i am looking to start doing a 5x5 (stronglifts, specifically), but i have a grade 2 AC joint separation in my shoulder from a while ago. my physical therapist had me doing isolations to help strengthen the muscles supporting the joint, and has now cleared me to start doing any lift i want, just advising that i start with low weights and grow gradually, and that i keep doing the exercises he had previously prescribed.

with the above said, i am unsure how to incorporate my current rehab isolations into SL 5x5. i know that full body lifts should help involve all muscles, but i want to focus on my shoulders as well to make sure i don't regress. below are my rehab exercises, and the SL 5x5 workout splits:

rehab exercises (3x10 reps, 2-4 times/wk): seated row, lat pull down, reverse pec deck, 
                                           and incline chest press
workout A (5x5 reps, 3 times/wk): squat, bench press, barbell row
workout B (5x5 reps, 3 times/wk): squat, overhead press, deadlift(1x5)

my initial thought is to have barbell row replace seated row, do my lat pull down in A (opposite overhead press), and my incline chest press in B (opposite bench press); i have no idea where to put the reverse pec deck.

any advice is greatly appreciated.

  • What kind of sets/reps/frequency were you given for the rehab exercises? Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 16:53
  • 3x10 reps, 2-4 times/wk (also updated question to reflect).
    – IanL
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


Since you are still in the midst of rehab, and the other stuff will help you get stronger, I'd recommend starting with 3x5 instead of 5x5. The whole reason Stronglifts has 5x5 at the beginning is really for more practice. The problem is that it's more practice while you are still zeroing in on how your body performs the lift. My recommendations are:

  • Place greater emphasis on warming up. The Diesel Shoulder Warmup will help open up your shoulders for both squats and upper body work. Foam rolling for the back and legs will help loosen them up, and doing some body weight squats before the prescribed warmup sets will also help.
  • Prioritize the rehab work. That means do them before the heavier work.
  • Add the Strong Lifts program afterwards, but only do 3x5.
  • Use mobility work to cool down. If you are having problems getting to depth, you'll need to work on that after training.

Eventually your doctor will clear you from the rehab work. That's the only thing really that should ever change from the basic structure I outlined. The older you get, or the more injuries you have to overcome, the more you have to prepare your body to do work. You will eventually outgrow Strong Lifts. That's what's supposed to happen. You can decide at that time if you want to continue pursuing a power lifting style training or if you want to branch into other types of training.

  • to make sure i'm understanding you correctly, you'd do the full set of exercises prescribed for my shoulder each workout, without adjustment for what's in the SL program for that day?
    – IanL
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 22:09
  • 1
    Pretty much follow your doctor's rehab protocol before you do the Strong Lifts work. If he has you splitting the work up throughout the week, that's fine. Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 22:23

Personally I would do the rehab exercises exactly as prescribed, perhaps after warming up and before the StrongLifts workout on days when I have that scheduled. I'd then do StrongLifts as prescribed for the lower body, but reduce the upper-body progressions to add weight every two weeks instead of every workout. Therefore my barbell row, bench press, and overhead press would take a long time to get heavy.

Don't be afraid to go slow with your shoulder, or even take a break or deload if you're feeling something wrong in the shoulder . A number of times I've had overuse injuries where a voluntary week-long break would've prevented a much longer involuntary injury layoff.

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