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Dr. Says No More Squats

Hi all! I hit the big 60 end of September. End of October I blew my knee. MRI shows complete tear of the right medial femoral condyle. I’m putting together a workout that won’t put pressure on my knee. I’m looking at dumbells, pullups and a bench. Pre-injury my 1 rep max on the bench was 325 and 425 for squats. I’m in decent shape for my age. I’m looking for recommendations that I can put to work now and after I get back in the game.

Tough luck man. Does this mean, according to your doctor, no more squats until you heal, or forever? Just wondering what he’s said.

You work out at home? Just wondering - somewhat limited equipment you listed.

First off, I’d like to point you in the direction of this log:

He’s a pretty active member on this site, and underwent a knee surgery and took the necessary steps to get back into it. He is younger than you, has a different body, a different injury, and stronger than you, so obviously you won’t be able to follow his workouts, but it may give you some ideas.

For dumbbells, how many do you have? What’s the heaviest weight you have access to? For a bench, it’s just a plain bench you could lay on? No barbell, weight plates, or power rack?

I’d say do lots of back work. At your age, heavy and/or frequent pressing could possibly cause you some shoulder issues (although this doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all), so if you can do chinups, do them. I’d superset them with most other movements. If you ever feel like your elbows or shoulders are bothering you, just take a break for a day or two, or cut down on the volume.

Rows would be even better, since horizontal pulling is slightly healthier for your shoulders than vertical pulling is.

Read this:

I honestly don’t know if bending over to do a dumbbell row would bother your knee, so if those do bother you, or cause excess pressure on the joint, then just do chest supported rows.

And do batwings, as explained in the first article linked, written by Dan John. Check out his other articles too - he’s experienced and older, so maybe he’d have something helpful for you. He’s a genius.

For pressing movements, I’d say DB benching, pushups, dips, and maybe DB overhead pressing (does that count as pressure on your knee?) are the best bang for your buck movements.

Buy a band and do some pull aparts daily. Do 100 reps when you wake up, and do more reps in between sets of pressing or something. You really can’t do too many of these. They’ll keep your shoulders healthy and won’t take anything out of you.

Lower body? Can’t give you a ton of advice here. Ask a PT. Squatting and lunging movements are obviously out, but maybe there’s some hip hinging movements you could be doing. DB RDL’s are great for the hamstrings, and strong hamstrings are super important for knee health. You want strong quads too, but make sure your hamstrings are getting worked hard and often.

You can work your glutes too. This will really help knee and lower back health. Do this daily:

A: BW Glute Bridges - 10 reps w/ 5 sec. squeeze at the top of each rep
B: Bird Dogs - 10 reps w/ 5 sec. hold at the top of each rep (do all 10 reps on one side before doing the other)
C1: Lying Leg Abductions - 20 reps
C2: Clams - 20 reps (do all 20 reps of C1 & C2 on one leg before switching sides and doing 20 reps of each movement on the other leg)

Rest a minute or so and repeat the circuit one more time.

Do that every single day when you wake up. It’ll help activate the glutes and hip muscles, and I’ve found it’s really helped the lower back feel good.

Maybe hip thrusts?

Try doing these for ab movements:

Less focus on lots of spinal flexion (situps, crunches, etc.), and more just on “core” stability which should help keep you healthy, safe, and strong.

As far as dividing this stuff up, try doing:

1). Horizontal pulling and pressing on one day (DB bench, pushups, and lots of rows before, between, and after)

2). Vertical pulling and pressing on one day (DB overhead press, dips, and lot of chinups before, between, and after)

3). And then one, or maybe even two days a week doing whatever lower body movements you can do - any hip hinging stuff (DB RDL’s), hip thrusts (if these don’t work, putting a DB on your lap and doing glute bridges will suffice), and anything else you can do. Walking, and sled work could maybe help.

Pick one or two ab movements to do before or after your workouts.

Maybe swimming would help? Running and probably biking, and maybe even excessive walking are out, so this is a hopefully decent form of cardio.

Put a lot of focus on your upper back strength for shoulder health, and a lot of focus on your hamstring/glute strength for knee and lower back health. Do that little glute/hip circuit and some pull aparts daily upon waking up. Make it a habit. Your joints will thank you. Drink lots of water, cut down on sugar & alcohol, take a quality fish oil supplement, and anything else you can think of to limit inflammation. This stuff all helped me recover from my shoulder surgery.

And above all, listen to your doctor and PT (if you have one). They’re the pros.

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