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Help Designing a Difficult Program

Looking for the advice of people much more knowledgeable than I.
So I’ve had a problem shoulder for a few years that I just finally went and sought help with. Haven’t got any imaging done yet but physio believes it’s an impingement with what is likely a small tear of the infrapsinatus in my right shoulder. What complicates the matter further is that as a result of my leaving it untreated for so long, my scaps move in very compensatory ways and it’ll take a while to retrain that while I fix up the other issues.

The last couple of months I stopped doing all vertical pressing and pulling and all horizontal pressing other than decline bench (didn’t seem to bother my shoulder and was the only way I could actually feel quality pec activation). I’d do only rear and lateral raises for my delts. Thing is, physio has advised I not do any chest or shoulder work.

So how can I go about devising a program that’s ONLY legs and back that has me in the gym 3 days a week? I could do a fourth day but I’m not sure which would be more optimal given my restrictions.

Back squats haven’t seemed to bother me but I’ve considered switching to front squats to avoid that external rotation of the shoulders. Virtually all other leg exercises seem fine, including cleans (which I’d like to continue doing). Most back exercises seem fine but I find that only rowing until my elbows reach my midpoint feels best on the shoulders and actually gets a better contraction.

Can anybody offer any help? I know there’s lots of programs that have you squat three days a week but I haven’t had any luck finding s program that caters to my limitations.

I’d simply do my usual program without the upperbody pressing work.

In its place, you could do:

  • do extra back, core and leg work
  • do prowler, keg, sandbag work
  • do pressing in a safe ROM (bottom half?)
  • do isometric pressing or holds at a safe point; or
  • do nothing in it’s place

I was running a program off of here (Blending size and strength I believe it’s called?) for about the last six months but switched the upper body power day for a second hypertrophy day after a month or two. It seemed to fit around my shoulder better as I was only really doing lateral raises and light decline bench on those upper body days.

I’m thinking I may be best off to just continue that but without any of the delt and chest work. The upper body days will be pretty short but that’s alright. Would I be best off doing things like sled work on the upper body day or keeping it with the lower body days so the legs get more time off?

What is the plan on addressing the main issue?

For the record I have had both of my shoulders repaired . The first because of impingemdment

I would skip the cleans for now. Your scap/shoulder moves funny, and cleans are all about the scaps and shoulders. In my opinion, doing cleans with the impinged shoulder will just strengthen and re enforce the bad motion you’re trying to fix.

I think your be better off using lifts that directly hit your middle back and lower traps, rear delts for awhile.

Prone Trap Raise

Rear Delt Extensions. Go slower than this girl.

Rear Delt Cable Extensions. Feel the rear delt. You may not be able to go as far back as this guy. Also, maybe stand up a little straighter.

Dumbbell Incline shrug

Chest Supported shrugs

Rows where the elbow only comes to the mid point are good too. Focus on getting that good posterior scap tilt and control the elbow.

Instead of Pulldowns or overhead stuff for lats, check out this lat activation stuff. You can also think about your scapula position, and kill 2 birds with 1 stone.


Physio 1-2 times per week with lots of rehab work. Physio said he figures the tear can be fixed through rehab and surgery probably isn’t necessary.

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You’re in my position right now.

I’m literally just doing squats, deadlifts, rows, and a shit ton of heavy ab and hard conditioning.

You’ll be fine.

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I’ve been doing basically nothing but squats and deadlifts for the last couple years, little bits of strongman stuff like sandbags and kettlebell work thrown in, and I’m feeling pretty good. Check out my log.


How do you plan out a typical week?

I was thinking something like back squat one day, deadlift another, and front squat the third day. Maybe 3-4 sets of back work each day as well as one additional lower body accessory each day. Probably hammer out some abs each of the three days.

I was considering doing sprint work twice a week on non-lifting days. Not sure if it would be overkill but I don’t plan on doing super intense sprint days.

Side note, kinda pissed that I can’t do cleans. I’m a semi-recently washed up athlete so the cleans help me hang on to whatever athleticism I’ve got.

Do some box jumps to stay springy and explosive while you straighten your shoulder out.

Put your energy into fixing it now and you’ll be right back to cleans, plus everything else cool again, soon.


It would be nice to be able to really push weight again. Pushing movements have always lagged far behind for me, so that paired with the fact that I could never really actually feel my pecs working leads me to assume my shoulder was the reason. A 245 bench was the absolute best I could ever do. About 155 for OHP. Physio says I have a terribly weak rotator cuff.

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I’ve been doing this for a little bit of time now and understand my body, so I go off of feel. But this is basically what i do. I think it would work well for your situation. Remember since are not pressing you have PLENTY to give to legs, back, core, and conditioning.

Back Squat
Rows, Abs, Lunges

Hard Conditioning

Front Squat
Abs, Back Ext, Rows

Hard Condition

Back Squat
BB Rows
Farmers Walk, Abs

Hard Condition

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By not doing pressing do I kinda increase my work capacity on other parts of my body? Like if 40%legs+20%back+20%chest+20 and shoulders and arms equaled X amount of rest and feeding to recover, can i devote that 40%which was chest/shoulders/arms to back and legs without changing my recovery?

I imagine it would be somewhat different because they’re larger muscle groups and more taxing on the CNS, but how much ?

I have no idea what any of that means. Just hit the gym, do what you can, and continue to get stronger in the movements you do. Once you are able to press again, slowly adjust and add it back into the mix.

It’s honestly not that complicated. Don’t overthink it, trust me on this.

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Basically what I meant to say say is: can I increase volume in some areas if I’m eliminating it in others?

I just read through the post-shoulder injury portion of your log to compare what I’ve been doing with what you’ve been doing. Here’s how it shakes out for me, any advice you could offer would be appreciated.

Back squat 4x4, then I usually do one set of either eccentric or isometric squats and an additional back off set (load it up fairly heavy and aim for 10+ reps)
Prone ham curl 4x8
Chest supported rows 4x8-10
Abs and shoulder maintenance

Hang power cleans 4x2
High pills from hang 3x3
Db Bench 4x8-10 (physio recently gave me the okay to do flat or decline pressing)
Triceps 3x10-12[quote=“westcoastcanuck, post:1, topic:248229, full:true”]

Front squat 5x5
BB RDL 3x20/
Row (usually either seated cable or the hammer strength iso-row) 4x10-12
Abs and shoulder maintenance

Deadlift 5x3 (slightly submaximal, done with about a 1” deficit and emphasis on speed)
DB Bulgarian split squat 4x6-8
B.B. row (fairly upright, pulling to the waist with a supinated grip to feel a nice contract in the mid back)
Abs and shoulder maintenance

4x8-10 DB flat bench
Two triceps and biceps exercises, first one being 3x10-12 and second being 2x12-15
Conditioning and shoulder maintenance

Should add that I do conditioning work on the Tuesday as well. I think it’s somewhat similar to what you’ve been doing.

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Hey man I would simplify it even more. I would suggest something more like this for you. I wouldn’t do cleans and high pulls with a dodgy shoulder right now.

Back Squat - 5x5, 1x10-20
RDL - 4x12-15
Lunges - 100 each leg (Just do walking with BW)
Abs/Back Ext - 5x10
Hard Condition - 10-20 minutes

DB Bench - 5x8-10
Rows - 100 total reps
Curls, Triceps, Shoulder Maintenance

Deadlift - 5x3, 1x10-15
Front Squat - 5x6-8
Split Squat - 4x10-12
Abs/Back Ext - 5x10
Hard Condition

DB Bench - 5x6-8, 1xAMRAP
Rows - 100 total reps
Curls, Triceps, Shoulder maintenance

If you do this and REALLY focus on the big exercises you will continue to get stronger and bigger (make sure you are eating for performance).


Slight threadjack- what do you like for hard conditioning

Isn’t that what kegels are for?


Thanks man. I’ll start with this template next week. The concern I’ve had since starting this a few weeks ago was finding the right balance on total weekly volume so it’s nice to get some advice from someone who’s ran things this way.

Physio told me cleans shouldn’t be an issue if they don’t bother my shoulder which they don’t seem to but I may stick to clean pulls. Still get the athletic benefit (if I’m not mistaken) and the upper back gains.

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