Joe Kenn | V.P. of Performance Education
Let’s face it, injuries occur. Some are more prominent than others, but we have to be aware of their occurrence and have action plans ready and available to get back to full health in an expedient fashion. No one wants or wishes injury. Having a sensible plan to maximize efficiency and decrease recovery time is the goal.
In the case of a surgical repaired limb, we need to remember that being hurt isn’t a time to go on vacation and forget about the training process. A formulated plan coming off injury is a combination of a structured rehabilitation process for the injured area and a strength and conditioning plan. As I have recently under gone elbow surgery, I have had to revisit the process of return to play protocols. The ability to return to full speed action in the shortest period of time takes great perseverance, smart planning, and not being over aggressive in the process.
Training single limbs independently is considered uni-lateral training. Research going back over 100 years has shown the possible value of cross training as a form to help reduce atrophy as well as help to regain strength in the injured limb when cleared to perform all activities at full health.
The 1st step in the process is to make sure you have the doctors, trainers, or physical therapist’s approval to begin a training process around the injury. In my case, I was able to train as close to normal as possible, with the exception of the injured limb. When formulating the plan, the process of exercise choice is determined by how much the injured limb restricts common movement. It should also be noted to adhere strictly to the limitations given to you on the injured limb by medical professionals and follow their protocols for recovery.
Here is a typical upper body session that was performed while injured. This program is almost identical to a plan if I wasn’t injured. My lower body program’s limitations are anything in which I need my arm for support of load.
As you build out your plan for the uninjured areas of the body, be prepared to add in injured limb training as recommended and prescribed by the medical team. In my personal case, 2 weeks post op I can start light resistance work on the injured limb without loading the joint in flexion or extension. I am able to implement all single joint isolation movements patterns of the shoulder joint, lateral raises, front raises, bent raises, straight arm pulldowns etc. Implementing this into the plan will expedite the strength gains when more activity is added as well as continue to decrease atrophy. I am still developing full range of motion in the joint. I am able to add resistance for extension work, but still limited to passive static holds in flexion.
The key to return is patience! Although I personally like an aggressive approach, you have to be aware of what the limb can and cannot due at specific times. If the limb is not prepared for further progress then stay on the continued path to proper execution of the plan. When injured, surround yourself with the best team possible. I am fortunate to have had a tremendous surgeon, a top of the line physical therapist, and numerous professionals with experience with my injury to grab knowledge from.
Best success moving to full recovery.