As many of you probably know by now, I took a four year hiatus from competing in bodybuilding to pursue strongman. Even though strength and conditioning are my main goal, symmetry and muscular development are always a focus in my training and I am not done bodybuilding just yet! I actually planned on making my return to the stage this coming September. That is, until I tore my right bicep from the bone while warming up to compete in April at my first strongman competition of the season. The very first thing that I thought of, after I realized that my arm was effed, was the fact that I had just driven four hours, and blew an entire weekend to sit at a strongman competition with ice on my arm. As I sat watching my friends lifting and carrying heavy things, I also realized that I had just destroyed my entire season of competing to include my return to the bodybuilding stage. All of the extra training that I had done over the winter just became a huge waste of time, in my head. I was getting more bummed by the minute.
So, what did I do next? Probably one of the most irresponsible things ever. I tried to jump back in the competition. The next event was deadlift and I am undefeated in deadlifting events, so I had to keep my record. I jumped right in when I was up in the rotation. I pulled 495 pounds for 17 reps in 60 seconds, winning the event. A Static farmer hold for time was up next in the order of events, each handle weighed 275 pounds. I thought, “Why not!”, and jumped in again. I won that event too. At this point, my forearm and hand were swollen and burning so I decided to quit while I thought that I was ahead. Was jumping back in a bad idea? Yes, but deep inside; I felt like I had to go out swinging.
Competing is a big part of my life, just like it is for all of you. Training for a season of competitions just to become grounded as soon as it gets started, is pretty tough to swallow. Days after the injury, I went through all sorts of emotions including a lot of self-pity. I started to feel bad for myself like someone had made me a victim. In reality, sometimes things just happen. I replayed that morning over and over in my mind, trying to figure out what I could have done differently. Hell, I still re-live that morning, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. The reality of the matter is; I tore it warming up. I actually got injured while trying to prevent injury. I had to just face that fact and come up with a plan for recovery and future training.
After I got home, I called and made an appointment to see a surgeon and got right back to training. I ended up with a very brief and rushed appointment and the surgeon said that it “wasn’t torn enough to fix”, and to “do physical therapy to strengthen what muscles that are unaffected”, because he believed that it was only a partial rupture as opposed to a full tear. This was not what I wanted to hear; I wanted it fixed, but I tried it anyway. I played with all of my lifts, figuring out what I could and could not do. I figured out that I was able to do almost everything, but that my right arm was now incredibly weak; which was to be expected based on the injury. I was able to modify how I did most things and didn’t really miss a beat. After 12 weeks of training and attempting to strengthen a partially ruptured bicep, with zero success, I called another surgeon. After a long visit and an MRI, my new surgeon told me that my tear was complete and that I would never regain strength or function without surgery. Needless to say, surgery has gotten scheduled.
A Creative Opportunity
As of writing this, I have not yet had my bicep repaired and I am still training around the injury. In many cases, an injury is not enough to ground you completely, although many people are willing to let that happen. Injuries and setbacks are very difficult to deal with but you must be able to carry on. An injury can give you an opportunity to fix a weakness or become creative with workouts. I plan on using my post-surgery recovery as a chance to make my squat stronger and I will also go back to using more machine exercises to focus on isolating individual muscle groups. This total change in training will be an opportunity to take a break from the movements that I am constantly doing and give me a chance to strengthen movements that I have not done in a while. I plan on returning to the stage next summer.