As many of you know by now, I took a four year hiatus from bodybuilding competition to pursue strongman. Even though strength and conditioning are my main goal, symmetry and muscular development are always a focus in my training because I am not done bodybuilding just yet! I actually planned on making my return to the stage this September until I tore my right bicep off the bone while warming up to compete in my first strongman competition of the season. The first thing that I thought of, after I realized that my arm was effed, was the fact that I just drove 4hr, 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 stuff, I also realized that I just blew the whole season of competing along with my return to the bodybuilding stage. All the extra training that I had put in over the winter just became a huge waste of time, in my head. I was getting more bummed by the minute.
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 undisputed in the deadlift so I had to keep my record. I found out when my turn was and jumped in. I pulled 495 for 17 reps in 60 seconds, winning the event. The next event was static farmers hold for time with 275lb per hand. I thought “why not” and jumped in again. I won that event too. At this point, my forearm and hand are swollen and burning so I decided to quit while 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 made me a victim when in reality, sometimes things just happen. I replayed that morning over and over, trying to figure out what I could have done differently. Hell, I still re-live that morning, trying to figure out what went wrong. The reality of the matter is that I tore it warming up. I actually got injured while trying to prevent injury. I had to just face the 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. After a brief and rushed appointment, 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 is not what I wanted to hear but I tried it anyway. I played with all of my lifts, figuring out what I can and cannot do. I could still do almost everything but my right arm is now incredibly weak, which is to be expected now that it is short one muscle. I was able to modify how I did most things and didn’t 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 I will never regain strength or function without surgery. Needless to say, surgery got scheduled.
As of writing this, I have not yet had my arm repaired and I am still training around the injury. In many cases, an injury is not enough to ground you completely even though 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. I plan on using my post-surgery recovery as a chance to make my squat stronger and will also go back to using more machines to focus on 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 but I must first go back and win that strongman competition that grounded me.