I've just begun following your and Diane's column on bodybuilding for baby boomers. I was an amateur and non-competitive bodybuilder in my twenties. I got away from it for a good 15 years or so until about 2 years ago when I regained the itch, and frankly, was feeling like an 80 year old 40 something.
All was going well until this weekend. 15 years ago I had worked up to A 350 lb bench press, and one of my strength goals was to be able to bench 300 again this calendar year. I had begun increasing my weights and decreasing my reps, and was focusing on doing sets of 2's, 4's and 6's for the past several weeks, but only training chest once each week to allow for recuperation. I was also eating 6-8 small meals each day, and frankly was looking and feeling great.
Last week I benched 270x4 reps, so I knew I could do 300lbs again. Yesterday was the day, was going to be my day of glory, and for a span of about 5 minutes it was. I had stretched out, and had done 4 warm-up sets: 135x12, 205x6, 250x1 and 275x1, and frankly I felt like King Kong. 275 felt great and I knew I had 300. 300x1 went up great, there was never any doubt! But then I thought I could probably do more, maybe 315 or 310.
I loaded 315 and after several minutes gave it a shot. I ended up tearing my right pec, and pretty badly I'm afraid. I'm awaiting an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to determine the extent of the injury. I went to a local ER and they didn't really know what to make of it, it's just not what they treat.
Today my chest shoulder and biceps are turning purple - the blood from ruptured muscle, I can only hope there's no damage to any tendons or ligaments.
The biceps seems ok, but the pec itself is pretty useless. And frankly, I'm really depressed about all of this. I'm sure this is going to be a fairly major setback in my training efforts.
So I guess I can no longer live in denial, I'm almost 43, I'm not 26. My question for you, if you have a moment to answer it, once this heals, Does this mean that I should put my dream of benching 350-400 lbs away for good? I feel I'd always be apprehensive (ok afraid) of re-tearing this area of my chest if I start doing heavy weights and low reps again.
Paul C. Worcester, Massachusetts
Wow! Did I empathize with your letter! I have ruptured the tendon of The long head of the biceps AND the entire quadricep tendon. Talk about setting my training back!
The bicep tear happened a couple of years ago but the quadriceps tendon tear happened a year ago. The bicep will never look the same and neither will my left leg. Now I am training well again and have even leg pressed 800 lbs. Yet I only recently have begun squatting again (only up to 275 lbs. so far).
Only your doctor can answer some of your questions. DON'T GIVE UP! Let's hope that the tendons are fine. Men younger as well as older than you have had muscle tears and gone on to compete in bodybuilding and Powerlifting contests.
Hang in there and let me know what the doctor says. One thing any Lifter will say is to go easy on singles! They are very dangerous.
My advice for injuries is always pay attention to the doctor (which I rarely do) and gradually work back into a routine. Just getting some blood into the area is of primary importance at first, not regaining strength losses. Unless the injury is healed, it may be damaged by a zealous return to rigorous training. Besides, any return to training, even after a vacation let alone an injury, should include a gradual return to the layoff training level. Sounds elementary, but I can't believe how many people attempt to go right back to maniac routines without giving the body an adjustment period.
I am a 52 year-old female in relatively good shape. I have been weight training for the past 6 years. A trainer set me up with my schedule: 4-day alternating upper then lower body workouts on free weights. This has been good for me and works well with my schedule. I have changed my routines over the years but still keep this alternating schedule. I now have the free weights set up at home and my husband is using them now, which is great.
My problem is I have somehow injured my wrist/thumb and have a radial nerve problem (nerve pain on the inside of my thumb and index finger). I was diagnosed not having carpal tunnel syndrome so it was decided that I must have done something during training although I don't recall a specific time. The conclusion is that with rest (not working out) I will be back to normal. I have been looking for a good protective glove to use when I can resume my routines.
I was looking for something with rigid support on the inside of the palm and also thumb - something that would help distribute weight/stress on my hand. I did find a plastic support used by gymnasts but it would only be good for the palm. I cannot find anything in the stores or on the internet. Is there such a thing?
Tina B. Little Rock, Arkansas
My first bit of advice is to keeping looking for the answer to your medical problem. I'm glad to hear the doctors have ruled out carpal tunnel syndrome, but remain concerned about the nerve problem you are mentioning. Richard had a problem with his ulna nerve several years ago. Once the nerve is damaged and dies, it doesn't regenerate.
Last year I had some soft tissue damage in my wrist from mishandling 45 pound plates. Some exercises put too much stress on my wrist, so I had to get creative and work around the injury. EZ curl bars were a huge help as I could vary the angle, therefore, changing the stress load on the injured area.
I found a pair of gloves by Altus that had wrist wraps built into the glove. Typically, I prefer to use the smallest, most flexible gloves I can find, just to keep from getting calluses on my hands. But, those wrist wraps were a lifesaver during that recuperation period.
A proactive stance towards injury prevention is important once we hit our 40s and above. So, heal your wrist, Tina, and then be diligent about adding barbell wrist curls into your lifting routine. I know that most women avoid these exercises like the plague, but it really is important to work all bodyparts on a regular basis.
Copyright 2002. Diane Fields, Member Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved. The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.