Bad athletes fear the worst injuries. This article shows a path of determination that involves minimal muscle loss. He tells the story of Tom Heyne, who came back strong after a shoulder surgery.

How it came to the injury

Tom lay on the bench and thought through his exercises as he had done thousands of times before. He was through with his three warm-up sets. Now the first training set was on. He was preparing for his first benchmarking competition in ten years. His shoulder ached, but he had learned to live with the pain. It really was not a hard professional phrase, but his head refused. So he asked a random sportsman to help him and cheer him on. Loaded were 137.5 kg. Actually, this was a simple double on his way to the targeted 150 kg. He focused on the pole after lifting it and slowly led her down to the chest. When the iron touched his chest, he felt it: a clear bang in his shoulder. His head echoed like a gymnasium. He was rigid with fear. Thankfully, his training partner knew immediately what had happened and raised his barbell. Tom sat down on the bench and grabbed his shoulder as he stared at the floor. His arm went numb. He knew something very bad had just happened. Immediately thoughts of an operation came to his head. He was worried about a future full of pain, medication, physiotherapy and, above all, lack of training sessions and thus diminishing muscle mass.

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The diagnosis

An MRI revealed that Tom's supraspinatus tendon was hanging by a "thread". In addition there was a little wear in the joint and some bone spurs. The erosion has occurred spontaneously, but the spurs came with the time and the ongoing erosion. There was only one way out: he had to undergo surgery. One week after surgery, he started physiotherapy and was back in the gym. He followed his therapist's program to increase the strength and mobility of his shoulder. The muscle training with a Rotatorenmanschette is tedious, time-consuming and boring. But it protected him from a whole cargo of problems. Tom could not do any exercise involving his right shoulder. However, he did not accept this as an excuse not to go to training at all. By no means did he just want to sit around while the profits of all his work of the past few years faded more and more. Finally, he could still train his legs, stomach, lower back, and the entire left side of his upper body. His surgeon wrapped him in a thick nylon belt with a small loop around his waist, which picked up his lower right biceps. The belt fixed his elbow to the body, which prevented his right shoulder from moving. Certainly, a one-sided training of a half of the body is not optimal and can lead to an uneven expression. But the human body is an amazing organism. He strives for symmetry, which he implements through a phenomenon called "cross education".

Cross Education

Cross Education is a process in which the untrained side of one body benefits by training the other half. While the mechanisms defined are still unclear, successes have been known since the 19th century. According to theories, it is said to be due to motor tracts and neuronal circuits, but to discuss this further would go too far at this point. Various studies have shown that one-sided strength training has a positive effect on the untrained side. That was proof enough for Tom. The untrained side not only retains its strength. Some studies have shown that even firmness can increase. In addition, a non-motile limb loses less range of motion as the opposite side is continuously moved and trained during the healing phase. Unfortunately, studies have never shown muscle growth in the untrained limbs, but at least the maintenance of muscle mass is definitely possible.

Tom's workout program

Tom worked his left side with machines, cables and dumbbells. An accessory in his collection of tricks that greatly supported him was the so-called "Globe Gripz". These ball handles, which look like tennis balls with a hole for the bar, made the difficult work on the left half of the body much more comfortable. Tom was worried that any tendonitis on the side could completely torpedo his workout. The Globe Gripz have helped him and also a little protected from wear. Once he has recovered, he has taken them in both hands to protect the shoulder permanently.

Tom's training strategies

  • He could not jog until his shoulder was restored. He continued his HIIT cardio training on the cross trainer or the ergometer.
  • Tom trained his back on a supportive lat machine and one-armed trains on the lat tower or via cable.
  • To train his chest, he chose mainly the one-armed dumbbell press. It's not easy to position a single heavy dumbbell, so he had to press his lank foot into the ground to keep his balance on the bench.
  • He worked on his left shoulder with one-arm lateral raises and press exercises. Even a one-armed dumbbell ripping was on his program to improve his momentum.
  • His forearms were shaped with wrist curls (normal and reverse). So he could continue the strength training for his grip.
  • The calves were made to glow by sitting calf raises or the so-called donkey calf raises.
  • Squats led Tom through the Smith Tower with his left hand to secure the pole. He prefers the Smith machine because he could not and would not do the squats with the bar on his damaged shoulder.

Certainly, this type of training is not so much fun. Tom always had to motivate himself to go to the studio. The biggest incentive was the thought of what would happen to his body otherwise. 

Training the injured side

After four weeks, Tom began to train his right arm with very light weights. For the biceps, he did dumbbell curls while working with cable pull exercises for the triceps. The Globe Gripz also helped him here to find the right angles and relieve the pain. After five weeks, he stopped wearing the strap that had his right arm fixed. He was determined to regain his strength. After six weeks, he was able to perform isolated hammer curls on the machine for the first time. He raised his elbow pads so no pressure on his shoulder. Finally, he was able to work his right biceps again with decent weights. For the triceps, he was also successful in a similar machine with the hammer handle. This motivated him to train properly again. After eight weeks, he started performing lying triceps stretching exercises with 7.5 kg dumbbells. A week later, he trained the push-up stand in a fully stretched posture. After ten weeks, Tom began performing the first bench press units he completed with 7.5 kg dumbbells. His right side felt weak and dictated when he had to finish the sentence. Since one tendon heals about 5% per week, he decided to use new dumbbells every week, which were 5 kg heavier than the last. Twelve weeks after surgery, Tom was able to train all the muscles of his right shoulder again. He managed to keep most of his muscle mass and felt stronger every day. These twelve weeks had demanded him both mentally and physically. His rehabilitation was successful. He could feel it. Tom was confident that he would get the rest of his strength in the following months.

Not everything is lost

Shoulder injuries are as common in gyms as sleeveless shirts. If you've been training for years, chances are you've had one such injury before, or you're in danger of getting one. If this is the case, always remember: There is always a way to train despite almost every injury. It depends only on your will. Tom discovered the hard way to keep his muscle mass as good as possible after surgery. But one thing taught him that: Prevention is a thousand times more important. Pay attention to your ego in the studio. Do your exercises with the rotator cuff if need be. But rather train more moderately than exaggerated. 


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