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View Full Version : Strength rehab after cancer - helpful words needed!


James Evans
07-31-2008, 04:26 AM
Sorry if this is in the wrong place, this part of the forum can be a bit of a dumping ground.

I've been asked by the father of some mates of mine for some guidance on regaining upper body strength after successful treatment for cancer.

He's in his early 60s. Considerable muscle mass has been lost in the upper body and the cancer caused damage to some of the bone in the shoulder area. His doctors have given him the green light to return to an active lifestyle and he has resumed gardening (I guess what you guys would call yardwork?) to a pretty physical level. He has also started cycling the 14 mile round trip to his office. Having seen him last week and cycled with him I was impressed by his condition.

He has received no follow up physio advice. Physio attendance during treatment was purely to ensure regular movement while hospitalised to prevent bedsores etc. - I'm not sure how many of you will be aware of the amount of work hospital based physios do in this area as opposed to our conception of them working on rehab from injury.

I have proposed the use of light dbs and/or bands. I think a gradually progressive circuit repeated initially twice a week, building up to three times is appropriate. In light of the amount of cycling I'm not so interested in lower body work although I would prefer a total body approach.

With dbs I'm always a little concerned with the limitations for pulls of a less dynamic nature - correct me if I'm wrong but we've got row variations (upright, bent, single arm) and ... er, that's it. Not sure of the value of v. light db movements.

Basically I thought something like this.

A) 5 Push ups
5 single arm row each arm
10 BW squats
Plank hold for 30 secs
2-3 rounds

B) 5 DB press
5 DB bent row
4-6 unweighed T-pushup (split between each side)
Side Planks for 20 secs each side

C) 10 lunges (5 each leg)
5 DB upright rows
10 Alternate DB press (5 each arm)
10 dorsal raises (or cobras or whatever you want to call them)/superman etc.

Not keen on the use of swings, snatches, clean variations here.

He'll work through these circuits gradually, maybe A) and B) week one, C) and A) week two until we reach the 3 circuits a week stage. Reps, weight, duration of static holds will increase gradually.

I have an extremely obedient subject here - to be honest if I told him to flip a tire up and down his driveway for an hour a day, seven days a week he would do it.

This is a simple sketch of my idea and I will work as closely as I can at monitoring progress.

I'm I on the right track? Should I include more pulls (advice here greatly appreciated)? Any comments/advice?

Thanks in advance.

Mike ODonnell
07-31-2008, 06:26 AM
I would keep it simple and let him go slow and steady to gain the strength back. Full Compound body movements of course.

James Evans
07-31-2008, 06:52 AM
I would keep it simple and let him go slow and steady to gain the strength back. Full Compound body movements of course.

Is what I have in mind simple enough MOD or am I squeezing too much in? I'm happy to defer to those who actually train people for a living.

Of course after a month I will have to include Moldavian Fanny Hammers and Offset Monkey Clunges on a wobble cushion...

Mike ODonnell
07-31-2008, 07:17 AM
Is what I have in mind simple enough MOD or am I squeezing too much in? I'm happy to defer to those who actually train people for a living.

Of course after a month I will have to include Moldavian Fanny Hammers and Offset Monkey Clunges on a wobble cushion...

It looks simple...but really hard to know for sure unless you can see him workout and judge his recovery rates....as that will be important too. Just have him start slow, work on strength, take as much rest as he needs between sets and tell him to just workout 2x a week.....then see how it progresses from there.

James Evans
07-31-2008, 07:24 AM
It looks simple...but really hard to know for sure unless you can see him workout and judge his recovery rates....as that will be important too. Just have him start slow, work on strength, take as much rest as he needs between sets and tell him to just workout 2x a week.....then see how it progresses from there.

Thanks MOD.

I didn't cover recovery between sets in my post but "take as much rest as he needs" maybe with a 90 sec minimum and as long above that as needed was my intention. I don't want this to be 3-2-1! Metcon hell!

Mike ODonnell
07-31-2008, 07:27 AM
Thanks MOD.

I didn't cover recovery between sets in my post but "take as much rest as he needs" maybe with a 90 sec minimum and as long above that as needed was my intention. I don't want this to be 3-2-1! Metcon hell!

I think he's already been through enough hell...now he needs slow and steady...as you don't know the condition of his immune system.

That and of course he should also eat healthy...so help him focus on his diet as well.

Allen Yeh
07-31-2008, 08:40 AM
I know Alwyn Cosgrove in the past has detailed roughly how he got back into training after cancer. I can't seem to find it at the moment but that may be a good place to look?

James Evans
07-31-2008, 08:59 AM
I know Alwyn Cosgrove in the past has detailed roughly how he got back into training after cancer. I can't seem to find it at the moment but that may be a good place to look?

I've read a lot of what Cosgrove has written on the subject and he did immediately spring to mind. I'll have a hunt around.

James Evans
07-31-2008, 09:02 AM
I think he's already been through enough hell...now he needs slow and steady...as you don't know the condition of his immune system.

That and of course he should also eat healthy...so help him focus on his diet as well.

14 miles a day on the bike 5 days a week suggests he's a lot better but your point is noted completely. I certainly think 2 days a week to start with.

I think food is a given. Irish wife see...

Mike ODonnell
07-31-2008, 10:55 AM
14 miles a day on the bike 5 days a week suggests he's a lot better but your point is noted completely. I certainly think 2 days a week to start with.

I think food is a given. Irish wife see...

Make sure he is getting plenty of antioxidants.....I don't know the "intensity" at which he is bike riding...but creating too much oxidative damage through chronic long aerobic exercise (think like training for a marathon for hours a day) on an immune system that might already be compromised....will not do well for overall health status....as cancer can come/grow back unfortunately. Vit C should be his best friend.

James Evans
08-01-2008, 03:49 AM
Good points MOD, thanks.

Adam Noble
08-06-2008, 03:18 PM
All I can add, as someone who had to piece themselves back together after cancer, is be patient. This is tough because after feeling so crappy for so long you just want to spring back to normalcy immediately. I felt the effects of treatment for a year or so after I was done. Lots of rest, and recovery time.

James Evans
08-08-2008, 01:02 AM
All I can add, as someone who had to piece themselves back together after cancer, is be patient. This is tough because after feeling so crappy for so long you just want to spring back to normalcy immediately. I felt the effects of treatment for a year or so after I was done. Lots of rest, and recovery time.

Thanks Adam - we will be taking this very, very slowly.

How are you doing now?

Adam Noble
08-08-2008, 11:25 AM
So far great! Just passed 3 years clear, so far so good. Physically everything has come back nicely. Best of luck to you and your trainee, it may be slow, but its worth it:)