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Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Go prehab route and avoid the rehab

By Dana Sullivan Kilroy

Abby Wambach's goal in the 122nd minute of Sunday's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil was pretty darn impressive. The forward's late-game heroics were made possible (at least in part) because she knows the merits of prehab.

Pre-wha? No, this has nothing to do with The Lohan. Prehab is essentially preventative care. The concept has been embraced by world-class athletes whose highly-paid trainers have convinced them that if they take five or six minutes to increase their heart rate, elongate key muscles and activate certain stabilizing muscles before their "real" workouts, they might avoid rehab.

It's not just for elite athletes, either. "Every athlete should embrace it," said Sue Falsone, P.T., M.S., who works with dozens of pro athletes, including Wambach. Falsone is also vice president of performance physical therapy and team sports at Athletes' Performance, an exclusive training and rehabilitation center in Phoenix.

Sports stars ranging from Wambach and the NFL's T.J. Houshmandzadeh to golfers Amy Hung and Chez Reavie protect their bodies with the moves Falsone recommends below. "The majority of injuries that are related to sports are not traumatic, like broken bones or torn ligaments," Falsone said. "They are the result of repetitive motion." Doing this quick series of dynamic moves to prepare for every workout, game or match is like taking out an insurance policy against injury, she said. "Your warm-up can be a huge detriment to your workout, or it can be your biggest asset," Falsone said.

"These are big bang for your buck moves that stretch, strengthen and stabilize multiple areas of your body at the same time, preparing your body for movement," she adds. Falsone recommends doing them daily; one set of 10-15 reps of each move is all you need.

Pillar bridge side. Lie on your right side with your forearm on the ground, elbow under your shoulder. Push up off you shoulder so your body is in a straight line from your ankle to your shoulder, feet flexed and toes pulled in toward your shins. Focus on pushing your hips up -- no sagging or bending. Hold for two seconds. Lower and repeat 10 to 15 times. Switch sides and repeat.

Make it harder: From the raised position on your right side, roll to the left and place your left arm on the ground so you are in forearm plank. Hold for two seconds and continue rolling so you end up on your left. Roll from one side to the other 10 times.

Forward lunge to forearm to instep. Stand with arms relaxed at your sides, feet shoulder-width apart. Take a large step forward with your left foot, into lunge position. Place your right hand flat on the floor, about 12 inches from your left foot and support your weight. Now reach your left elbow down to the instep of your right foot, keeping your back knee off the ground. Pause, and place your left hand flat on the ground outside your left foot. Now step forward into the next lunge, this time moving your right elbow in toward your left instep. Alternate to complete 10 reps on each side.

Inverted hamstring. Stand on your right foot arms up at shoulder height, palms up. Keep your tummy tight, shoulders back and down. Bend forward at the waist, lifting your heel straight up toward the ceiling, eyes on the ground. Keep your back and pelvis flat. Pause and return to standing. Alternate to complete 10 reps on each side.

Hand walk. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Bend over from the waist so your hands are flat on the ground in front of you, as close to your feet as you can get them. Keep your legs straight, belly button drawn in toward your spine, and walk your hands out as far as you can. Then use short baby steps to walk back in (don't use your knees, quads or hips).

Alternating arm lifts. In the plank position, place your hands under your shoulders, your feet hip width apart, and maintain a neutral spine. From the position, raise your right arm into the air, reaching out in front of you. Hold this position for 2 seconds, maintaining a neutral spine. Replace your hand on the ground and repeat on the opposite side. Alternate to complete 10 reps on each side.

Repeat after us: They try to make me go to prehab, and I say ... yes, yes, yes!