Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Training around my Bad Knee

So, here I am:  I've got a torn ACL in a left knee along with a hairline tear in my meniscus and bone bruises.  It's still swollen too much to straighten, several weeks after I fell at work.  I've been on crutches since then and I watch my left quadriceps shrivel into a straw from lack of use.   That's been particularly distressing considering how much time I spent awake at 5:00 am so I could push my pick-up truck on the road where I reside lately.  In other words, it's been nearly a month and a half of nearly unmitigated suck as I've tried to maintain some semblance of a normal life. 
Kind of looks like a meat donut. royally sucks!
Relevant to why you're here:  my training has changed radically.  Basically, I can't (or should I say shouldn't?) train my legs, lower back and do much in the way of abdominal work either.  Failure to adhere to these rules will either cause my knee to make these disturbing clicking noises, pain, or the sensation that my knee will collapse on me  Prior to this hideous set-back, I trained like the proud primate that I am.  I did as much standing  or hanging from something as I could, avoiding almost everything sitting or lying down like it was the scourge of humanity.   Clearly, I've had to adjust. 

Now I've had to do what I've spent years avoiding:  training like a dog.  I have to sit or lay down a lot more if I have any expectations of maintaining a (somewhat) daily regimen of sweat and pain.  I could just play dead and not train.   Yeah, that's not really my style. After all, it's just one leg that's screwed up.  So what if I can't squat?  I've still got my upper body intact.  That was what I thought after the first week of living on the couch while trying to rest my knee. I figured I could attack my weights with some of my original enthusiasm for muscular awareness via pain and suffering. 

That was a mistake.  After doubling up on what I planned on doing at the beginning of the workout, I could barely keep myself upright and moving on crutches.  I learned from that experience.  I have to try to leave something in the tank so I can at least move around afterwards.  After all, my upper body has to move the rest of me for the forseeable future and going too hard makes me move like a drunk afterwards.

Note to myself:  Don't get drunk when I'm still on crutches.  It'll make me move like I've done too much pressing. 

One issue with weights is that I can't use very imposing quantities of weight since I have to be mindful about how I can get it into position.  So, I am left with figuring out how to find stuff I can do that provides a challenge without a big chunk of weight.  So, I have to do mostly upper body stuff and embrace the concept of not going 115.625%.   So, what have I been doing?

Al Kavadlo has a good explanation of  this movement same place I scrounged this picture
 For some reason, when this all happened, Lat pullovers jumped into my head.  That struck me as a pretty comprehensive movement that I could do on the ground with a  kettlebell.  The pullover seems to be poised to make a comeback in popularity since I've been seeing people mention it a bit more here and there.  The pullover used to be an incredibly popular move back in the turn of the 20th century for weight trainers to get a barbell off the ground and into a position where they could do the equally-forgotten floor press.  Obviously, the rise in the popularity of the bench press prompted a receeding interest in the pullover, despite the fact that Frank Zane used this move religiously with legendary results.

Another that I thought of was a press variation that Zydrunas Savikas allegedly does where he sits down with this legs straight in front of him.  I had to modify that just a bit since I can't straighten my left leg even on the ground, but it worked out just the same.  I just put my larger sandbag under both my knees and press my smaller sandbag for higher reps.  The legs in front positioning makes smaller weights feel bigger than they are.  In other words, its a press variation that will wash the douchebag out of your system.  It's also good for getting rid of that bad habit of leaning back to get the weight overhead.  Getting your upper body more parallel to the ground will always make a press easier but it's not always spine-friendly.  Try that with this press variation and you'll end up flat on your back.

Bodyweight's a little different these days too.  Kewl trainer and gym owner Chip told me that I'd end up becoming a pull-up junkie with my leg being bad. He doesn't seem to have been wrong either.  Although I've shied away from going high volume.  I've re-examined oddball variations of pull-ups that limit me to moderate volume.  
  1. Typewriter/around the world pull-ups aka the most humiliating pull-up I attempt to do.  These are the ones that once getting to the top of the bar, you shift your bodyweight from one arm, over to the other, back to the middle, and down. 
  2. Swinger pull-ups...or the reason why I've torn every callus on my hands at least twice.  This is a dandy if you want to test grip strength on a regular thickness pull-up bar.  At the bottom of the pull-up, let go with one hand and hang there (or swing around if you want to) for a second before grabbing the bar, pulling up, and repeating the process with the other hand.  The only drawback is the sacrifices to the callus Gods that I make when I do this one.  Still, it's as much fun as it is brutal on the grip.
  3. Or, just a plain vanilla close-grip pull-up, slowing down the upwards pull, holding for a second at the top, then repeating the process. 
Regardless of which I do, I end up super-setting them with straight bar dips.  After all, the park where I'm set up working has a pull-up bar and then another bar next to it, lower to the ground.  I figured it was a natural for such a dip variation.  Besides, before this all went down, I had progressed to getting two muscle-ups in a row with a modest, non-Crossfit kip.  Clearly kipping is out of the question now but I figured straight bar dips might help me hold onto my muscle-up capabilities.  Time will tell. 
Another Al pic to the rescue...
I've tried to throw in a lot of work on my upper back and shoulders.  It's not simply because it's a part of my body that I can train without consequence to my knee.  I noticed that its almost unavoidable to not spend a lot of time leaning over in a slouched manner when you've got crutches.  So, I figured that this would help a little with my posture. 

Which brings me to something else that I wish had been explained to me in the hospital when I got my crutches:  how to adjust them properly!  If you ever find yourself in my position, never rest crutches in your armpits!  The pad are meant to be just below, around where lat begins to flare out.  So, adjust to that height.  Pinch that between your torso and your arms.  The handles should be adjusted so they are at the junction of the wrist and hands when your arms are at your sides.  If you spend any amount of time moving with crutches, do yourself a favor and thicken the handles up.  I used athletic tape on mine.  You can buy extra pads too for this purpose.

Overall, this all sucks and I eagerly await my surgery.  Life has to be adjusted accordingly and I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to do before I have to do it since I don't move so well right now.   My training has followed suit.  It's not what I want to do but it's what I can do and I'm going to make the most of it.

1 comment:

Davidn1978 said...

Good luck with your recovery Justin! I've been following your blog for years, big fan of what you do and from what I've read in the past you'll continue to kick ass!