Regaining Strength with Kettlebell & Deadlifts After Open Heart Surgery

Jul 17 2017 by StrongPath

At age 61, Steven’s life was going along just fine. He started strength training seven years earlier and was in good physical shape. He was on a mission to continue getting stronger, until he got interrupted.

Suddenly, he was experiencing an unusual shortness of breath and chest pain. He was rushed to the local emergency room and into surgery shortly thereafter.

Regaining strength with deadlifts

The Methods of Open Heart Surgery

“Open heart surgery is radical,” said Steven. “To get access to the heart to perform a cardiac bypass, the breast bone or sternum is sawn in half top to bottom and the two sides of the rib cage are spread and held apart with large metal clamps. The heart is stopped during the surgery and blood is circulated mechanically by a pump that connects to major veins and arteries bypassing the heart, so it will be still while the surgeon does his delicate work. Then once complete, the heart is restarted and the gaping chest wound is close.”

Heart Disease Can Be Hereditary

Steven’s father had suffered a heart attack and needed cardiac bypass surgery. His history meant Steven was two to three times more likely to suffer similarly and that risk became reality one day without warning. Family history is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the number one killer of adults in the US.

The doctors told Steven that the bone and body need serious healing once he left the hospital.

“I was up walking the hospital hallways the day after surgery,” he said. “And sent home for following day in good spirits. At the time, I thought, ‘The human body is amazing’.”

Once home, though, he felt tired out. He would do a little walking around the yard for just a few minutes at a time and get fatigued. He had been strictly warned not to lift anything for at least six to eight weeks while the breastbone knitted back together.

The Results of Being Bedridden

But while the bones were healing, something not so great was happening—Steven’s muscles were weakening significantly. Like most people who are largely bed ridden post-surgery, he was losing strength and muscle mass at an accelerated rate. This concerned him. Still, he knew he had to be patient before getting too aggressive with his workouts.

As soon as he was able, he slowly and steadily increased his exercise over the 12 months following surgery.

Bouncing Back with Kettlebell and Deadlifts

“At the time, I was still working with fairly small rehab weights and only doing 25 to 40-pound kettlebell swings to prepare for resuming deadlifts,” Steven said.

Steven viewed the health emergency as a set-back, but not a reason to quit his efforts to be the best he could be. Many in similar situations often find it difficult to bounce back and accept greater physical limitations rather than resume their efforts and fully regain their strength. Not Steven. He was determined.

Breaking New Deadlift Records Post Surgery

Five years after that invasive surgery—something that might have slowed down others or put too much fear in them to go on, Steven continues to work toward new personal bests—breaking new deadlift records year after year.

“The deadlift is a great measure of overall strength,” he said. “It is a full body movement that challenges muscles from the soles of my feet up my legs, through my core to my shoulders and down my arms to the grip strength in my hands. All must work as a unit and I am only as strong as the weakest link in that long chain of muscles so it is a good measure of increasing full body strength.”

Doing Deadlifts at 66

Two years after surgery, Steven slowly worked his way up from lifting those 25 pound weights to deadlifting 255 pounds. This year, on Steven’s 66th birthday, after years of slowly increasing the weight, he deadlifted 355.

While most people’s muscle and strength decline with age, Steven’s did the opposite.

“We get older every day, but we don’t’ have to get weaker every day,” he said. “It’s a choice.”
A choice that might just have saved his life.






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