Something Bad Happened… How to Maintain Your Training While Hurt

“Something Bad Happened”


Those were the three words that came out seconds after partially tearing my left pec on March 22, 2010 while barbell bench pressing. Just over three years ago… History has a way of repeating itself. Last week I had a similar experience, but there was only one word with a lot of letters…


The Iron Sheik’s emotion and inflection matches what I was feeling:


pecfProceeding that word was a bunch of broken sentences that amounted to, “Kevin you fucking idiot.” And being the smart ass I am, I was totally right. I just partially tore my RIGHT pec. I guess that asymmetry has been corrected at least.

How is it possible after benching pain free these last few weeks and having no warning signs I could tear the opposite pec?

You see, three years ago I should have known that barbell benching might have not been the best thing for me. All dumbbell variations were A-OK and I loaded them up a shit ton. Why did I need to go back to barbell benching again? Simply because I love benching just about as much as I like caffeinated beverages (see: a lot).  It truly is hard to give up the things we love so dearly…

24 hours later I was back in the gym lifting, knocking out a lot of awkwardly loaded lower body training along with some some very slow and careful inverted rows. Why? Because we don’t let fuck ups like this (and don’t be mistaken, I gone fucked up) slow us down and keep us from doing the things we love (unless that same things causes bodily harm). Just make sure to learn the first time, and not the second like I did.

Pec Tear Rehab

I am a very lucky man to know Eric Cressey and John Pallof. Both guys are experts on the shoulder and are within 50 miles of me. When the first pec tore three years ago I gained the knowledge to survive the rehab journey without giving up the heavy weights.

Here was my checklist:

  • Regain the pain free range of motion in the shoulder 
  • No pressing on the injured pec
  • As the weeks go on and the pain goes away/tissues scars, begin soft tissue work
  • Begin to work back in some low load vertical pulling/pressing (seriously low load, keep in mind stabilizing that shoulder is going to be a bit of a challenge)
  • Don’t do anything that hurts (FOR THE LOVE OF VIN DIESLE, DON’T!)

Fast And Furious 6

What is this bullshit? I thought Dom only drank Corona? 

This checklist is going to look similar for any other minor injury you incur, just make sure you get checked out if there is some trama.

What Can I Do?

I am not going to go through every single injury that you could encounter, but the same rules still apply. We can still train around the injury while doing anything that is low risk and pain free. For example, with a torn pec I could still load up lower body lifts with vests, dumbbells in my opposite hand (no the asymmetrical loading for a few weeks won’t cause you to walk to walk sideways like gumby), and focus on more challenging unloaded lifts like single legged squats. Skipping sleds? Hell now, strap on a belt and march them out.


As I mentioned before I could still do some slow horizontal pulling movements like TRX row, unsupported DB rows (didn’t feel comfortable supporting my body with arm on the torn pec side),  cable station rows, etc.


The one exercise I am missing the most right now is the chin up. I honestly do at least one set almost every day of the week. Right now my plan is to start implementing some slow, deloaded chin ups and cable pull downs. Again, everything that is pain free and doesn’t pose a risk for reinjury is OK.


Hopefully some light overhead pressing won’t be far off. And I am still dumbbell benching and overhead pressing on my good side right now, again, no drastic atrophy will occur driving you to get pec implants to keep up with your good side.

Core work? Look ma! No Hands!


Planks are now OK 1 week out and I will move on to push up holds (plank in the finished push up position)

Take Home Points

  • Don’t do anything that hurts
  • See a specialist
  • Regain the mobility through pain free mobility drills
  • Everyone recovers at different speeds
  • Don’t be a dumbass and try to push yourself back to the lift that hurt you too fast
    • Maybe you need to abandon that movement all together?
  • KEEP TRAINING. Even if you blow out your knee or shoulder, it doesn’t mean your training life is over. Your have plenty of other healthy joints that would appreciate some strength training.


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