T Nation

Starting Lifting & Old Knee Injury

I’m 34 but definitely have alot of 35+ problems so I figure I’d post here. When I was like 25 or so I sprained my knee just doing a straight-knee tiny hop… not very violent but definitely popped it - sprained for 2 weeks… probably torn ACL said the doc, preliminary diagnosis. At that time doctor said well its just time to give up on sports.

I had no real problem with that so thats what I did. So I never bothered confirming the diagnosis with an MRI. I stayed away from sports and my knee never really bothered me, tho it pops and stuff after walking up the stairs and its definitely weaker than my good knee.

now, like 10 years later im starting to get into working out for last 2 months because i was becoming lethargic, pre-diabetic, blood pressure getting high, over weight… I figured ok that’ll kill me more than a bad knee. I do light jogging and lower body i do squats with free weights… 85 lbs, 10 reps etc. I dont want to test my knees, cuz i know the left ons is bad. I know my body and I know my weaknesses. However, up thru this level of activity i’d say the knee has not been a limiting factor.

However - if I want to go up in weight and start being a he-man squatting like 300+ lbs (i’m 6’2 230 25% bodyfat btw so pretty outta shape). I figure I’ll have to get an MRI which will no doubt show a damaged knee. Question is… has anyone had ACL surgery and does it really help. I mean can u squat 300 lbs on a reconstructed knee without making it explode? I’ve heard that ACL surgery can kind of be a scam so wondering if anyone knows anything about it. If the surgery cant restore 90% functional strength i wouldnt really bother with it and just stick with light weights/cardio to try to stay in shape. I wouldnt be happy with it but i’d settle.

First, you really have no idea if there’s anything wrong with your knee. If you think there’s something wrong, then you should get it checked because it’s better to know what you have to deal with rather than think about possibilities that may or may not have any foundation in reality.

Second, while I haven’t personally had anything worse than sprained knees, I’ve known lots of people to come back from some rather serious knee injuries and squat some serious weight. Of course, I know a lot of people who DON’T squat a lot of weight who blame knee injuries from times past. Some of those are probably people with real concerns and others are probably just people looking for an excuse not to squat heavy. Let’s face it, most people find plenty of reasons to not put plates on the bar.

Finally, although 300# seems like a lot of weight to you right now, it’s really not that much. Although I will admit that I chased 300# for years before I got it and I still get a little anxious when I see three plates on the bar because I remember how hard I worked to be able to squat that. If you work hard, you’ll get that 300# before you know it.

But first, if you have concerns about your knee, go talk to a doctor and get those concerns removed. Otherwise, every ache and pain you feel in your knees are going to make you think you’re seriously damaged and believe me, if you’re squatting hard, you’re going to get aches and pains in your knees (and back, and thighs, and hammies) even if your knee is totally and completely healthy.

I saw the doc and they took some xrays did some stability testing. The knee is still stable and no arthritis or any tell-tale signs on the x-ray.

The doc said that MRI is not a good idea because even if there is something wrong it’s not serious enough to warrant surgery or there would be some instability or arthritis. Surgery could do more harm than good. So it’s just something I have to live with and be careful of.

The knee is more complex than the internet would lead you to believe and there’s alot of little tendonds in it too so I guess a sprain and pop doesnt necessarily mean you’ve lost your ACL… could be minor damage to a little tendon which really doesnt ruin your stability enough to prevent activity.

If the PT works and I can get my left leg up in strength I’ll feel more comfortable doing some real weight lifting. Until then I just dont have the balance/form to do it properly.

An old friend of mine has a pretty good page on Squat form. Even though it’s directed at women, it can be helpful for beginners of any sex.

stumptuous.com/cms/displayarticle.php?aid=123

The front squat is a great squat to learn depth with. Her back squat form on this page is narrower than what you’ll see powerlifters using; a wider base allows you to lift more weight, this narrow base is probably best for overall strength.

Another friend of mine suggested learning to squat with a broom handle. It’s nice and it’s light and you can get your form together before adding weight.

Be careful with leg extensions especially with ACL issues. The leg is not designed to have force applied to the front of the shin and can cause knee issues.

I don’t really know where you are fitness wise or how unstable your knee is but most people can do bodyweight squats to work out the form and progress quickly. Lunges and step-ups are frequently used to improve strength until one can graduate to squats.

Are you going to a physical therapist to work on knee stability?

Note - An MRI is not invasive; It’s simply another, clearer way of taking a picture of the knee. For your doctor to tell you not to get an MRI is somewhat ridiculous to me. I would want to know the current state of my joints were for certain and then decide whether surgery is necessary or not. And you decide that - not the doctor, he merely functions as a (hopefully) knowledgeable advisor.

Yeah the doc pushed and pull on the knee and didnt notice any instability so he thought an MRI would be pointless. He scheduled me for PT because having knee pain on and off for 5 years is not something you can really ignore. He just didnt an MRI would reveal anything serious enough to warrant surgery.

Knee surgery isnt really that great in dealing with so-so knees. It’s good for turning ruined knees into so-so knees.

The PT will concentrate on fixing my strength imbalance on my left leg vs right leg. It will also hopefully help with my recurring tendinitis in my left ankle… which started a few years after the initial knee sprain due to the strength imbalance/gait imbalance. Oh and by the way, if you ever get tendinitis in your ankle, it aint fun. I was basically a cripple crawling aroudn the house for 2 weeks wearing a boot. It used to hit me once a year until i finally dropped 15-20 lbs (at 6’2 230 was 250) now it doesnt but it still scares me. Recurring tendinitis is life changing.

My general physical condition is like couch potato working out for 2 months now. When i first started, i could barely walk on a treadmill going 2mph without hanging onto the sides. This was due to lack of coordination and fitness not joints. Now I can jog on there for a few mins and like squat the bar. My upper body strength is good though, I can bench 150 10x etc. I wanna be athletic and strong though i got a long way to go. I never max out and it takes me literally 15-20 mins sometimes to warm up. then after 45 mins im totally spent… so i got a 25 min window where i can lift without massive cramps or tearing tendons.

[quote]samfarkus wrote:
Yeah the doc pushed and pull on the knee and didnt notice any instability so he thought an MRI would be pointless. He scheduled me for PT because having knee pain on and off for 5 years is not something you can really ignore. He just didnt an MRI would reveal anything serious enough to warrant surgery.

Knee surgery isnt really that great in dealing with so-so knees. It’s good for turning ruined knees into so-so knees.

The PT will concentrate on fixing my strength imbalance on my left leg vs right leg. It will also hopefully help with my recurring tendinitis in my left ankle… which started a few years after the initial knee sprain due to the strength imbalance/gait imbalance. Oh and by the way, if you ever get tendinitis in your ankle, it aint fun. I was basically a cripple crawling aroudn the house for 2 weeks wearing a boot. It used to hit me once a year until i finally dropped 15-20 lbs (at 6’2 230 was 250) now it doesnt but it still scares me. Recurring tendinitis is life changing.

My general physical condition is like couch potato working out for 2 months now. When i first started, i could barely walk on a treadmill going 2mph without hanging onto the sides. This was due to lack of coordination and fitness not joints. Now I can jog on there for a few mins and like squat the bar. My upper body strength is good though, I can bench 150 10x etc. I wanna be athletic and strong though i got a long way to go. I never max out and it takes me literally 15-20 mins sometimes to warm up. then after 45 mins im totally spent… so i got a 25 min window where i can lift without massive cramps or tearing tendons.

[/quote]

Hm. Then your Doc could be right. It may be a movement pattern problem and not a structural one. Simple immobility and then moving the wrong way one time can create lasting pain. Then the pain encourages more immobility…

I think you’re heading in the right direction working on conditioning first.

How’s your diet?

My diet still sucks, but believe me… it’s alot better than it USED to be.

popeye’s fried chicken with 90% of the skin removed… cole slaw… Maybe a fast food burger with top bun removed… no fries. Diet coke instead of regular coke. Bag of almonds or sunflower seeds instead of chips. Maybe some rotisserie chicken one day… I’ll have to admit alot of my diet is fast food. I dont get shit for veggies… I dont believe in veggies much. Though I like how they taste… I can tell the difference in taste between organi veggie and a regular veggie one tastes great other like crap. I like a nice lox omelette with onions for breakfast soetimes. Or i might get a sausage mcmuffin with cheese and throw away the bagel.

The knee was sprained 5-6 years ago (with the pop noise) but it was not enough to make it structurally weak, according to the doctor. I’m looking into fish oil to see if it will help. I have exczema since i was a kid and cracking sore joints.

It’s not about being either a total fatass or a greek god… I’ve been at it for like 4 months now i wanna get there but I’ll take my time.

If you have diet suggestions it cant involve any major cooking.

I’m not sure exactly what I want to say here. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but I have a feeling I’m going to say it wrong. So bear with me.

We’ve all had pops. We’ve all had pain. And we’ve all had to work through some stuff. There are lots of guys in this forum who’ve had bad backs and bad shoulders and bad knees. Personally, I went for about a year without being able to touch the top of my head with my right hand.

My knees pop occasionally and there are times when I’m limping around because my knee has swollen. It happens sometimes when I’m lifting and for a long time, I blamed the lifting. But I’ve noticed that I get the same things in those rare times when I’ve had to take a break from lifting. I’ll turn wrong and twist my knee or I’ll step wrong and hyper-extend my knee. So I’m pretty sure that we all get aches and pains and we’re going to get them no matter what we do. (Although honestly, my knees feel stronger now than they did 15 years ago.)

Ultimately, the only person who knows if you can lift is you. You’ve got to be able to tell when you’re body is telling you not to do something and when it’s just being cranky. It’s not an easy thing to tell and if you keep working something that’s hurting, it can hurt it worse. But it can also make it feel better.

If you have something that’s hurting, don’t stop working out unless your body is just telling you that you can’t go. Find ways to exercise that don’t hurt. If your knees hurt, there’s still a lot you can do.

Part of the experience of lifting is developing that awareness of what your body is telling you.

Stop being a puss, there is nothing wrong with your knee other than being out of shape. Squats will help you more than anything, so learn proper form, then load the bar and get to work. You don’t need an extensive warmup…a few minutes on the stationary bike to get the blood going and then start squatting with the bar and slowly add weight.

When I was 19 I blew out my ACL…took the Army docs a year to figure it out (after many trips to the doc and many reinjuries). Well they screwed up the surgery and I rushed the rehab and I finally got it fixed again in spring of 2006…before that I was squatting 400 with just a belt and up to 500+ with squat suit and knee wraps (walked out) and 600lbs out of the monolift. With a useless ACL in the left leg, the walkout was the hardest part due to no stability and the strength imbalance. After my surgery in 2006 I rehabbed and got back up to 385 squat with just a belt. I also was doing fairly well in highland games…then this happened:

That was back in Nov. Since then I have had 2 surgeries on the leg (a plate and 14 screws to put the tibia back together and the 2nd a month later for a nasty infection). In the next few weeks I am looking at a knee surgery to fix the destroyed MCL and damaged ACL. Eventually I will have to have a total knee replacement. As soon as the doc clears me, I plan to start squatting again and hope to surpass my previous bests and make a full return to highland games, running, and lifting!

Best of Luck!

Jerome