T Nation

Rebuild This Somewhat Broken Body


As some of you will have read, I'm in remission from advanced colon cancer. Here's my previous log detailing my training through chemotherapy:

Previously I have focused on strength goals, using the very awesome 531. However my surgery has left me with vertically split abdominal muscles, making it dangerous for me to squat or deadlift.

This will be repaired surgically but likely not for a year or two, and to be honest lifting weights at all is not a genius idea.

Thankfully, I am not a genius so I will on keep lifting and adjust my training for new goals within my limits.

Goal is simple:
Rebuild my body to something I feel good walking around in. Currently 80kg with fairly low bodyfat percentage. In the past I have been a very muscular but slightly fat 97kg... so I figure if I can hit 90kg while remaining fairly lean, I will feel good about myself :). I'm 6 foot.

Only have half a stomach so it's a mission to get calories in, but I'm hoping this will improve as the chemotherapy nausea goes away.
I can do no squats, deadlifts and must always be mindful of the core. If anyone has advice on exercise selection feel free to holler.

Also I have never done "body-building" style training before so I am open for any advice in general!

Doing this 4 day routine:


[b]13-04-15 UPDATE

Recovered from hernia repair, ready to get back at it. See Page 7 [/b]


Week 2 Day 1

5 x 80kg
5 x 85
3 x 90
2 x 90
1 x 90

8, 8, 8

DB Fly
20 x 10kg pair
15, 15, 12 x 12.5kg pair

BB Curl
6 x 35kg
6 x 35
5 x 35
6 x 35

DB Hammer Curl
8, 10, 8 x 17.5kg pair

12, 8, 5

I was pretty fatigued today but had a quick nap and got enough energy together to lift. Really enjoyed it too. Apparently it can take many months to get your energy back after chemotherapy but I'm counting on bouncing back faster than that, as I have much living to do!


Would adding in some yoga/pilates help with the abs issue?

Gotta say pilates has helped me a lot - helps counter sitting at a desk all day somewhat too.


I wonder if you have access to some quality machines? I hate to be the guy suggesting machines over free weights, but "vertically split abdominal muscles" sounds scary! Things like supported rows, seated chest and shoulder press, pec deck, etc might allow you to really isolate certain muscles without any risk of accidentally tensing your core and doing something nasty...

If you have access to only barbells and dumbbells (which I'd normally think was a good thing), I'd probably suggest sticking with as much isolation work as possible. You might employ techniques like pre-exhaust and dropsets to fatigue a muscle and let yourself work it hard with somewhat less weight, which also might protect your core (i.e. not needing to lift really heavy dumbbells).


Unfortunately, no. The issue is there's a vertical gap between the abs which runs from my sternum down to my belly button. I asked the surgeon and no amount of exercise or anything else can repair it; only surgery :(. So all I can do is train around it.

But yoga might be good for me in general; I will probably look into this as my energy returns.


Haha yeah it is pretty scary! It's taken a lot of dwelling to accept that I cannot squat or deadlift now.

Your suggestion is right on actually. I joined a gym last week so I could have access to the leg machines. As long as I do not arch my back much or use the valsalva maneuver, there's not TOO much danger from upper body movements.

I should clarify though; all my rows are chest supported. The bent-over versions would be too much I think. Military press is probably the only real abdominal loader, except chins funnily enough they seem to cause a fair bit of core tension.

Pretty sure the real danger lies in heavy loads + valsalva maneuver as I'd get through squatting and deadlifting though. My abs are not going to split more, the worst outcome would likely be a hernia type "bulge". Which I do not want...

Definitely will keep the pre-exhausting and drop-sets in mind, that's a good suggestion.


Week 2 Day 2

CS Barbell Row
10 x 60kg
8 x 65
6 x 70
6 x 70

Wide Grip Pull up
8, 8, 7, 6

12, 10, 10 x 22.5kg pair

DB Back Fly
15, 12, 12, 10 x 12.5kg pair

Back day went pretty well. I feel "lighter" today as the fatigue has reduced more. Today I also made a conscious decision to consider myself cured, and to concentrate on this rather than darker potentials. I tend to fluctuate mentally a bit; I guess there is a lot of anxiety associated with finishing treatment and the process of returning to life after being a fairly abused lab rat for so many months. Haha.

Bodyweight was 79.4kg this morning. REALLY need this appetite back. Next time I get groceries I'll buy a sack of almonds to try and force some more easy calories in. Probably only rocking 2500ish max right now - I need 3000 to gain weight.


Good idea to start with a new log.

Re getting more cals in, do you like coconut? Adding coconut milk to shakes can bump the cals a fair bit & maybe it would be easier to drink some extra cals while you work on getting your appetite back for bigger meals?


You also might want to read through EyeDentist's thread about training. He has some interesting techniques that you might be able to apply (things like starting with partial ROM on a machine, then moving to the other part of the movement, then training full ROM last) to get a little extra intensity on certain target muscles.

I'll be honest, that's just a regurgitation of what I've read as I do virtually all pullups, dumbbell, and kettlebell work with occasional machine stuff thrown in every so often.

Oh, and I'd stay away from chins if I were you...I love them, but I tense my core quite a bit when doing them.


Squats and deadlifts are not essential, or sometimes even the best choice, for building muscle. Due to injuries and surgeries I can't do them, which was hard to accept at first because those have always been my best lifts and I honestly enjoy them.

Alternatives for legs are leg presses (2 leg or 1 leg), lunges (either DB or smith lunges, which are my favorite), leg curls, RDL's, leg extensions. Leg press and lunges may not be in the cards for you, but the weight is significantly lower for lunges so maybe it works. Doing leg curls, RDL's, leg extensions and then smith lunges would be a good set up for example to still hit the legs hard while working to reduce the weight on your back.

Pre-fatiguing works well like ActivitiesGuy was pointing out. Make it a goal to get the most amount of work from your muscle while using the lowest weight. Organize your exercise selection in a way that maximizes this (i.e. do the bigger, heavier compounds and lifts later in the workout when the target muscle is already tired).

Using higher reps also helps lighten the weight you're using.

Also, avoiding locking out or pausing fatigues the muscle more, causing you to have to use lighter weight yet still beating up the muscle.


You're too late on that one! I have a shake every day with raw coconut oil, coconut cream and other goodies in it. 750 easy calories! If after a month I am struggling to pack on beef, I will likely start having two of these per day instead of one. Or maybe adding PB to it to up the calories more.


Cheers for the tip bro, I will check his log out. With the relative lack of low rep compound lifts I'm going to need all the tricks I can find.

You're absolutely right about chins and pullups, I just feel REALLY miserable at the prospect of dropping them because aside from deadlifts they're my favourite movement. But I will give it more thought, as I do feel a lot of core tension when performing them.


Thanks for the input man. You're right, there is more than one way to skin a cat... or a leg in this case.

I leg pressed last week on both a flat and 45d press and found as long as I consciously avoided tensing my core, it was just fine.

Current plan is:
Leg extension
Leg Curl
45d Leg Press (feet positioned high to target hammys)
Flat Leg Press (feet position low to target quads)

I'd never considered Smith Lunges (I assume the same thing as Smith Split Squats?) but I will give them a whirl on legs day and see how they go.

I really like the idea of this pre-fatiguing and started using it today with humbling results, but I felt like I got more use out of my muscles than the same workout last week.



Week 2 Day 3

DB Lat Raise
10, 10, 10, 10 x 12.5kg pair

Arnold Press
10, 10, 10 x 12.5kg

8 x 35kg
5 x 40
5 x 40
3 x 45

DB Triceps Kickback
16, 16, 16 x 12.5kg pair

8, 8, 8

Close Grip Bench
12 x 40kg
10 x 45
8 x 50

Pre-exhausting went really well and I think it'll be a good tool for me. I think I will need to replace the unilateral triceps kickbacks as the setup for them really strained my core. May need to swap them out for lying kickbacks.


Hey man, I just wanted to say that all of your logs are a big inspiration to me. Your adaptability and determination is really admirable.

Have you read much on John Meadows style of training? I think it could be a good fit for you, with lots of pre-fatiguing etc. It's not my usual style of training - I train with kettlebells, much like ActivitiesGuy - but I did a Meadows session with RATTLEHEAD from this site and it was really great. The use of lighter weights meant that I finished the session feeling really good and not beaten up at all. And doing things like wide-grip barbell military press after a huge volume of raises meant that I really didn't put much strain on my abs/lower body at all. You are forced to go so light.

I am no expert by any means (quite the opposite haha) but I just thought I'd suggest it!


Hey dude, thanks I really appreciate it... Glad you have found my logs useful!

Now on the Meadows stuff, are you referring to the Mountain Dog Training For (insert bodypart) articles? I will have a browse through them and see if it grabs me. Otherwise any links would be cool.



Week 2 Day 4

Leg Extension
15 x 40kg
14 x 50
12 x 60
10 x 70
8 x 80

45 degree Leg Press (targeting quads)
15 x 80kg
12 x 100
10 x 120
8 x 130
7 x 135

Seated Leg Curl
12 x 60kg
10 x 70
9 x 80
10 x 90

45 degree Leg Press (targeting hamstrings)
15 x 80kg
12 x 100
8 x 100

Standing Calf Raise
12 x 80kg
12 x 100
15 x 110
14 x 120
15 x 130

DB Single Leg Calf Raise
15, 15, 15 x 30kg

Pretty good session. I am not accustomed to using the leg press but placing my feet higher and wider seemed to hit the hamstrings, while low and narrow foot placement seemed to target the quads more. I pre-fatigued the respective muscles with a machine before each leg press session. I had intended to use the flat leg press for quads but decided to just stick with the 45 degree.

Bodyweight 81kg.


Yes I was just referring to the Mountain Dog training articles. My understanding is that you can just combine all 5 for a weekly bodypart split.

Shoulders: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/shoulder_training_the_mountain_dog_way

Arms: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/mountain-dog-arms

Chest: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/chest_obliteration_mountain_dog_style

Back: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/a_monstrous_back_the_mountain_dog_way

Legs: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/enormous_and_strong_legs_the_mountain_dog_way&cr=

Again, I'm no expert at all! Hope it's useful.


Haha, you know what they say 'great minds think alike' :slightly_smiling:


Think DB skullcrushers would work to fill that niche? Kinda similar to lying kickbacks I guess.