Training Before/After Surgery

I’ve got a pretty big question for anyone and everyone willing to take time to respond. I would appreciate as little or as much input as you would like to give. Here goes…

First, a little history: I’m 20, almost 21 years old. I currently weigh 180 lbs with 5% body fat (using skin caliper method, averaged out over 5 different tests). I have not worked out since November of 2003, and will not be able to lift again until May of 2005. I lifted from the age of 17-20, making significant gains. I have no problem putting on muscle, nor losing weight. When I was lifting hard, I was right on track. Initially, I was 5’10", 140 lbs, 7% body fat. Within two years I had jumped up to 235 lbs, 12% body fat, same height (and that does not include the numerous diet-downs I did).

However, I just had shoulder surgery on my right shoulder, and will have the left shoulder done this Christmas of 2004. The reason I had to have the first (and then the second) surgery is because I played water polo and swam my whole life. The serious wear and tear on my shoulders was ridiculous. Currently I am in physical therapy for the right, recovering right on track.

Now, if you’re still with me, thanks! My first question is this: considering I cannot lift any upper body, WHAT THE F DO I DO IN THE MEAN TIME? Cardio? If I work my legs out, they’ll blow up. Abs? All suggestions are appreciated.

My second question: what would you recommend when coming back to bodybuilding? It seems like so long ago since I had not been in a regular routine of lifting, like when I first started at 17. (Yeah, I’m young, hence my name.) I have written some plans for coming back to the sport, but I just would like to here what you all have to say about it. I’m talking specifics. Sets x reps? How long should I keep it “easy”? Do not worry about the doctor approving me going back to lifting; I told him I would be even before I had the first surgery at the end of May, so he’s all for it.


If you guys could help me out, I’d appreciate it. I know that my “debut” back into lifting is a ways off, but, what can I say? I’m a planner! Thanks!

I’m not sure what kind of shoulder surgery you had (and are going to have). I had a complete rotator cuff recon on my left shoulder in Nov 2001 (a nasty bone spur/hook that was slicing through my rotator cuff) and my right shoulder “decompressed” in Sept 2003. I’m assuming that you are having physical therapy as part of your rehab (which will include weight lifting). Your physical therapist can probably give some good advice on when to start going hard again.

Also, It may be harder than you think to concentrate on legs. One of the LAST exercises that I could do was barbell back squats ( holding the bar in place requires more flexability in your shoulder then you realize).

And finally a word of caution. After my first surgery, I decided it was a great opportunity to concentrate on one of my weakpoints, my calves. I started out with one of Ian King’s twice-a-week 6-week calf programs and did it three times a week for 3 months. I gained an inch and one-half on my calves, but I also ended up with severe plantar facitus in both feet. I ended up getting two cortisone shots in my left foot and one in my right (not a pleasant experience). My cardio and leg training came to halt for several months(got depressed and got fat). My advice is to take it slow while you’re healing, don’t try to overcompensate for not being able to work upperbody, and just do the minimum to stay in shape until you get cleared by your doctor/PT.