Suns News

Ask the Trainers

Updated: Jan. 2, 2006


Aaron Nelson (left) and Erik Phillips work hard to keep the Suns healthy.
(Jeramie McPeek/Suns Photos)

Head Athletic Trainer Aaron Nelson, and Strength and Conditioning Coach Erik Phillips have seen it all in tending to the day-to-day needs of pro athletes. Now they are lending their expert advice to Phoenix fans.

If you have a question about sports-related training or general health and fitness, these two are the ones to ask. Click here to send in a question, and be sure to check back throughout the season as they tackle your training and health-related issues.

Answered: Jan. 1, 2006

Would a home vibrating massager be good to use on your legs for running?
--Charles , Muldrow, OK

Aaron Nelson: Using a home vibrating massager can be beneficial toward an increase in blood flow. The massage may also aid in the movement of lactic acid which will decrease muscle soreness. Just as if you were getting a regular massage, make sure to drink plenty of water following the use of the massager.


I've had a lower back issue for a long time. It happened lifting weights (Curls). I've went to the doctor and they couldn't identify anything. I'm very unfamiliar with the muscles in the lower back. That's where I have constant pain. Could you brief me on some of the muscles down in the lower back? If possible could you narrow it down to me as to what my problem could be and how to fix? Thanks.
--Gordon, San Antonio

Aaron Nelson: In regard to your low back pain, it is difficult to say without an examination. Two of the more commonly spastic or tight muscles would be the quadratus lumborum and the erector spinae muscles. I would recommend doing seated curls to stabilize your low back during that exercise. You may seek out a kinetic chain assessment to find out if you are having an issue that is causing the low back pain. You can check out the website nasm.org to find someone in your area that may be able to help you with this issue. Weak muscles in conjunction with tight muscle will cause some imbalances that could lead to low back pain. Proper stretching combined with strengthening of specific weak muscles could definetly help you with your problem. Good luck!.


I am 26 years old .I have been weight training for 10 years faithfully. I weigh 220lbs 6'tall 7% bodyfat. Last month I got in a car crash , and had a small bruise in my brain. I recently whent back to the doctors. The CT scan showed the bruise was just about gone. He suggested not to weight train for another 5 months, due to to much stress on my head. I am afraid that I will loose all the muscle I have gained in the past ten years. I am debating to go back to the gym alot sooner than told. I wanted to know if you now any way I could possibly maintain my muscle by not going to the gym, and do you think I should get a second opinion on the time I have to take off. Thanks Again.
--Rich, Boston

Erik Phillips: Sorry to hear about your accident, but it seems you are on your way to recovery. While getting a second opinion is an option, I can not stress how important it is to listen to your physician. Not weight training for five months is a small price to pay to lead a healthy life in the future. With your 10 years of experience in the field of weight training I would think that you would come back as strong as ever after your break and it may even lead to a new appreciation of your training. Ask your doctor about cardiovascular training during your time away from the weights as this may be an alternate training option. Good luck!


I just tore my acl and when im off of it for a while it tightens up so when i am sitting out could i put a heat pack on it...like the ones you use on Steve Nash.
--Jenn, Jasper, AK

Aaron Nelson: If you just tore your ACL, I would not recommend using heat. You should continue your rehab and use ice for any soreness or edema. If you are months into your rehab and have no swelling, a heat pack can be used prior to activity along with proper stretching. Make sure to use ice immediately after the activity--not heat!! Good luck with your rehab!


Answered: Oct. 23, 2005

I play basketball on a regular basis almost every day, however I have a back problem where after I play for so long my back starts to ache. What can I do about this, is this a joint or a muscle problem. I'm 5'8 and weigh 165lbs.
--Alex, Phoenix

Aaron Nelson: Alex, It is hard to say if it is muscle or joint problem without an evaluation. If you are only experiencing the pain after you play, it sounds like a muscular issue. The important thing is to make sure you are not getting pain down into your butt or leg. If the problem continues or worsens, you should definitely be checked out by a physician. Proper stretching prior to and after working out/playing basketball is important to maintain the flexibility of your hips and low back. Stretches for your psoas/hip flexors, hamstrings, and IT band can go a long way in helping you with this problem---do 2-3 stretches, holding for about 15-20 seconds. Use of a foam roll is also of value. Good luck.


I am currently coaching girls B-Ball (ages 9-11). I will be coaching Boys B-Ball (ages 12-14). A few of the boys haven't found the coordination with their ever-growing frames. Is there stretching and strength exercises you can recommend we add to the basic drills we do now. Thanks!
--Brenda B., Richmond, MN

Erik Phillips: Brenda- I would recommend doing many balance (stability) exercises. An example could include line jumping (jump back and forth across line with two feet, then on each foot- then repeat jumping side to side on both feet, then on each foot. This will not only increase ankle stability but will improve proprioception, both of which are greatly needed in the sport and age group. Good luck this season!


I've dislocated my shoulder several times and recently got surgery to reattach the labrum. How many months should I wait before playing basketball again, what device (if any) should I wear while playing basketball, and what non-contact activity (swimming, running, etc.) would be the best supplement to my rehab?
--Ross, Durham, NC

Aaron Nelson: Ross - You should consult your physician and follow his rehab protocol. The protocol may vary from physician to physician, and it may be effected by the type of surgery that was done. Once you have completed rehab and the doctor has cleared you for activity, you should return at a slow pace and work your way back into playing. Start out by taking shorter shots, dribbling, passing into a wall, etc. As you progress with no complications, continue into one on one, then maybe three on three, then to full court five on five. In the meantime, running is fine as long as you're not "jarring" your shoulder. Elliptical trainers are a good cardiovasuclar device as well. Swimming may aggravate your shoulder depending on the point in time of your rehab. Kicking in a pool would be O.K. Some companies sell shoulder stabilizers to wear during activity, but with the game of basketball, I would slowly work on getting your shoulder strong enough so one is not needed. Good luck.


Hello, What would a day's training, both weights and basketball drills, include for Steve Nash?
--Jason Le Goff, Brighton, UK

Erik Phillips: Jason- An average off-season training session for Steve would include stretching, a warm-up on the court (speed, agility, and balance drills), a shooting program consisting of over 800 shots, and a 30-45min weight lifting program that emphasizes core strength and stability. If enough players were in town, he would also then play full-court games for around 1 hr.


My son received a grade 3 shoulder separation while playing football this summer. Does this type of injury prevent him from playing football in the future? It has been 2 months since the injury and he is currently playing basketball without any restrictions so I am hoping he can at least continue playing basketball which is his favorite sport.
--Drew Lane, Tucson, AZ

Aaron Nelson: Drew- You will need to discuss the severity of the injury and the prognosis with your physician. If he had surgery, and the joint is stabilized, he should be O.K.. If he did not have surgery, he will need to do the proper rehab, then sit down with your physician to discuss the pros and cons of playing football again. Reinjury is possible, even in basketball. If someone comes down on his shoulder during a shot or rebound, trauma could occur. Good luck!


Answered: Sept. 28, 2005

Are protein shakes good for weight lifters at the age of 14?
--Tyler Bean, Moore, OK

Aaron Nelson: Tyler, I would recommend a diet consisting of a proper balance of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. In regard to your question, you should consume about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you are a distance runner or doing endurance training, the school of thought is that you can bump that number up to 1.0-1.2g/kg. Plant and animal foods are the best sources of protein, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Many plant proteins do not contain the full amount of the nine essential amino acids(ones that are not synthesized in the body). In this case, you need to balance out some protein sources(complimentary proteins) from both plant and animal sources. Protein shakes can be good source if you are not getting the proper amount from your meals. Make sure it is a reputable brand and that it does not contain any other unnecessary substances. A good website to check out is apexfitness.com.


I'm 6'2" and would love to dunk a basketball. What can you do to improve your "hops/vertical" and what kind of core workout do you do?
--Joshua Turley, Gilbert, AZ

Erik Phillips: Joshua- Improving an explosive movement such as vertical jumping depends on many factors such as optimal joint range of motion, flexibility, as well as increase in muscle strength. Many people only strengthen lower leg muscles, but you are on the right track talking about your "core". When doing any strengthening exercises you may try to do them on a single leg to address many of the smaller muscles/tendons in the ankle and lower leg as well as your core balance. An example would be doing bicep curls while balancing on one leg. When these stablizing muscles/tendons get stronger your body will be better adapted to do an explosive movement. Good luck!


I play basketball nearly every day. However, I struggle with shin splints. What do you suggest to ease the discomfort and pain?
--Chris Donavan, South Bend, IN

Aaron Nelson: Chris, Shin spints seem to be a very common lower leg injury. The best treatment for it is ice and rest, but that will only help with the symptoms. One thing to look at is the use of orthodics. If you have high arches that are not well supported, a lot of stress can be placed on the foot and the muscle on the outside of your shin, the anterior tibialis. Another approach would be to have a kinetic chain assessment done to evaluate and determine any imbalances(weak vs. tight muscles) that may be causing the issue. You can go to NASM.org and do a search for a professional in your area that may be able to do this for you. Good luck!


During the offseason I workout almost everyday. I've been told a few different things pertaining to how much time your muscles need to recoup before working them again. What is your opinion on how much time is best between working a particular muscle?
--Thomas Rothchild, Champaign, IL

Erik Phillips: Thomas - Usually I like to put at least one day rest in between working a particular muscle group or action. We have found that this works for our basketball players that are incorporating lifting while playing and practicing at the same time. Always listen to your body when you are adjusting workout programs. Good luck!


I play basketball on a regular basis almost every day, however I have a back problem where after I play for so long my back starts to ache. What can I do about this, is this a joint or a muscle problem? I'm 5'8 and weigh 165lbs.
--Alex, Phoenix

Aaron Nelson: Alex, It is hard to say if it is muscle or joint problem without an evaluation. If you are only experiencing the pain after you play, it sounds like a muscular issue. The important thing is to make sure you are not getting pain down into your butt or leg. If the problem continues or worsens, you should definitely be checked out by a physician. Proper stretching prior to and after working out/playing basketball is important to maintain the flexibility of your hips and low back. Stretches for your psoas/hip flexors, hamstrings, and IT band can go a long way in helping you with this problem---do 2-3 stretches, holding for about 15-20 seconds. Use of a foam roll is also of value. Good luck.


Question: I have always wondered how basketball players strength train and do not look like weight lifters. Can you recomend a book to me? Is it true mike boyle is a consultant what is his input on conditioning?
--Louis, Phoenix

Erik Phillips: Louis - The National Academy of Sports Medicine, and President Mike Clark, are the consultants for your team. There are many strength and conditioning exercises that increase strength and agility, but do not greatly increase the muscle mass you see with some power lifters. Check out NASM.org for some examples of these exercises. Good luck with your training!


Answered: Sept. 20, 2005

I used to be an avid cyclist, but have been chronically plagued by a Lower Cross Syndrome (chronically tight Psoas muscles & weak Gluts; also tight QL & weak adominals). My question is around the re-training of the "weak" or inhibited gluts. Is there a particular exercise or routine which I can do to help retrain my hip flexors to start firing in the correct sequence? Or will just strengthening my gluts help to overcome the cross syndrome? Any advice is much appreciated.
--Bernie, Phoenix

Aaron Nelson: Bernie, The important thing to remember is that you should do both strengthening of the weak muscles and stretching of the tight muscles. If both areas are not addressed, the problem/s will continue. Be sure to stretch you psoas, lateral gastrocnemius, adductor complex and other areas that may be tight(Lower Cross Syndrome). Lateral tube walking is one of the best single exercises for strengthening the glut--feet should stay forward and the hips should not hike during the movement. Make sure you are firing from the glut and not the Tensor fascia latae. Good luck.


I am 13 years old,I play center on my basketball team. My coach is making the wole team run 2 miles every day i weigh 320 so im pretty big. What would make it easier to run all that distance every day?
--Skylor Blackler, Bell City, MO

Erik Phillips: I'm sure it will take awhile to get used to running that distance. It will help you prepare for the basketball season. If you are concerned that your weight is going to be an issue during the season, I would gradually start doing more and more cardiovascular training before the season. Please also take a good look at your diet, as there may be many small things you can do to lose extra pounds. Take small steps when beginning these workouts. As always, please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Good luck!


What kind of drink do you give the team during the games to refuel? Have you ever tried drinks with herbal ingerdients?
--Miguel Guizar, Tempe

Aaron Nelson: We only use water and Gatorade during the games. We make sure that all the players stay hydrated, especially the ones playing a lot of minutes. We do not use any drinks with herbal ingredients.






I've actually got 2 questions to ask so i hope you have time for both.
1. Is it safe for me to start weight training without stunting my growth or hurting myself(I'm 13 years old)?
2. I've been getting sprained ankles more often lately and I'm not sure why but i was just wondering what might help me strengthen my ankles to prevent future injuries.
Thanks for your time!

--Doug, British Columbia

Erik Phillips: I can work these two questions into the same answer. Yes it is safe to start weight training, as long as you are lifting light weights, and not overstressing your muscles. At your age, heavy resistance lifting can still lead to many muscular, tendon, and joint problems.

Some exercises you can do as part of your workout should include many different balance and stability lifts. Anything you can do while balancing on one leg would be benificial for your ankle problems. While sitting around you can also do things such as moving your ankle through the letters of the alphabet and do calf raises. Please consult your physician prior to doing any workout. Good luck!


Does Steve Nash ever have ankle problems with the shoes he wears? His current pair, as well as the old Jet Flights he wore in Dallas look very low-cut for a basketball shoe. What advice would you give for players that wear such low-cut shoes on the court to avoid ankle injury?
--Rob, Toronto

Aaron Nelson: Steve fortunately does not have ankle problems with the shoes he wears. They are low cut, but he tapes before every game and practice. We recommend all of our players either tape or wear ankle braces for games and practices. Anyone who may have previously sprained their ankle or has generally weak ankles go through ankle strengthening and balance exercises with our staff. Thanks.



I am 17 years old, 5-9 and I want to grow tall. Do you know what I can do to grow strong and tall and what to eat and drink, please. I would love to play for the Suns one day.
--Edison, Jamaica, NY

Erik Phillips: At your age, there is a chance that you are still growing in height. Like you said, the most important thing is to keep eating and drinking healthy foods. I'm sure you've heard it before, but keep your muscles hydrated by drinking water/gatorade, drink milk, and eat a good mix of vegetables, fruits, and bread with each meal! Good luck!