Getting Back to the Gym Post-Op

Getting back to the gym after surgery can be an awesome feeling of returning back to your routine and feeling like yourself again.

Of course, for many of us, getting back into working out can be a little scary. Am I ready to start exercising again? Am I pushing myself too hard? Am I not pushing myself hard enough?

The truth is, trans gal or guy, big surgery or small – every experience is different. To get the best results and post-workout feeling, however, there are some universal rules.

Give yourself enough time to heal

Follow your doctor’s instructions. Your surgeon will be able to give you the best advice and guidelines on when you can start exercising again. They know what they’re talking about and can answer specific questions, so listen! Plus, it is normal to feel more tired than usual following a surgery, so make sure you take plenty of rest, even if that means taking a few extra weeks off than what your doctor suggests.

Start light

When you’re first post-op, your main focus should be on getting mobility back at a pace that works for your body. Every one is different, and going slow and steady is the best to make sure you don’t injure yourself. Add weight training later and listen to your body now.

  • If you’ve had top/chest surgery, avoid all overhead exercises for the first few months.
  • If you’ve had a lower surgery, start by walking. Walking is a good form of activity as it puts little strain on your surgery site.
  • Focus on muscle groups farther away from your surgery site.
  • Try to add in more cardio. Now’s the best time to do it!
  • There are tons of ways to hit your different muscles without strenuous weight lifting or certain motions, so get creative.

Keep realistic goals

It’s not out of the ordinary to not be able to do the same workout post-op as you did pre-op. 6-12 months is a realistic goal for most athletes to return fully to a gym routine. Don’t get discouraged! This is a normal part of the healing process.

Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more!

Always stretch before and after a workout. If your scars from surgery feel tight or uncomfortable, massage them and try lotioning them with cocoa butter or something similar (consult your doctor if you have any questions).

Know your limits

If something hurts or feels weird, stop.

Try these light-weight or no-weight exercises

  • Side lateral raises: Folks post-op from a chest surgery should do these to help stretch shoulders without raising your arms above your head.
  • Seated bent-over rear delt raise: Another great way to stretch your shoulders, with emphasis on the rear deltoid.
  • Dynamic chest stretch: Take this exercise light if you’ve had a chest surgery. Bring your arms in front, then move them backwards as far as you can comfortably.
  • Elbows back stretch: Great for stretching your chest muscles without much movement.
  • Incline bench dumbbell curl: The incline bench dumbbell curl helps isolate your biceps so you don’t engage other muscle groups or your surgery site.
  • Standing calf raise: A great exercise for lower legs and developing better balance.

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