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An Oft-Asked Question about Shoulder Injuries

Dave Draper, Trophies on the Beach.

Second only to the gyms, the website is my favorite involvement and responsibility. Neither one of them is a thing to be possessed, but an amazing collection of people. Therefore, each is alive. Each a life of its own. I have a wife, a daughter, a grandson and granddaughter, two gyms, a website and a cat named Mugsy.

I hear Laree upstairs — a loft above the kitchen which houses our nifty home computer. She's tapping away answering email as I write our Friday newsletter to you all. We're trying to get ahead and stay ahead, like an old draft horse coming out of the first turn in the Kentucky Derby. Gotta love the horse.

Periodically Laree will call out, read a question, we'll discuss the answer and away it goes. The whole idea of email becomes absurd if I do it myself. The letter arrives in an instant and I crawl across the keyboard like a snail on drugs. Halfway through the answer I forget what the question is.

Give me a stack of lined yellow pads, a pile of number 2 pencils, my faithful electric pencil sharpener and I'm a happy camper. I like the pencil sharpener — write two or three lines and sharpen, write, sharpen, write sharpen. Cool. Sometimes I go through a pencil a page, depending on how much doodling or crossing out I do. Pencil gets down to about 2 inches, I start a new one. I save the stubs. Got three Mason jars full. Man needs a hobby.

I'm at the gyms 50 hours a week, building, fixing, training, answering questions and counseling: do this, do that, sure, maybe, I don't know, let's try something different. This is all spoken, spontaneous with eye contact, word inflection, body language and demonstration — fast, accurate, on the spot with subtle apologies for ignorance built in. The subject is before me: flesh and bone, and responses. Like stealing candy., however, is something else. In one electric sprawl of capital letters, computer talk, weird abbreviations, no punctuation and creative digit smiley faces, someone named Buster can ask a question requiring 45 minutes of my hysterical typing to answer.

Right about now if you're still with me, you're wondering, "What's the point, Draper?" I've said it before and I'll say it again, "I love the email." No email, no stimulation. Laree gets depressed, stops talking and fidgets. Drives me crazy. But we can't answer it all directly and in any detail. No time. So here's what we propose.

Since most of the questions are already considered in some form in the existing website text, I encourage you to read it. The study and experience of a lifetime are being doled our carefully as the website grows.

The research team (Laree) and I sort through the email on a daily basis. We'll zap you a thanks and the links pertinent to your Q&A. Far reaching questions requiring extended answers will be sorted out as fodder for future articles.

Each week I'll select 2 or 3 email questions and reply to them specifically in a concise way that will benefit us all and will add to the online Q&A pages.

A FAQ section is under construction and will become voluminous as time trundles on.

We'll pump some basic information into each weekly newsletter that'll be a response to the eternal bodybuilding, fitness and nutrition dilemmas we face regularly or remotely. (If you're not on the list, enter your email address into the box above, por favor.)

A Draper email discussion group is under consideration. If this proceeds according to plan, you'll soon be invited to help us with the email Q&A. Laree will moderate, I'll pitch in with answers regularly, and you'll be able to ask or answer questions from other readers.

Good, with that cleared up, let's move forward. A popular request made by cheerful muscle enthusiasts is for a shoulder routine that will build might, width and rounded muscularity. Another question, the flip side of the first and as common, is how do I approach and repair a shoulder that is injured, painful and limited. The latter, asked by grim-faced vets and innocents, is this week's subject. In the next weeks we'll consider the shoulders' brawn and girth.

The shoulders are a major trouble spot, taking abuse at every turn. We overload them as we work the biceps, triceps, chest, lats, lower back and legs. They have no place to hide. Throw a ball, shoot a basket, tackle a speeding body, take a nosedive over the handlebars and the shoulders are there being pounded, wrenched, rotated and separated.

A spill off a hillside some years ago busted my clavicle and completely tore a supra-spinatus, putting me in a cast with my right arm 90 degrees out to the side, supported by a preposterous inflated balloon. Lousy way to spend the summer. Surgery was 6 hours, recovery continues to this day. The doc — the best — said, "You do the rehab. I don't want anybody tearing out the stitches." Thanks. This is what I did:

One week after surgery I was back in the gym, cast, balloon, sling, Velcro straps, zippers — and what all. Twenty minutes on the LifeCycle was no problem. Crunches and leg raises required some improvising, movement abbreviation, but where there's a will, there's a way. Fine. From there, the first day I did my legs: extensions, curls, heavy leg presses, seated calves. It all worked well. I quickly became familiar with the regional pain and managed to isolate it.

Days two and three, upper body days, things got, um, silly, absurd, frustrating and gruesome. But that didn't stop me, I'm an elevator whose cables have been cut, ready or not, I'm comin' down. I continued my training in keeping with my developing theory to maintain body symmetry by working everything but that which was not workable. I started with light weights, left side only. I used substantial body rhythm to involve as much torso and relative muscles without excessive contraction of the muscles directly under repair. I imagined — visualized — my right side being involved. I began to feel my way around, extending my isotonic and isometric contractions to the injury perimeter. Very critical process. Wide grip pulldowns were immediately eliminated. Duh. Initially the slightest contraction was painful (good signal) and could undo what the master had skillfully reconstructed. But, hey, I'm fighting for me life here, fans of the underdog, and I have the brains of a flea.

To make a long story short, and not to further expose my neurotic obsessive behavior (NOB), in two months the cast was removed, the balloon deflated and I was on my own. The lopsided training I'm convinced helped me maintain mass, balance and total circulation. It certainly kept me occupied and hopeful, and reasonable sane. My training was never halted, only compromised. It enabled me to begin my rotation cuff rehabilitation with a headstart and confidence.

Next week I'll give you the details of the rehab process and what I learned throughout that may give you practical insight.

Click here for the second part of this column

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Click here for more on squatting with shoulder problems

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