T Nation

Partial Starting Strength Program (Surgery Recovery)


Hi guys, I have about 15 years of training under my belt, but am currently de-trained for several months due to injury and am starting a new movement to accommodate a recent surgery, and decided to do kind of a SS protocol, so that’s why I thought it was best to post here.

Specifically, I had a major shoulder reconstruction, and it’s going to be a couple more months before I even start physical therapy, much less begin weight training seriously again. I’ve got some new hardware, a re-attached biceps tendon, and a brand new ligament, and two labrum repairs (both Bankart and SLAP) all in one shoulder now, so healing will be slow going.

So I’m pretty much stuck with 2-3 lower body movements, and abs, for the next several months. I have a prowler that i tie to my belt and drag around, but as of right now I’m still in a sling and can’t do much.

This is what prompted me to buy a safety squat bar. I can rest it on my shoulders without pain, and it requires very little input from my hands. I can actually squat hands free if I really want to. So I decided to follow a Starting Strength-esque program with safety squat bar (SSB) squats. It forces you to stay much more upright and feels like a middle ground between a front squat and a low bar back squat, slightly more forward than a high bar back squat. Which is good because I’ve wanted to build up my quads more out of vanity anyway.

In the past I did SS after a long layoff with excellent results, ended up at about 310x5x3 on my squats before progress slowed considerably and I switched to 5/3/1, which I’ve done ever since, for about the last 3 years.

Today I did my first serious day of SSB with 175x5x3. Very humbling to say the least. I can’t handle nearly the amount of weight as I’m used to with the SSB, and I’m also pretty de-trained right now anyway. So I figured SS would be the quickest way to get it up to snuff. I will probably progress at 10lbs per workout for the first couple workouts then go to 5 and ride that out until I either start to plateau or am able to resume some semblance of normal training.



Congrats on recovering from your surgery. I had shoulder labrum repair back in 2002, and am recovering from ACL reconstruction at this time, so that is where my perspective is coming from.

Since you aren’t training your upperbody much, I find that this is the time to really hammer the rest of the body with as much volume as you can stand. You’re not expending yourself with your upper body, which means you have less to recover from, which means you can invest that recovery into something else. Starting Strength is notoriously low on volume and built around quick recovery (training the same movement every other day), mainly because it’s more about building up your skill with the movement the movement rather than your strength. Were I in your situation, I’d at least chase the SS work with some drop sets, or SSB lunges, widowmakers, or just anything. Other alternatives would be to really focus on the prowler during your non-lifting days, or at the end of your lifting days. Lots of ab and lower back work would be great too, along with gripper and neck.

While my leg has been healing, I’ve been throwing as much volume as possible on my upperbody, lowerback, abs, neck, AND the good leg.


Thanks man, and good luck with your ACL. My wife is due to get a new ACL too soon.

Yeah I understand that SS is really low volume, but for someone who is a novice or severely de-trained like I am at the moment it can bring up the strength level really quickly. It’s hard to beat being able to add 15-30lbs to the bar every week.

I think you’re right though, and especially from a weight control perspective, getting in as much lower body volume as I can stand is probably what’s best for me. I will add some back-off sets and possibly some intensity techniques like drop sets and super sets on my Friday workouts.

I will also being doing prowler pulls and hill walks after lifting, and be adding in calf raises, lunges, GHD hip/back extenions, situps, etc. throughout the week.


After my shoulder injury, I did 5x5. I relearned to squat and press. Started with the bar. Did 10 weeks, deloads, then another 8 weeks. Learned my knees hate squatting 3x a week.


Yeah mine have been fine in the past doing squats 3xWk but at some point they got real cranky, and I had to back off a lot. That was a few months after I started school again and went from sitting at a desk for 8hrs per day to sitting at a desk for 14-16hrs per day. It also coincided with me trying to put more of an emphasis on my quads for hypertrophy. Knees have never been the same since, but I’ve done two workouts now with the SSB, and so far so good. Granted, I started at 155lbs. If I have to go back to strict box squats to keep the pressure off my knees I will, but at this point using the SSB is the only way i can squat.


The SSB and Box Squatting are awesome. You can take your arms/ shoulders out of the lift, and set the height of your box to really focus on your legs. They are so good, thats what some power lifters do for their main squat. Lunges and split squats are great for your quads. You can target your thighs with crushing your knees with heavy front squats. These lifts can keep you in the game 15 more years.

Focus on big quads and healthy knees, and healing your shoulder. Don’t even worry about the lack of “traditional” squatting. Imagine the first guy who turned the barbell on its end, the wedged under it, tipped it up, then balanced it across his shoulders. If that guy had had access to a SSB, and a rack to lift it out of, there is a 100% chance he wouldn’t have squatted with the barbell.


Healthy knees, big quads, healed shoulder…that’s what I’m shooting for and best case scenario for me right now. It’s going to be a long road to recovery though. At this point I still can’t even hold a 5lb dumbbell or stride up a flight of stairs without my shoulder feeling like it’s going to pop out again.

Yeah front squats don’t agree with my knees beyond two consecutive workouts. But I did workout #3 today with the SSB and I feel pretty good. I was really surprised that i still feel it in my hams and groin like a normal back squat rather than just all quads. Definitely more quad involvement though.

I started at 155 just to get a feel for it, and it felt heavy as shit. Today I did the same reps with 185 and it felt lighter than the first day.