Alter Your Workouts to Compensate for Knee Injury/Surgery…

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Question: I recently had surgery on my knee and have been released from medical care by my doctor and the physical therapist. I followed their recommendations and have returned to the gym but I still have difficulty putting pressure on my leg even with exercises that are for the upper body. Setting my feet for a heavy bench press is difficult at this point and some of the other exercise positions can be painful as well. Should I just take more time off and focus on the rehab that I was given?
Answer: By all means, continue to rehab your knee. That recovery process certainly has to be painful, difficult and frustrating even when you make improvements. However, you still need to return to training your upper body in spite of the issues you may encounter.
Although you may not be able to attempt your maximum lifts or train with your normal intensity, make adjustments to your form which will force the muscles you’re training get involved in a new way. For instance, on your bench press since you can’t plant your leg and drive from the floor you can simply elevate your legs above the bench which removes them as stabilizers and use a 25% lighter weight. Being unstable will stress your pectorals and assisting muscles to move and drive in a manner you aren’t accustomed to, which in turn will still stimulate growth.
Be creative with your training and maximize your results. You could even omit bench presses for a period and use another exercise like dips for your primary chest exercise. Doing dips for your upper body is comparable to doing squats for legs. They force several different muscle groups to do a lot of work and that work corresponds to growth. If your gym has chains you should hang them around your neck while you do dips for chest. Adding weight using a dip belt works almost as well for chest but also tends to work the triceps more because it keeps you from leaning into the movement as easily due to the position of the additional weight.
Lifting your legs off of the floor on other chest exercises will change them as well. On dumbbell flyes changing your foot position requires more stability from accessory muscles groups and does not require a large weight reduction.
Doing pull-ups for back with your legs stationary instead of using them to help by kicking up with your legs forces your back to work much harder.
Seated dumbbell curls instead of standing will prevent you from swinging dumbbells as easily.
Skullcrushers and my “old school” favorite, barbell pullover/presses work triceps far better than triceps pressdowns.
Seated side laterals for shoulders stops you from swinging the dumbbells eliminating most of the momentum in the exercise.
Capitalize on your injury by being creative with your workouts. It can be a time for you to make great advances with your upper body while you recover from your knee surgery.
Winners find a way and everyone has a winner inside them. It’s your choice; you can be defeated or determined.
God bless and keep training,
Daryl

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