T Nation

Torn Rotator, Programming Squat and DL


Just got diagnosed with two torn rotator cuff muscles, one is really bad, in my left shoulder. Doctor says surgery, but my physio wants to try to avoid that and work with me to see if we can get through it without going under the knife. That means no bench or press for a while. No pushing movements at all. Can't grip the bar back squatting either. I'm contemplating a buffalo or SSB purchase, but Id like to try before I buy somehow.

I can deadlift fine, heavy, no pain. Conventional and sumo. Front Squat is fine. Trap bar feels fine.

Can anyone recommend a template emphasizing the above movements, or a way to program them, without any pressing days? As many training days as possible, I was recently alternating squats and DLs each workout, 4-5 training days a week, without a problem recovering.

I need to be training, this shoulder problem is just the latest in a line of life shitting on me this past year and training, heavy, keeps me sane. I need a plan. Help?


Getting a SSB was the best purchase I made.
After surgery when the shoulder could finally handle pressure I just did smolov (lighter than a true max) + PT exercises Just to get tons of leg work in while I couldn’t press or deadlift.

Which muscle is tore?


Subscapularis is torn, but its the supraspinatus that is really bad.

Yeah, I’m just looking for the best way to hit my squat and DL (or legs and back) as hard as possible, as often as possible, during this time and I will do the PT everyday regardless of what I’m actually training.


Gonna need to get that fixed mate. I had full thickness tears in both supraspinatus’. I’m finally pain free, lived with my left torn for over 15 years(didn’t know, just figured it was wear from lifting) then tore my right in feb 14’ at a comp. That’s when the figured out I had the exact same thing on the other side.
I so didn’t want surgery but the pain got worse, especially laying down. Had right fixed end of feb 14 and left 4 mo later (left re-tore and was fixed feb 15)

I measured everything before surgery in feb 14, I am now back to the same size and my legs are actually bigger even though I haven’t deadlifted for over a year.

Have it looked into and if you need surgery, do it. The sooner its fixed the quicker you can come back.

The down time sucked but because of my left I had lived with shoulder pain for almost two decades. I’m now pain free.

oh also, couldn’t use SSB at first obviously because it sits on the shoulder so I bought a squat belt and stood on boxes and did squats with the weight hanging for the hips.


In the meantime try band pullaparts, making sure to keep your shoulders down and not allow them to raise up as you pull. 5 sets of 20 every day.


If you have the time and the co-pays aren’t too bad, get some second opinions. I ended up going through a couple years of shoulder PT on and off before finally getting surgery. Before the surgery I think I had 3 orthos look at it, and they were not all in agreement. It sucks spinning your wheels when surgery’s the only thing that can fix it, but at the same time if you’re thinking of going under the knife you want to make damn sure that’s the right thing to do.


The physio and I have been through a bad disc herniation together, where again the docs were all telling me surgery, and he helped me avoid it. So I think that’s why he is suggesting that I can maybe recover from this; hes seen me work before.

He has me doing lots of rotator cuff work, internal and external rotations with bands etc, through ROM that does not hurt. Wants me to hit my biceps from incline postions etc with a bit of a stretch to it. Stability work on a physio ball, short ROM push ups and stir the pot movements on an unstable surface. And lots of rowing of all sorts. I can row pain free as long as its too my hips, as soon as my elbow raises laterally I have pain and weakness.

I’ll give him 4-6 weeks, where I will do the PT everyday, and see if I make any progress before I will consider surgery. So far I can sleep on my other side pain free, and have been able to work, so I dont feel I need to rush to the OR.

I would like to keep training my squat and DL though, ideally 3-4 times a week. Just wondering how to program for essentially lower body only for a couple of months.


I’ve run smolov for front squat. It works.