Dear Mr. Rippetoe,
Thanks so much for all your informative articles, advice, and services that
you've provided for free to the public. I live in Los Angeles and I
have been reading your articles, q & a forum and workout routine suggestions for awhile now on the net, and I recently finished Starting Strength.
I am, however, in a pretty unique medical situation and I was hoping
for your input before I begin the type of routine outlined in your book. I would like to know if you think going this route would be the right approach for me in my situation.
I am 19(male), 6'2, 180 lbs 13-15% percent body fat. Ectomorph body type. Former high school athlete. I suffer from Scheuermann's disease, a degenerative spine disease of the vertebrae and discs which has caused major disc degeneration and causes chronic pain, poor posture, as well as making me very, very inflexible and tight in the lower body, back and everywhere else. When i was 17 years old, I had 14 hour reconstructive back surgery and spinal fusion in Los Angeles (My doctor was Robert Watkins Sr., you may have heard of him since you work with high profile people, he's really famous and has treated some of the biggest/most famous names in professional sports like Gretzky, Lemieux, Montana etc etc http://www.watkinsspine.com/ his website has a section 'athletes spine center' and lists some of the guys and the numerous pro sports teams/athletes he works With. His claim is he has done more surgerys on pro athletes than anyone in the world). Amongst other things, the major ligament running up and down the length of my spine was cut (people with my condition the ligaments in the body are extra tight), and 9 discs were removed and replaced/fused with cartilage from my hip. Everything is held together with 1 and 1/2 foot titanium rods placed on both sides of my spine and attached with titanium screws up and down my spine. The surgery involved going through my chest, under my left lat, through my left abs, as well from the botton of my neck to the top of my ass (a few hundred staples and three feet worth of scars wrapping around my body), and this has made my core/abs and back really weak. On top of that, the nature of Scheuermann's is that it causes kyphosis of the back, which even with my spine fused, i still have a bit of a hunch that i cannot correct even when i try. So in addition to the hardware inside my back and the pain i'm in, i have posture problems (things like pinching my shoulder blades together for bench press is difficult/impossible, which I think is why I?ve got large arms but a proportionally much smaller chest) and i am physically unable to get my shoulders/neck completely back ie perfect posture even after the surgery...and this results in pain and major problems for me when trying to do exercises that mostly all require good posture and correct form (Even standing up straight trying to have perfect posture in a mirror, without weights, I can just look in the mirror and tell my legs and hips and back etc are not in line perfectly like a normal person?.) properly. I have been told my my doctors that the surgery is 100% healed and was done flawlessly, and the only way to get rid of the chronic pain that I suffer from, which is severely limiting my quality of life and daily activities, is to lift weights consistently and strengthen my back, core and other muscles, otherwise the pain will supposedly continue and I may end up in a wheelchair as the condition progresses and my mobility gets worse. For the last few years I have been working out consistently, following various regimes, and gotten my diet down pretty damn well. I have lost a huge amount of fat, and put on tons of muscle--more than I ever thought possible. And for once I actually look good. The problem is, I want to keep progressing, and reach my goals, and I know from reading that I should work in deadlifts and squats to my workout to continuing seeing results, or to get better results (I don?t presently do those lifts).
Right now it hurts to do situps and a lot of ab work i try and despite being cut and bigger these days then the average joe in the gym certain exercises, (like pullups), I have trouble with. I am tall and skinny basically with stick legs, proportionally huge biceps, triceps, and shoulders in comparison to my very small flat chest, weak back, and totally weak and unflexible lower body.
Anyways, after reading your literature online and book, and watching some of your instructing videos on utube, I have decided I need to completely
reassess my training regime/workout once again, and I was planning to try what you outline in SS. I am trying to
A. Increase muscle mass with the goal of
stopping my chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain for good and improving quality of life
being in a wheelchair before I?m 65 (doctors said if I don?t workout consistently that that will happen)
C. Not strain my back or cause MORE pain than I already am in while doing my workout/ lifetime of physical therapy.
My big question is, do you think
this is an appropriate program for someone in my medical situation? Unfortunately I am unemployed at the moment, without medical insurance, so I don?t really have the disposable income to hire a trainer or go to physical therapy, or to hire someone to help me on form etc (or really to pay for doctors if I hurt myself or ruin my surgery trying to squat or dead lift etc). So I?m kind of going at it alone. Any advice or input would be greatly appreciated. I am prepared to do what I have to do, workout regularly the rest of my life to combat my disease and pain, and I?m already on that road, but wanted to check with you and see if you think deads, squats, and some of some of the other movements you support are ok for someone in my unique situation and with my unique goals.
Thanks for your time and all the great info. I hope to hear from you. Sorry for wasting so much of your day with such a long note...
I have no experience with training anyone with Harrington rods, sorry. But a few simple facts can be your guide here:
1. You know you have to get stronger, and that barbell training is the best way.
2. There will be a weight, however light, that you can safely squat, deadlift, bench, and press. I don't know about cleans or snatches. I likewise don't know about anything on a Smith machine.
3. Given that a starting weight can be determined, some version of a linear progression will be possible.
4. In your particular position, I would recommend that you be coached by someone with some experience in correctly coaching the barbell lifts.