I wanted to do this for a while now. Most forums are pretty black and white basically posting a cookie cutter routine up in the stickies with minimal explanations. I’m all about the explanations (the many shades of gray) because I’m a firm believer in the saying, “The devil lies in the details”. The best way I know how to open up about my thought process when formulating templates and anticipating all the why’s is to essentially think out loud while elaborating about why I choose certain things or programming. Does my situation (two major surgeries) apply to you? Most likely not. However, there’s a lot that can be gained by reading through all of this and following my thought process. Maybe you’ll find yourself needing to work around a recent injury and can’t quite pull the trigger on some adjustments or a totally new plan of attack? Maybe you lack perspective (experience) and need to adopt a different mind set altogether? Or perhaps you’re just completely utterly lost in the sauce and view training in terms of doing one big name program after another.
After a few weeks off from knee surgery, I plotted a solid plan of attack to get me back to training hard without the knee (or back for that matter) getting in my way. When it comes to training, and I think I speak for everyone here, it’s either go hard or don’t go at all. So I’m continuing to slowly bring up my lower spinal area following the microdiscectomy while at the same time being mindful of what stressors I place on my knee joint as I wait for that to heal up after going under the knife getting that puppy scoped. Fortunately, prior to my knee surgery, there was a period of a few months where I built myself back up after a grand total of 2.5 months bed rest. After a lot of hard work I peaked myself out to averaging roughly 150 pull-ups per week, benching 315, and running a 7:30 mile. Not bad all things considered! The training was never written in stone per say. My focal point was breaking up my training into three parts: Warm-up / Core Strength, Strength Circuit (mostly machine based to start but eventually gravitated towards free weights as my back allowed), and the cool down (foam rolling, active stretches, ect).
To get back into training w/out training legs, I opted for a chest/shoulder/triceps (push) and back/biceps/abs (pull) with direct and indirect yoke/neck work on all days. Exercise selection would focus on things like chest supported rows and things of that sort which removes a lot of stress off the knee. As the weeks progressed, and my knee could handle more as it continued improving, I increased the variety of exercises I chose to incorporate.
The following is what I’m currently doing right now. I’m mostly running a 5/3/1 style of progression where I’d cycle volume and intensity for 6 total weeks using the same exercises, do a heavy style deload (3 x 3), then rotate exercises. The main key is to continue slowly progressing the main lifts.
Incline Press (5/3/1, RP first set) + Speed Rope between all sets (120)
Reverse Bench (90)
Floor Paused Triceps Extensions (60)
a1) Upright Rows (no rest)
a2) DB Lateral Raise (60)
Iso Prone Abs (front/side/side/front) (no rest)
Deadlift (5/3/1, first set SS F) (60-90) <- No need for long rest periods since it’s REALLY reduced.
a1) Chest Supported Rows (no rest)
a2) Abs Wheel (60)
b1) Neutral Grip Pull-ups (no rest)
b2) Neck Harness (flex) (60)
Standing Press (5/3/1, first set RP) (90-120) + Speed Rope between all sets (120)
Weighted Dips (90)
a1) DB Shrugs (no rest)
a2) Reverse Pec Dec Flyes (90)
Incline Tate Press (45-60)
Hanging Leg Raises
Wide Chins (5/3/1, first set RP) (90)
Widegrip Cable Rows (no rest)
Neck Harness (ext) (60)
a1) Standing Rope “J” Pulldowns (no rest)
a2) Kneeling Abs Pulldowns (60)
Alternating Hammer Curls (60)
This is my first six week block. I’m doing a lot more volume than I’m used to as everything shown ranges between 3-5 sets per exercise. The key is to provide a balanced approach. For example, on my push days, I always follow the main exercise with a triceps dominant press. Push 1 I consider my “ME Day” so I’ll keep the reverse bench closer to a 5×5, 4×6, ect. Push 2 I consider my “RE Day” so the order of the day for dips would be 5 x 8-10 reps static or pyramid, ect.
This program has been running extremely well EOD (every other day) only three days per week. Once my knee has improved enough to where I’m able to start back up on my legs training, the overall template will remain the same, especially since I’ve been gaining A LOT of muscle mass back on my upper body. For legs, I’ve decided that it makes no sense changing what I’m doing programming wise. Instead, I’m going to add another fourth day to the rotation where I START to spend time building back up my legs starting with isolations such as curls and extensions and begin with easier exercises such as elevated heel touches or step-ups. Even spending a good amount of time on a recumbent bike with increasing resistance would really work to improve the surrounding tissue around my knee joint as well as gain back some of the muscle that’s atrophied.
This isn’t an overnight project as I take recovery very seriously, especially so after two big surgeries. By slowly incorporating more and more legs into my plan with all else remaining static, I should continue seeing a lot of results w/out re-injury. Once I’m to the point to where I CAN start to do heavier exercises like free squats, I will start plugging legs into my pull days as a focal point to continue progress. Shouldn’t take forever, but I’m already doing floor deadlifting 5 weeks post-op with zero issues keeping it really reduced just getting the work in.