Kimberly Hiss, Women's Health

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