After 20 years of competitive powerlifting, 17 of which were spent at Westside Barbell, I found myself in need of total hip replacement. Both hips were shot. I discussed all options with my doctor, Dr. Thomas Ellis M.D. of Orthopedic One, and total replacement was my only option.

On August 4, 2015, I underwent double anterior total hip replacement. To say the least, I was scared to death. I did not know what life was to be like after surgery. Was I going to be able to live a normal life after the surgery? Was I going to be able to return to lifting? As the surgery date approached, I spoke with Dave Tate and Steve Goggins as to what I should expect. They helped me mentally get through this time and assured me I would be fine after surgery. After the surgery, I was amazed at how much better I felt.

Quickly I started remembering what Louie used to say: the true test of a lifter is how they handle injury. Do they quit once they suffer injuries or do they dig in and fight to return? My first goal was to heal up from surgery. I needed to give the bones time to heal with the new joints. I waited until eight weeks post-operation to return to the gym. Up to that time I worked on stretching, flexibility, and range of motion.

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At about two weeks post-op I was able to sit well below parallel. I would sit on the chair and use the door knob to assist me standing up until I was strong enough to stand from the below parallel position on my own. I would do as many reps as I could throughout the day to build up my endurance.

Finally at eight weeks I began to head back into the gym. The first few weeks I did high box squats to start to get the feel again. My biggest issue was that the new hips had me very tight, which caused my knees to turn in. I focused on being able to push my knees out and relearned how to contract and squeeze my glutes.

Locking out a deadlift in the beginning weeks was a bitch. The more I trained, the more I regained feeling and was able to squeeze. As this all happened I concentrated on working on form, but I will admit I wanted weigh on my back to prove to myself that I was no bitch and that this shit wasn’t going to limit me. I worked on adductor and abductor work, single leg glute bridges, and isometric glute contractions for five-second holds. I also did good mornings with the jump stretch bands for resistance using high reps each day.

Each week I worked on volume occasionally working up to see how I was doing and how I would feel after. I tried everything to see what my limitations were. Glute ham raises were a no-go for quite a while but now I am back to full ability.

My limitations: jumping is a definite NO! I, like a dumbass, have tried and paid dearly for it. I am able to do jump rope for cardio without much issue. Squatting is a little different for me now. I used to be a wide-stance squatter. Since the surgery, I just do not have the ability to get my feet out very wide. My foot position is just slightly wider than shoulder width.

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Progress: At 18 weeks post-op I squatted 600 with a straight bar to a parallel box and followed it up by pulling 600 from the floor. No supportive gear was used; I only wore a pair of gym shorts. Now at 26 weeks post-op, I trained with my group who were doing circa max in prep for the Arnold Classic. We did 335, 345, 355, 365, and 375 for sets of 2 reps with 300 pounds of band tension followed by glute ham raises with toes elevated 45 degrees above the knee for 3 sets of 10.

Each week gets a little easier. My biggest focus is pushing out on my knees. The question has been asked, will I ever compete again? No, I won’t. To me, if I can’t go after a PR then it is pointless. So I look to find other ways to set records. I know the hips can never support an attempt at 1160 so I am happy just taking it day-by-day and seeing where it leads me. My primary focus now is to coach young and upcoming lifters like Joe Schillero, Mario D'Amico, and Brian Doberdruk.