The Process of Shoulder Repair

Dave Draper, Malibu rocks

A week ago we talked about the development of an email discussion group as a bright solution to the terrific influx of Q&A's. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Many of you know the egroup IronOnline is up and running and appears to be, by virtue of your presence, popular. So popular, in fact, that many email subscribers within 24-48 hours unsubscribed, presumably overwhelmed (ahem) by the Q&A that poured into their tiny inbox.

Here at the Bomber Research Clinic our biggest fear is failure. Second is that the questions we receive for discussion are the bodybuilding equivalent of "why is the sky blue?" or "where do little baby rabbits come from?" As it turns out, you are an intelligent group, indeed. This has spawned yet a third and larger fear, the fear to reply and be uncovered as a fake. I'm happy as long as we don't talk about drugs, sex, rock and roll and bubble gum.

In reading last week's newsletter to remind me of the direction of this week's, I realized it was very long and promised info on shoulder rehab, girth and brawn. Do you folks read this stuff or do you sort of skim thru? Is it like sitting down to a giant burrito — you take a couple 'a big bites and then start rolling back the tortilla as you pick thru the rice and beans lookin' for the meat? Reminds me, I've got a can of tuna and some spring water waitin' for me before I go to bed. Gotta get lean and mean. The latter, no doubt.

Shoulder rehabilitation. The advice I offer is always qualified by the sentiment, if not the statement, "This is what I would do if I were you." Last week's point was — work through it all and you'll heal sooner. Why? Food for thought, my guesses...

Systemic response

Anabolic and anti-catabolic properties of circulation

Healing nutrients and oxygen supplied by the blood


Endorphin and hormone production

Tender loving care factor

Psychology of proactive, positive steps toward recovery

Goals — motivation stimulus

Maintenance of attitude

Stemming of stress and submission

Social interaction keeping you engaged, involved, fulfilled, directed and attuned

You're doin' it

Seriously, unless you have a concussion, you're bleeding or beyond reasonable mobility, there are no excuses, are there?

Okay. The cast is off, sling nearby in the gym bag like a security blanket. You feel naked, vulnerable and not the slighted bit curious about the degree of movement your misbehaving shoulder conceals. What's the rush?

The first thing I did was find the most private corner of the gym so it was me only. Selfish, undistracted, unself-conscious, focused. I supported my injured right shoulder by holding it at the elbow, bent forward at the waist as if preparing to do a dumbbell row and slowly lowered the arm so it hung there by its own weight. Amazing — I imagined the internal stitching and reconstruction to be delicate and the shoulder not yet ready to be released from its nest. 30 seconds of hanging with a small circular motion the size of a plate and it began to throb — 1 set down, 4 to go. Enough for one day.

Within a week I progressed from a 5 pound plate to a ten pound dumbbell and was doing five sets of 25, clockwise and counter clockwise circles: gravity and me in full sight of wiseguy gym members offering me a spot if I needed it. Each evening at home I stood before a stucco wall, placed my hand against the textured finish and used my fingers to walk my hand up the wall much like the movement of a disturbed caterpillar bound for the ceiling. Tough stuff. Your main focus is to get movement and range of motion as soon as possible, and prevent scar tissue from limiting your shoulder rotation without damaging it. You wonder where the fine line between healthy therapy and damage resides. Pain is the moderator. 5 sets of finger walking as high as you can go — higher, higher still, knocks you out. Instinct, intelligence, caution and risk are the balls you juggle like a frowning circus clown.

Now I grab a broomstick, over grip as if ready to reverse curl and with stiff arms raise the bar before me, my strong arm leading and assisting in the action. I start and complete the movement with broomstick parallel to the floor. Another four sets of 8-10 reps is sufficient, each successive set giving me greater height. It's a long time before I'm standing with arms straight overhead. Three weeks and it's getting easier, more volume of reps, more aggressive, more determined and the pain a factor defined, accepted and understood. No longer an enemy, diminishing now.

The first major exercise I'm able to perform is the famous inner and outer rotation with a rubber band or exertube. You know the drill, you stand rigid with your arm by your side, bent at the elbow and rotate your hand in toward the body and alternately rotate your hand away from the body. (4 sets of 25 reps - both left and right) Five years ago this exercise combination was seldom witnessed at World Gym and was considered for saps only.

Today we have a dozen multicolored tubes of various tensions being pumped in every corner of the gym giving it the appearance of an amusement park. This movement is serious, deserves focus and one hundred percent effort. It does wonders to develop the minor rotation cuff muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder and provide resistance and muscle fullness. The usual presses and laterals don't effect the shoulder straps and require their loyal and tenacious support to help you blast away. Delts need to be warmed up and treated kindly. Do these cuff rotations regularly to maintain health and achieve full deltoid potential. I dare 'ya.

The valley of injury recedes as I climb the foothills towards the summit. I'm now prepared for an empty bar and small dumbbells and the first steps of real weight lifting. Here I recollect and I begin as a beginner. Humbling. God's speed.

If you didn't already catch it, here's last week's article

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