T Nation

Pec Tear Post Surgery


Hey everyone I was just wondering if there was anyone out there who has had a complete pec tear that needed surgical reattachment. I tore severely 2 weeks ago today, and had surgery 9 days ago. I'm in the sling phase right now. Just kind of wanted to know how everyone's recovery process went, how long it took, the different stages (ex. when you can start doing push ups, pull ups, etc.), how much muscle lost, etc.

I weighed 252 the day it happened and I've cleaned up my diet significantly. If I eat like a 250lb powerlifter while i cant lift for 6 months i couldnt even imagine how fat id get...so it looks like i have to get skinny. It's really hard watching all of the work i've toiled to accomplish deteriorating more each day. Definitely hard to deal with. Anyone else go through the same thing?


I can sympathize. It's really hard being kept down. I've had two orthopedic surgeries in the last two years. Definitely had some bouts of feeling sorry for myself. Try to discover what you can safely do and exploit it.


my activity at the moment is limited to cardio machines...and my orthopedist doesnt even really like the thought of me doing that =X


I had a complete pec tendon rupture in 2007, and had to have it surgically repaired. I took it easy, did my physical therapy, started with push-ups, moved on to light benching, etc., over about a 6 month period. I would guess that it was less than or about a year before I started pushing it really hard. I had 100 percent recovery, and lift heavier now than I ever have, including heavy dips, incline presses, etc.

Other than taking it easy and following your surgeon's advice, the only other advice I have is to learn to use a narrower grip on chest exercises. The injured area, regardless of how well it has healed, will always be compromised, and you don't want to risk another tear by stressing the tendon (if it's a tendon injury) by benching wide.

Best of luck on the recovery.


thanks for the response man, hopefully my recovery can go as smoothly as yours did. coincidentally i was already using a very narrow grip just at shoulder width the minimize pulls because ive pulled each pec several times in the past. if you want to see my width refer to my youtube channel "JJLederach." pretty crazy i tore it with a close grip right? i still cant wrap my head around it. I think ill be sticking to lots of reps for a year or so after im able to start lifting again...you know, keep the range between 10-20


No problem man - I remember when I tore mine, I searched here for answers in vain. It's surprising that you tore yours using a close grip. However, stranger things have happened - I tore mine doing dumbbell flys! I was going heavy and deep, and it must have just stressed the tendon too much.

Like I said, take it easy and do your PT. 10 - 20 rep range for the first year should be fine, provided you can keep yourself from going heavy (it isn't easy). Just as important, keep working on your other lifts. You've got an awesome squat and deadlift!


I'm curious as to when you were cleared to begin normal non-chest training...so how long was it before you could do heavy legs (including squats), back, arms, shoulders, etc?? or will that all have to wait and happen at once?


oh! and when were you able to do stuff like push-ups, pull-ups and dips?


Hope you have a good and quick recovery. My suggestion to you is this: Keep your post here, BUT also post it on the power lifter and/or bodybuilder forum. It is more likely that more guys over there have had this kind of problem. Good Luck


DUDE good thinking. Im reposting in the powerlifting forum right now.


I completely ruptured my left Pec tendon on Oct 23, and had surgery to reattach it Nov 5. When you say Pec tear, did you tear the muscle belly, or was it a tendon rupture? According to my surgeon, I'm not supposed to even attempt a push-up or bench press until May, but I've already disregarded that. I'm not doing anything stupid like going heavy, more like 10 sets of 10 with 95 pounds. I feel like I could do more, but really don't want to push it. Honestly I get super nervous just being under the bar, and quit the workout if I feel any sort of tightness or inflammation.

I was in a sling for just a week. The thing drove me crazy and I couldn't sleep (unless I was bombed on percocet) so I ditched it, but was very careful. My injury may have been singular, because I didn't rupture the tendon so much as rip the tendon off of the bone. I tore none of the muscle belly so your specifics may be different. The same week I dropped the sling I started working on my mobility in the shower by facing the wall and touching a shower tile with my good right hand, and then attempting to touch the same tile with my injured left side. By three weeks post surgery I could raise my arm above my head. Of course the tendon attachment was still super weak, and "gooey" as my surgeon called it so I would put the sling on if I left the house as a reminder not to do anything dumb.

One bonus I had is that my company was super supportive. I got to work from home for ~6 weeks and didn't have to push it physically. Do you work a physically demanding job?

I'm now 5 months post surgery and I feel pretty decent overall, but I notice some things are really different. If I do a pullup, my left elbow flares out weirdly. I'm hoping that fixes itself as I do more and more of them. I haven't attempted a dip and don't think I will for a long time. Given my progress with benching 95 pounds, I think I will try to get my working sets up to 135 in a few months. The thing keeping me from pushing it is the fact that the collagen fibers do not fully align and reach 100% strength for up to 18 months.

I was in a bulking cycle and having some great growth when the injury happened, so I feel you pain on the eating. I was 212 the day it happened, and then got a bit fatter. Eventually I said fuck it and decided to cut down to keep my depression levels at bay. I'm sitting at 192 right now.


hey man that's good to hear you're at least doing some light bench work right now...my goal is to be able to do push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and light lifting by july or so..but in response to your question, i actually had both tears happen. my tendon tore away from the bone AND the doctor said i had significant tearing in the muscle which probably is worse. and im actually a full time college student so ive not had to deal with work accommodations or anything thankfully.


I just found out today i tore my peck from my doctor. My right peck. The reason being is I didn't know how to bench.I still don't it hurts my shoulder more and its swollen right were it connects to the peck. I have full mobility she was surprised how mobile i can reach opposite shoulder blades, extend my arms over head, and hold them out vertically while she pushed down no pain no problem.

She recommended I see an orthopedist though my grandpa is dermatologist he told me to just rest for a month see what happens before i talk to them I'm a senior in college so Im not dealing with manual labor anymore and just lift for fun but it hurts after i do push ups. The first day it hurt after one pushup. The fifth day it hurt after 5 its getting better. Today its been a week since my last heavy set.

I wish I saw the Dave Tate video before this happened. My routine on bench before the tear was heavy Tuesday speed Saturday. Tuesday Thursday was my military press day. My best heavy lifts before the tear went like this warmup (135x5) (225x5) 1st set 280x5 then (295x3 3rd 295 was o shit moment and before this it was always 290x3) I kept lifting anyway I go down about 15 pounds from my first 5 rep and it was 265x5 260x5 255x5 250x5 245x5 225 super slow x5. For speed my best was 260x8 250x8 245x7 burn out 185.

Looking back its been bothering me for a month. I kept lifting. The Saturday after the o shit moment i kept lifting. I hit my normal numbers then 260x8 250x8 245x7 then Tuesday I said since i nailed the 280 and the 295x3 ill start with 285 i only got 3. It hurt so I went back down 265x5 260x5 ect all the way down to slow 225. It hurt the whole time both Tuesdays and Saturday.

When it hurt to turn the staring wheel after last tuesday i knew i was fucked. Its either I accidentally flared my elbows or its from always using the squat cage and having to lift then swing to get the bar off the rack. Or it is from too heavy and going down to fast I always go down at nipple line or below though. I also was a retard in that I hadn't took more then one day off from the gym out of my 3 day a week routine in more then 18 months.

The doctor told me I can do any lifts that don't hurt but only do 50%. Im 225 pounds but only 59 my body fat is high according to my neck minus my gut and my belly button its like 45 and my neck is 19 so its like 26. The only exercises i think i dont suck at are the bench and the mp my max bench was 315 nothing to brag about but to me it was the one thing that i loved and it made me feel good not to sound like a fag.

When i first started lifting other then a weight lifting class in highschool my max bench was 185x5 about 18 months ago like i said it was 315 before the injury. My max military press was 180x5 I suck at squatting i do 135x7 (185x5)x3 then 135x7 i never dead lifted before im no fucking pro lifter but i dont want to turn more into mush. As it is i already have fucking man boobs and im 23 ive never had a six pack.

Can some one recommend me some exercises to not lose my power, oh by the way my arms are at 18 inches cold now and 19 after workout i guess never measured after workout. How can i preserve strength loose fat and keep my arms big while only going 50%.

Also she told me to go 50% but if my military press doesn't bother me im going balls to the fucking wall until the bar smashes some since into my skull. Any programs that would benefit me our any one with a similar experience or some one who trained someone with this injury how did it effect your numbers how much strength did you lose.

Don't get me wrong im excited to try to lose weight and look better but I still feel shitty about potentially loosing all that hard work. I know this is my fault and what i get for being a bench bitch. Please give me program that might help preserve some of my strength while using the 50% guideline.

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I tore mine a couple of years ago. Full tendon rupture and surgery. There is an article at elitefts by Dr. David Ryan DC on shoulder rehab that I found very useful in designing a pec rehab program. I also used information from Bill Starr's old pec rehab program, which I found in the forum on Mark Rippetoe's site (note: it is primarily for minor tears, not tears requiring surgery, but I gleaned some information from it). Pectear.com has links to some different orthopedic/sports medicine doctors rehab suggestions too.

I started my rehab with physical therapy. Once I got about 90% of ROM back and got cleared by my orthopedic surgeon I began my own pec rehab program. I continued doing my ROM exercises for months. I started working my chest with wall push-ups (yes, I was in rough shape after the surgery lol). Then I moved to bench pressing with the dreaded pink aerobic dumbells and so on. I prioritized my workout around my pec and made everything else a side note. My assistance exercises were all exercises to build my upper back strength and shoulder stability, along with the ROM exercises from PT to get the pec back in shape. I started the program doing dumbell bench presses 5 days a week for 2-3 sets of 30 reps. If my pec/shoulder felt like crap, I didn't hesitate to quit early or take a day off. I did assistance exercises 3 days a week. My primary assistance exercises were deadlifts (starting with the bar only), turkish get-ups (starting with 1 rep each with the pink dumbells), and 1 arm dumbell rows. As the weight moved up on the bench, I decreased the reps to 25, 20, 15, etc. I also went to bench pressing 4 days a week, then 3, etc. I started the program using a SuperSlow cadence and dropped the weight back down when I started working at more normal speeds. There is no real template out there, so take into consideration the estimates physicians give on time it takes for a tendon to be ready for heavy loads and speed and listen to your body.

Dr. David Ryan's article will tell you to introduce speed work back in, but I disagree with him on that point, unless you are a powerlifter and need that drive out of the bottom. The research (and I've read it all at this point) does not show conclusively that fast lifting is more helpful for fast performance in sport, etc. I am a martial artist and I don't notice any difference in speed or power of my punching at this point. I also haven't had any issues with lifting heavy. I do focus on form and usually opt for 3-4 inch board or pin presses or dumbells now as a safety precaution, since I'm not a powerlifter, but I don't feel unsafe doing full ROM, heavy benching.

I do still often have pain in my shoulder when I do military presses and feel like I need some extra warm up before weighted dips but that is pretty much it. My pec also looks a little different than before but it's nothing totally crazy.


You know, I don't really remember when I started doing heavy legs, back, etc. What I do remember is that I took a long time off and just focused on cardio, rehab, stretching, etc. The problem with a pec injury like a tear or tendon rupture is that half of your entire upper body is compromised, which means you can't squat or deadlift heavy.

When I did start weight training again, I started with very light dumbbell presses and wall pushups, moved on to regular pushups for tons of reps, and then on to more heavy (but still light) barbell presses. You'll know when your pec is healed enough to start testing the waters with other exercises like squats, deads, etc. That being said, your situation is different because not only did you tear the tendon, you tore the muscle, which is more difficult to "fix" (I've heard it analogized that sewing together muscle is like trying to sew together wet Kleenex).

So, above all else, take it easy, take your rehab seriously, and know that if you do so, it's likely you'll return to 100 percent. I have no pain, no weird feeling in the pec, no loss of function or strength, etc. Take this time to concentrate on your cardio and doing what you can (reasonably) do.


thanks for the encouraging words and all the help man. my doctor seemed very confident that ill make a 100% recovery so im optimistic. it's just patience and rehab until then.


I completely ruptured my right distal pec tendon on Feb 23, 2012. Doing a set of 6 reps with 405 on flat bench, bottom of the third rep it goes halfway up and then pop down goes the bar. Initially diagnosed it as a bicep strain. Finally got an MRI 4 weeks into it, had surgery on April 24, 8 weeks post injury. Doc said there was no muscle belly or MT junction damage and he was able to reattach 100% of the tendon. Feels great, more or less done with PT, but it still doesn't look right in the mirror. There's a big divot where my pec tendon should be. Doc says the tendon is attached, and that it probably won't ever look quite the same again. My right pec still bulges out a little farther than my left and is not symmetrical. Strength is coming back fast though. Tried bench the other day. Worked my way up to 95 for 25 reps. Very easy, felt a little weird, so I quit the second I started feeling that weird straining feeling. Doc said no heavy squats or deadlifts til the 6 month post op mark. Apparently the tendon cannot yet handle the tension from heavy squats and DLs. So I've been doing some cardio, cleaning up my diet, doing limited back, and hitting leg machines and light squats. I do 1000 bodyweight squats 3 times a week and i do sets of 50 reps with 135 on back squats. Lost probably 20 lb or more of lean muscle and gained at least 10 lb of fat from my time off. Just trying to reverse the damage and hoping that I eventually regain all of my pre-injury strength.

Has anyone else had issues with asymmetry after the operation?


There will be some asymmetry for almost everyone after that type of injury and operation. It's been about 3 years since my surgery and the only noticeable asymmetry I have is at the top of my arm pit but it is mostly due to scarring from the incision. The most helpful thing for me (I think) was returning to full range bench pressing and dropping the partial movements completely. I won't suggest that that is the best plan for anyone else but it has taken all pain out of the picture for me (including on dips and military press). I wish I would have done it all along but only started doing that this past May.


Ok, an update is in order. It turns out that my operation from 2012 failed completely. I had a second operation on august 8, 2013 to fix it. This time around, i flew down to west palm beach, FL and had Dr. Stiebel, one of the worlds best pec specialists, fix it. He ended up using an allograft tendon to do the repair and it turned out great. The cosmetic appearance and function have been restored; it looks and feels like it used to.

The pt was more grueling this time around, it took four months to regain full ROM. I wont be able to resume training until May, at least not with presses. Im going to be using this downtime to work on core and flexibility. I can use my pec almost unrestricted in most daily activities, but i can still tell that its not ready for weights or heavy labor yet. Both excited and nervous about returning to the gym.

It will be nice to rebuild what i once had, but on the other hand i dont want to reinjure, and i have no clue where toeven start as far as what lifts to start with and how to structure reps and sets.


You said the first one failed, could you explain and could you tell yourself? Did it not take or did it was a re injury?