T Nation

Working Out After Shoulder Surgery.

I’m having rotator cuff surgery shortly. The doctor estimated 8 weeks out of the gym, and 10-12 before I can really lift again. Trying to figure out what the best course of action is.

I’m currently at 5’11, 191 lbs, 11% bf. I was considering using the downtime to cut to 8% or so, and get abz of steelz, but I’m worried that being in a caloric deficit will hasten the inevitable muscle degradation from such a long gym absence.

Any specific way to eat to maintain as much muscle as possible, without becoming Chunky McChunky? I figure I’ll go to the gym and hammer the leg press. I can’t squat, because I won’t be able to move the right arm up to grip the bar. I might do limited exercises with my left arm, although I’d like to avoid becoming clearly asymmetrical.

If you have any advice for the proverbial one-arm workout, or nutritional guidelines if I’m just working out legs every 3-4 days, then I am all ears. Thanks again.

I was in your same situation about 8 months ago. I was 6’2" 185 at about 9% before my surgery. I thought, “hey, I’m going to lose muscle anyways, might as well get as cut as I can.” In retrospect, it was kinda stupid, as I probably went down 1% BF, if any, and it felt like most of the weight was muscle. I was out of lifting for about 3 1/2 months and got down to 161 pds.

Needless to say, I looked like a holocaust survivor. Getting cut is great, if you can continue to lift heavy weights; howver, if that isn’t possible, you’ll shrivel away. I’m not so sure what would have happened if I just ate maintenance. I’m sure I would have still lost muscle, just not as much probably.

I will say this however; my surgery was August 7, 2006, I weighed 162 when I started lifting weights again on November 25, and today I just weighted in at 178. I gained 16 pds. of damn near pure muscle in 4 months.

My advice would be to just maintain cals and do legs. Muscle loss will be inevitable no matter what you eat. If you really want to cut, just realize that a lot of the weight that is going to be coming off will be muscle, not fat.

The upside to doing either of the above is that once you start lifting again, the muscle comes back FAST. Also, in regards to lifting with one arms, DON’T DO IT. Trust me man, my right arm is still about an inch bigger than my left, and now that they are decent size (for a normal person, not a T-Nationer) it is finally not really noticeable.

For a while there, it was pretty goofy looking, and I never worked out my right arm by itself. I can’t imagine how asymmetrical I would have looked if I would have.

Good luck with the surgery; no matter what you decide, if you are dedicated once you can start working out again, the results will come quickly - gotta love muscle memory.

Oh, and I should have mentioned, when the doctor says “lift” he means the pink and baby blue dumbells, not the iron. I started “lifting” 2 1/2 months after my surgery, however, I didn’t even step into a gym until 3 1/2 months after.

That sucks, man. I’m basically in a similar situation right now.

Although I haven’t gone for the MRI yet, I’m pretty sure I reinjured my shoulder, retearing my labrum. Up until the surgery, I can probably do some curls and tricep extensions for upper body and that’s about it. Kinda shitty, and I never really care enough to do curls, but I probably will now.

Since I have a really hard time not squatting but still can’t get the bar on my back with my shoulder, I bought Dave Draper’s Top Squat device last year. Run a google search for it; it’s like 100 bucks and it let’s you squat painfree, although in a slightly altered style.

Since I have a hard time just “maintaining” anything, I’ll probably go onto a leg specialization plan as much as I can. Good luck.

-Matt

Don’t try to cut post surgery – your body needs proper nutrition to heal. It makes a difference. I would pay special attention to getting all your vitamins and enough protein.

Get enough sleep if possible, and be diligent – but patient – with your rehab.

I’ve not had shoulder surgery, but do speak from unfortunate experience on each of the above points. I will say, too, that I noticed a huge difference in how quickly I was able to recover from an injury when eating like shit and pulling all-nighters for school and when eating better and sleeping decently.

Good luck. I think your idea about working out your legs is good as long as you don’t lift in a way that jeopardizes your shoulder.

I had RC surgery on Jan 10 and it sucks. As others have said, just do as much legs as possible. I am squatting right now 8 weeks after surgery but with the safety squat bar. It is the only reason that I can squat.

It feels so good to do something again, even though the weight is so light. The ss bar takes a little getting used to, but god do I feel like a lifter again.