In the sport of powerlifting (and probably many other strength sports) there’s no such thing as bouncing back from a serious injury, especially if that injury involved a heavily loaded barbell bending downwards at both ends. I grazed this topic briefly in a previous article after my own personal experience rehabbing various injuries that tested, above all else, my mental strength and desire to continue in this sport. However, I was recently inspired by a Q&A question that was sent to me from a guy named Code. He asked:

I tore the Sternal Head of my pec at the Musculotendinous Junction while decline bench pressing. Unfortunately, I did not have it surgically repaired and have struggled to stay physically active ever since. My shoulder isn't stable and has created a lot of imbalance and discomfort. It's depressing to have such a large loss of strength keeping me from being as active as I’d like, but it hasn't seemed to slow down the likes of you or Dave Tate. Makes me wonder if either my tear created more of a structural deficit, you two are true beasts, or if I am just a bitch. Regardless, after seven years, this issue has created a lot of emotional instability. Do you have any tips you can share for working out with a torn pec and building overall strength to support the body?

The reason why this question hit home for me is because I suffered the same injury and fought a grueling mental battle against it. I know exactly how it feels to endure a massive loss of strength, all the while knowing everyone around me is thinking, "Its a pec tear, what’s the big f*cking deal?" But the severe tissue loss that ensues makes this type of pec tear far worse than a regular pec tear in the muscle belly (something that I've also suffered). Dave told me early in my rehab process that my shoulders were going to be more important than ever before. He was spot-on. You lose a lot of stability in the shoulder joint because of this injury, and that's why you’ll see me doing a lot of scarecrows, lateral raises, and overhead pressing in my log. The stronger and healthier I can keep my shoulders, the less the bum pec bothers me. Even lat, trap, and biceps work helps me improve and maintain shoulder stability. If you strengthen everything that connects up in the shoulder, your body will compensate as much as possible for what you're missing.

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One thing you must realize if you have suffered a severe injury is that the damage is done. All you can do now is strengthen the surrounding areas and keep them healthy for the extra work that is now required of them. In the Q&A, I mention that heavy benching is probably never going to happen for Code, but normal daily activities and even being strong in other areas is certainly within reach. I currently maintain a forty-acre hobby farm and do a lot of the work myself. I'm constantly chopping wood, carrying logs and fence posts, carrying animal feed bags, etc, but all of these tasks were out of the question when I first suffered my injury. Indeed, I have to remain conscious of what I'm doing, and avoid using the bad pec, but you'd be surprised to what the triceps, lats, and shoulders can compensate. I can swing a 14-pound. splitting maul like it’s my job, and as I'm sure you know, I didn't think that was ever going to happen when I started rehab.

I'm kind of rambling here, but the point is: you need to keep your head up and decide if you're willing to work around this injury and make yourself better, or if you're going to let it define your resolve (or lack thereof). Something I've spoken on at a couple of seminars is whether or not you truly want something. Because if you want something bad enough, you will make it happen. For you, it might just be having good posture and being physically fit. For me, it’s getting back on the platform with some of the best guys in the world and being able to place, despite practically losing half my chest.

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I’m not going to lie: I wanted to quit. I mean, God, did I want to quit. But I knew I would never forgive myself if I did, and when it came down to it, I wanted to overcome and compete at a high level. This was my goal for myself, my personal drive, and now, close to three years later, I'm finally realizing that goal. I'll be back on the platform this Fall and I promise you I'll be totaling over 2000 at 220 again. It’s not where I was, but it’s a step forward in that right direction.

Just the fact that you are reading this article shows that you want to get better and that you are capable of it, but you still have to take action. Get some ART and deep tissue massage done on the pecs and shoulders to break up scar tissue. Start stretching lightly every day, and ease back into strengthening your shoulders, traps, lats, biceps etc. Finally, don't skip the bench! You’ll have to go light as hell, but you can do it, and it will improve with time. Results will come, and all the things that weigh so heavily on your mental state will improve. There will always be struggles, but how you overcome them is what will define you.

If you want to talk about this more or have questions about injuries other than the one above, head over to Q&A. I'd love to help.