T Nation

Training with Anterior Labral Tear


Hi all,

Sorry in advance for the long post.

First-time poster, long time lurker. I've experienced the best gains of my life in the past six months and put on about 10 pounds of lean body mass...until I lost control of the weight during dumbbell overhead presses and suffered a left shoulder subluxation around 4 weeks ago. Long story short, I did an MRI and unsurprisingly I have a labral tear (Bankart tear) which is pretty mild, but the ortho says it will never recover without surgery.

I'm in college and I can't spare the time to have surgery, although I will probably do it next summer. In te meantime, I need to work out and keep my muscle mass. I've been largely out of the gym for the past month, sticking to rotator cuff exercises with resistance bands, a few push-ups (stupid, I know, but I couldn't resist) and some light bicep work. I've been doing heavy leg exercises also, minus squats. The doc gave me the all clear to go back to lifting, with the following caveats -

  1. No overhead pressing
  2. No pullups
  3. Regular RC exercises

I really need your help to design a 3-day split that will minimize the risk of redislocation as the ortho says even with these precautions the chance of redislocation is high. I'm thinking of floor presses, bent over rows and skullcrushers as the three key upper-body mass-building/maintenance exercises. Am I being foolish? What other exercises can I do? I heard some lifters with labral tears have survived and even made gains without surgery - this apply to any of you?

Thanks so much for your advice. The past month out of the gym has been hell for me and I'm so terrified of losing everything I worked my ass off for over the years. I don't want to aggravate things but I really need to get back in the gym, the doc's words were like a knife in the heart for me. Thanks guys.


The only thing you can really do is start light and see what bothers it. I was able to bench press and do dips with little difficulty with both labrums tore. One was a SLAP and one was posterior (Reverse bankart). I could do overhead press on occasion as long as I stayed with weights I could handle for 10 reps or so. Interestingly enough, incline press was completely out for me. Pull ups bothered me some, but chin ups were fine.

Even with all that, I really only felt pain in the posterior tear. My left shoulder with the slap tear also had a rotator cuff tear, so it always lagged in strength but wasn’t especially painful. My doc actually commented that the weightlifting and added strength in the surrounding muscles was probably the only reason I was able to tolerate it.


Interesting what tedro said.
I too had an MRI and was told i have a SLAP tear. Told to stop swimming and lifting pretty much and have surgery.
After looking on here and Net, saw lots of people going against the surgery. I was in a fair bit of pain and was getting down.
I met a guy who runs a powerlifting gym, i have come from a Crossfiting background, he says he has fixed a number of people with same issues.
I took at his word and started training, i eliminated Pull Ups, and main workout is Squats or Deadlifts, Bench Press, OH press, and Rows.
8 weeks now, and pain has gone, its still feels not 100% right, BUT it getting better every week. To the point where i feel like pushing it abit more. Like the other poster, the muscles around it are certainly doing there job.