Pec Tear, Severe Strain?

Heard Chest Rip while Benching

So I’m a early 40’s guy. I’ve lifted on/off my whole life. About 15 years ago, as far as bench goes, I was able to put up 355 at 165lbs in powerlifting contests. Anyway, so I came from work and was going to get in a “quick, go through the motions” chest workout - just so I wouldn’t miss the day entirely.

I did 19 reps with 135 to warm up. (Mistake #1 inadequate warmup) Then I was going to do 5x10-225 lbs and be done. Quick, efficient, and not really PUSHING myself (or so I thought).

First set of 225 went up super easy. So easy, I decided to alter my grip on subsequent sets to “try to get more out of it.” (Mistake #2 I think had I just thrown more plates on, I’d have been okay.)

Set two was 10 narrow, set three was a bit wider, set 4 (I’m thinking I’m going to stretch the shit out of my chest, really exagerate it and feel the stretch) Really wide (Mistake #3 Purposely trying to really “stretch” chest).

So, I do one rep, I come down for two and a split second after the bar begins it’s upward motion, I hear/feel a “Riiiiiiiipppppp” in my right pec. I DID finish the lift and rack the weight. I would say the “rip” (which seemed like an eternity at the time) lasted from about 10% of the way up to 50% of the way up in terms of duration. I jumped up clutching my chest thinking, “I’m really fucked.” The whole fight or flight thing is going on. Etc…

Anyway, my wife is a physical therapist and best friend is an ER doc. They both told me NOT to go to ER (in retrospect, I still wish I had for some immediate peace of mind, whatever). Always follow your own instincts…

Of course, ortho place can’t get me in until 12 days later. It’s day 7 now. I’ve been able to do light curls, cable pushdowns for tris, seated rows, shrugs, and legs.

Day 2 I was definitely swollen. I developed a baseball sized bruise on my upper bicep around day 3, but it was gone by the end of day 6. My chest never showed any bruising. I have also examined (as have others) my chest extensively with my arm out to see if we can feel/see any evidence of tendon tear/detachment.

My pec appears to be connected with tension throughout the entire range of motion (no divots, asymetry, etc.). I am now also able to contract pec, but doing any chest/deltoid exercises are out of question as far as pain/weirdness goes.

If I hadn’t “heard” the rip, I would be much less concerned at this point. In fact, I’d probably be planning on going full steam as soon as I could. But that noise/feeling stays with you…

Obviously, I don’t expect any type of “internet diagnosis” - I’ll wait on the MRI for that, but anyone with a similar experience or story from others? Did it turn out to be a tear or not? Any possibility this is just a bad strain? Or even a non-tendon (no surgery) type of tear?

If you had ripped the tendon off your arm there would be a gap/divot at the armpit. I would be willing to bet dollars to donuts that you don’t have a full rupture of the tendon. That doesn’t mean you don’t have some tearing in the tendon and/or muscle belly but you probably won’t need surgery or anything life changing.

Physical therapy is probably in the cards for you. Then it’s working up slowly in exercises that work the pec and shoulder. When you eventually get back to benching, start with the bar (or the pink dumbells if you go the dumbell route). I would go really easy on the biceps/triceps exercises for now since the biceps tendon originates in close proximity to wear the pec major tendon inserts and working it will likely irritate the pec major tendon.

Expect some pain when you start exercising it again (even with an empty bar/pink dumbells) but it should feel better throughout your sets. If it starts to hurt worse through a set, you are done for the day. If it happens a couple of days in a row go back to the doc or pt. You will have bad days and some will hurt more than others (especially when scar tissue and adhesions that have likely built up start breaking up during training).

DO NOT try to start using what you consider “light” weights when you go back to pressing or other exercises that work the pecs/shoulders. Start with the lightest weight possible (bar or pink dumbells) and work up VERY slowly from there. I suffered a partial tear doing a muscle-up with horrendous form a couple of years ago and tried feeling out benching a few weeks later and decided 185lbs felt super light and easy. I ruptured my tendon completely during the set and had to have surgery.

Good luck on the rehab.

Thanks a million natrondaninja!

I’ll know more on Tuesday. I was upset about waiting like 8 days on to get to doc and MRI - then I read about a guy waiting over a year for an MRI in a country with socialized medicine. I guess I should be happy with a couple week wait.

My guess is that it’s not too serious. I’ve had this happen a couple times…the bark is bigger than the bite. Loud ripping sound and yet no serious damage. I would say have your wife rehab you and if shit isn’t looking good in the next two weeks then maybe do an mri

Could be pec minor, it’s smaller and deeper than pec major so if there’s a tear there an asymmetry would be much less noticeable. Also could be any of thr numerous ligaments in the area. Would also explain why you were able to complete the lift after the noise/tearing sensation, major, as the name implies is a larger and more powerful mover. I don’t really have much else to add besides that, natrondaninja handled it…

Would help if you could upload a picture?

However sounds by now, that you should have had the scan?

Just got back from the doctor who evaluated the MRI. I have a very minor tear at the musculotendinosis junction and perhaps some “muscle belly” tearing. He said he advised against operating, said I may have some very minor “rippling” or “divot” or perhaps nothing at all.

The picture sucks, but I tried to convey what is going on with the lines. The arm without the star is the side where the tear is - I don’t think it is very visible. You can only tell when you feel both pecs in like a double bicep pose where you can feel the girth of the one is significantly less - perhaps from atrophy too?

Anyway, about 5 weeks out and I was able to bench 60 lbs on a machine yesterday for about 10 reps. Did 5 pushups too. This really suks!

That’s cool. I tore mine playing rugby. If it was a tear, I was going to say it’s super obviously - the imbalance you’ll see almost instantly is quite sickening and even post-op isn’t anywhere near right. If you search pectoral rupture in google, you’ll see what I mean. Just take it easy and you’ll be fine.

Hey man, I have a similar injury now with similar situation. How did you recovery end up? Did you ever need surgery? Are you able to lift normally again? Any cosmetic defects?

I required surgery. Certainly cosmetic differences and balance differences but my function was greatly improved post surgery.

Ah I see. I’m glad you got back to function. How soon after the injury did you get surgery? Was there any musculotendinous junction injury, and was that repaired too?