T Nation

531 + Breathing Squats in ACL Reconstruction Rehab

Hi everyone,

first things first, some words about me:
31yo, rugby player, usually training 2-3x rugby / week + 2-3x gym. I have been training in the gym for several years now (+10), for the last year (roughly) my plan was based on the 531 method which I really like. Favorite is BBB which I find not boring at all.

So at the beginnign of june I have torm my ACL and destroyed some of my meniscus in a rugby match. Last week I had surgery and everything went fine. I am not allowed to put pressure on my leg while its bent for another 11 weeks - but I will survive that.

As said I trained on plans based on 531, but instead of backsquats I used front squats as the fit more my profile as a player (I play 3rd row).

Here comes the question: I am planning on keeping the 531 method for the lifts I can do while still being “out” - press and bench, but as soon as I am allowed to bend and stress my knee I would like to use breathing squats (20 squats per working set) to build muscle mass on my legs (that are already becoming skinny).
The increase of the weight should be significant as squats start basically with bodyweight. so 10kg increase per week should work well. In addition to the strength plan I will have physical therapy which also includes strength training and neuromuscular activation training

any suggestions on the plan or what to do? I would really appreciate sone advice.

day 1
press 531
chin ups or whatever

day 2

  • here I am very unsure as the deadlift is going to be very weak as well… obviously
    deadlift 531?!? does not really make sense
    Front squats as assistance
    hanging leg raise… or whatever

day 3
Bench 531
alternatring dumbell press
assitance, rowing

day 4
breathing squats starting from

Mr. (Jim) Wendler usually recommends 5s Pro for rehab.

5s Pro is 5x5 I guess?!

So with 5x5 I fear that the volume per set is too low. (repetition wise it is more). If 5x5 is recommended, do I use it for all lifts or just squat and deadlift?

Use 5 reps only for all percentages.
Use it for just the lifts you are rehabbing.
It will give you a chance to rebuild strength in a safe manner without pushing too hard.
When normal-ish strength levels are achieved, and the lifts are rehabbed, then start whatever you want.
Just my 2 cents…

I think that wont work as you determine your starting weight at the beginning of a month, then do your sets based on the percentages of the curren maximum weight (independent from the number of reps per set).
for the first weeks (even sessions within 1 week) you can expect to haver huge gains - percentage wise - as the baseline is the bodyweight… so the normal pattern that is based on the maximum weight you can move will not work.

So what I need needs to be more flexible and still have the potential to turn chicken legs into… something acceptabel

Well, I’m certainly not Jim Wendler and I hesitate giving further advice on your rehab. If it were me I’d make a very conservative estimation of where I was at and start very light and slow. I would utilize Jokers if I felt it was just way too easy, but I certainly wouldn’t push it hard to start with. I just wanted to pass along what I’ve seen him recommend in his book and on the forum. Hope it all works out well for you, rehabbing sucks.

Yes I will definitely start very light, as I said, empty bar/body weight will be the first week, and the goal is to put on 10kg/week. But 20 reps with 120kg after 3 months is a good goal I guess… considering the injury and the time it takes for rehab. That and the reason that breathing squats are supposed do build muscle mass quickly is the reason I came up with this idea.

Maybe the man himself has somthing to say about this. We will see


-Combining programs is never a good idea.
-5’s pro is definitely the way to go after an injury. You can reassess after things seem back to normal but don’t rush it. 6 months from now would you rather have 20lbs less on the bar or risk being back in rahab? If you have a choice of going too heavy or too light after an injury, be patient and go too light.
-Breathing squats sound like a disaster for rehab… towards the end you’re barely there mentally and I can’t imagine form being anywhere decent, which doesn’t sound like what you want. I know you’re starting light, but these could get out of control.
-Try the 5’s pro route and do some single leg assistance to help build up some of the stability of your knees. Take things slow now and let it pay off in the long run. That’s the whole point of this program.

Hey dude, I ruptured my ACL, tore my meniscus and fractured my patella in Oct and got surgery in Nov. I documented the entire recovery process starting with 2 weeks post Op, and thought you might appreciate giving it a look

Feel free to swing by and ask any questions. Good luck on your recovery.

I’m not a PT and no one is qualified to give advice on the Internet. I would refer you to someone who specializes in knee rehab and I assure you, your plan is not good.

Thanks everyone, especially for the rehab diary/log.

I guess there was a misunderstanding in my question. I did not want any advice regarding rehab on my knee. Thats what the doctor and the PT is for. Just wanted to get some advice whether the breathing squats would help me to put on size once I am cleared for squats by the PT/doc…

never mind. much appreciated.

FYI: things are looking better now, 2.5 weeks post op. Mobility increases, no pain. unfortionately I can wash my leg in a bottle now :smirk:

maybe from time to time I will update this thread so you can see what worked for me,

Training is 531 BBB for the upper body, overhead push is done seated, bench is almost no problem, only the leg drive is a bit… onesided.
Lower body: I will start to do whatever is possible with one leg… we will see.

regarding bodyeight: I try to eat clean, so my guess is that I am eating not enough since I dont move pretty much throughout the day…


For the question of breathing squats in particular, I’ve avoided them in my recovery and have just stuck to a straight set of squats. My thought process is this;

When I ran 20 rep squats way back in the day, by around rep 14, I was just doing anything I could to move the weight. Form went out the window, and it was all about gutting out the squats. When recovering from surgery, my fear was that I would end up placing stress on the surgical site during one of those reps. Instead, I spent several weeks performing a set of 30 with light weights increasing to a maximal load. The super high rep range prevented me from going too heavy, and I moved slowly through the ROM at first to maintain control. I eventually worked up to what was close to a 30rm (if such a thing can exist) before I started performing some heavier, lower rep work.

I got cleared to squat in May, and just yesterday I performed my heaviest squat set with the safety squat bar for 7 reps. I’m getting more comfortable with heavier weight and lower reps, but it’s a process.

For single leg work, along with training the uninjured leg with single leg squats, curls and extensions, I made sure to flex the muscles of the healing leg as hard as I could (without extending the knee) and visualized squatting. I like to think it paid off.

Hey everyone,

just thought I would give you a heads up regarding rehab and my experience what worked out for me so far.

I had my OP (ACL reconstruction and meniscus tear repair) at the end of june, so almost 3.5 months ago. By now I am allowed to bend my knees more than 90° and also put pressure on them. Two days ago I did frontsquats with 95kg x12 and deadlifted 130kg x12. This messed me up pretty good regarding stamina but strength wise it was lightweigt. This suprised me a bit but I am not complaining :slight_smile:

What worked:

During the first weeks: nothing is key. You can do upper body work but keep the leg out of your plan - stick to the exercises your physio gives you

steady work, use every opportunety to work on your balance e.g. brushing your teeth while standing on one leg, try to close your eyes etc…
Start light progress steadily and listen to your knee, nothing fancy here. Dont let your ego push you “I did 3x the weight before, I can do some more”… wont do any good

Keep the morale high and keep working… There is an end in everything.