View Full Version : One-arm lifts during shoulder rehab?

Carl Herzog
03-11-2004, 05:33 AM
When faced with a shoulder injury (one side only) that calls for 2-3 months rest, what do you think of trying to preserve as much of the character of the WOD as possible by substituting dumbell/kettlebell moves using the good arm when the workout calls for two-arm movements - swings, thrusters, snatches, cleans, etc.?

Maybe even one-arm chins with assistance?

Alex Kus
03-11-2004, 09:42 AM
I remember reading some articles, when I tore my rotator cuff, on unilateral(one sided) exercises and the strength transfer to the non-working arm/leg. They said that even the non-working arm/leg gains strength, although not at the same rate, around 30-60% if I remember correctly. Plus, when you do unilateral exercises your body has to balance itself during the exercise, working support muscles more. The WODs already include one armed lifts on occasion as well. So, in my opinion it would be a good idea to continue with one-armed WODs.

Larry Cook
03-11-2004, 11:48 AM
I remember reading some similar things and think, in general, one-sided (unilateral) movements are fine. As someone who suffers from chronic left shoulder pain, I have never experienced any downside to doing one-armed anythings. However, be sure to include something to offset as best as possible the one-sided impact on other parts of the body for balance and flexibilty reasons. For instance, certain one-armed exercises will also stress one side of your core and your lower body more than the other. In order offset this a bit, maybe do one-legged squats with the less stressed side. While not normally considered in the same vein as many of the exercises here, both golf and baseball (hitting) are very unilateral movements (and both actually very explosive and athletic in their own right). You will find that all top performers in these two events do make sure to work from both directions to maintain balance and flexibility and reduce the likelihood of injury.

Brian Hand
03-11-2004, 01:34 PM
I think training KB's and olympic lifts with the db's one sided is a bad idea. Besides the imbalance you will exacerbate between your shoulders, you'll also create an imbalance in your core muscles. That's not good for anyone (except maybe your chiropractor.)

Don't put too much stock in that theory that the other side grows when you exercise one side. If there is any such effect, it is miniscule, and probably due to hormonal changes. I bet hard squatting would make your left arm grow more than right hand presses, and neither will do much.

Working around the injury, you can certainly do all you need to for your core, lower body, grip, and upper arms. You can work on aerobic capacity as much as you want.

Your upper body pushing and pulling will be back to normal in six months. I think it would be best to suck it up and rest both sides - you'll be better off in the long run.

Ryan Atkins
03-11-2004, 02:18 PM

Personally, I think a mixed approach is best (but I'm not a doctor or physical therapist, so you may want to take this with a grain of salt). I'm recovering from ACL surgery and face many of the same issues you are (albeit with the lower extremeties).

Some days I'll modify the WOD to a one-legged version (changing squats to attempts at left legged pistols, for example). I do this because I've read somewhere that performing resistance exercises using the unaffected limb will help recuce atrophy in the limb that is impaired. Sounds similar to the theory Alex was talking about.

Other days I'll involve my recovering leg, but only at intensities that it can handle. This usually means broomstick/perfect world training for the O-lifts and their variations. In a way, I treat it as physical therapy for my right knee and regard it as a great oppurtunity for practicing keeping my heels on the floor for the lifts.

When the doctor says 2-3 months rest, is he telling you no movement whatsoever or just non-weight bearing movement?

Best of luck to you in a quick, healthy recovery,


Carl Herzog
03-11-2004, 04:49 PM
The current prescription is no resistance training that involves movement of the shoulder until I see a therapist and then follow his direction at that point, which isn't likely to include anything strenuous for a while.

Thanks, Ryan, mixing it up may indeed turn out to be best. Regardless of the approach, previous experience tells me developing some imbalance is inevitable. Maybe the right approach would be to emphasize the endurance-type moves and avoid most of the strength work.

By the way, Ryan, It's been about 10 yrs since getting my ACL done and I have been following your recovery with some interest. It sounds like you are progressing marvelously.