T Nation

Becoming a Powerlifter After ACL Sugery

Hey, my name is Emu, and I’ve been lurking for a while but haven’t posted anything before. I started training to be a Powerlifter on September 19th. I had ACL and meniscus surgery in May, so I spent the whole summer reading up on what to do. I haven’t been able to squat or deadlift with weight until recently, but I have been using a broomstick for both everyday. My doc just approved using weight, so I have worked to up a 95 pound deadlift this last week, and it is fun as hell. I haven’t started squatting with weight yet, but that’s next on my list.

I’m doing 5/3/1, and so far my max bench has been 245 x 2. I’m 21, my body weight stays around 176, and I’m 5’11". My max overhead was 115 x 4, but I destroyed that during my second 5/3/1 cycle which I’m currently on. I can’t do much conditioning yet, but I do cycling as much as I can.

I was wondering if you guys had any advice on coming back from acl surgery or just on stuff in general. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life - I want to lift big. Thanks in advance.

Hi Emu, welcome to the iron game & welcome to the boards. I also had surgery back in may. Only mine was a shoulder rebuild (torn rotator cuff, labrum and biceps tendon plus a bunch of arthritic spurring on my acromion, which acted like a cheese grater on my biceps tendon). I did 12 weeks of therapy and was cleared to begin lifting around mid Sep. Doc said to consider myself “normal” just weak.

Boy was he right! 2 days before my shoulder surgery I had benched 315 for 2 sets of 8 and finished on a triple with 365. That first bench session back I got freaking OWNED by 65#. lol. I did some incline benching on Tuesday and worked up to 185 for reps and was able to do 2 pull ups! ha. I used to do anywhere from 48-64 (8 reps, 5-8 sets per session)

I haven’t been able to squat with a straight bar since last January as the pain felt like I was being stabbed in the shoulder and the knife twisted. I’ve been using my EFS Yoke bar and spider bar - shameless plug-. The shoulder pads allow me to squat but the weight on the bar pushes the shoulder down and it hurts. I’m back up to around 400# last night with slight discomfort. I was able to deadlift finally too! worked up to 275 with a slight" pulling my arm out of socket" feeling lol.

I say all this to make the point of BABY STEPS. For me, I had to let go of all my past numbers, not that they were remarkable in any way. Those numbers don’t mean shit. I’m a different guy now with a different capability The ego has certainly taken a beating but I am committed to ease back into this. I also am committed to not let the ego make me do stupid stuff and injure myself again.

I probably won’t get a third chance and I’m not willing to bet on that. They say the longest journey begins with the first step right? Right now I’m limping along but moving forward. Before long I’ll be walking tall, then jogging, then running… you get the point.

I too am using 5-3-1 as my method of getting back into the game. I have chosen ultra conservative training weights and only do the “required” reps. Ultimately I go on feel. If it hurts, i stop or scratch that set and wait a few min. Try it again with a different weight. Purely instinctive with the 5-3-1 being a loose guide to hopefully make a steady linear gains. I’d recommend you do something similar to ease back into this thing.

Also keep in mind that your tendon is held in place by new (weak) tissue and string. It will take some time to strengthen it. Good luck man and I hope you reach your goals.

Congrats on deciding to throw some heavy weight around. From everything I’ve heard the ACL doesn’t really play into squatting, I’ve known a couple of guys that kept on squatting with a torn ACL just fine, if your MCL had been affected, that’s where you would have had a ton more issues. I would say if you can’t use much weight right now really work on your form and make sure that is solid before you add more weight. Box squats may be beneficial to take pressure off the knee. Also be sure to do some extensive warmups and active mobility work.

Just stay the hell away from leg extension machines, smith machines, and, well, pretty much every other lower body machine out there.

Thanks for all the posts. To get better at deadlifting, should I do any assistance work or just deadlift and deadlift some more?

A lot of people find that deadlifting often is too physically taxing, so they find other ways to train it. Others are able to train the deadlift with no problems. Find what works for you. For those that tend to not train the deadlift directly, most of the work is dedicated towards the squat and squat variations, and general posterior chain and back work. There are plenty of movements that tend to help both the squat and deadlift; my short list includes paused squats, deficit deadlifts, and glute-ham raises. Experiment and find what works for you.

I have found that making the competition lift more difficult (such as in a paused squat or deficit deadlift) has two major benefits: Number one, you are training from a disadvantageous position, making the real lift “easier”; number two, the reduced weight you will have to use in these variations helps ensure your body can recover pretty easily.

Hi Emu,

I am ACL defecient in my lfet knee. Tore it off years ago. I never wanted to have surgery and have been squatting with no problems at all and very deep too. It will take a while to get full knee flexion back but you will be squatting good and deep soon.