I have recently suffered a torn ACL injury; therefore I am unable to do full body workouts. I was wondering if you could help me get on the right track for an upper body workout while I am recovering from my injury. I do not want to get out of shape and still want to do a WOD but it’s hard to follow without being able to use my legs for a lot of sections of the workout. As an NFL veteran, I am sure you have seen this type of injury and how to work around it. I was wondering if you could put me in the right direction and provide me with an appropriate guideline.


Jon S.



I have torn my ACL…my patellar tendon and had 3 arthroscopies to clean out torn meniscus, scar tissue and a bone chip. I know something about not being able to train your lower body due to injury.

I would stick with the basics: upper body push and pull. Bench press, floor press, seated dumbbell press, pull-ups, chin ups, push ups, lat pull downs and every movement you can create to isolated the arms, chest and back. This is a great time to focus on those big upper body movers and put in some concentrated work.


And above all else, continue to train the good leg. Leg raises, hamstring curls, isometric contractions, single leg glute bridges, four-way hip movements with stretch bands and single leg step ups are a great place to start. For years, they have done extensive studies on the carry over of training a healthy limb and its effect on the injured limb.

I wouldn’t put too much focus on metabolic conditioning just yet. You will have plenty of time to bust your ass and get your heart rate up when doing your rehabilitation post surgery. I would take this time to make sure I was strong and stable in all the places we tend to overlook when doing “functional training”. Keep your upper, mid and low back strong, as you will need to in your rehab when learning to squat and deadlift again.

Remember, surgery is more physically/emotionally taxing than anyone cares to admit. Ask any athlete that has been hurt and required to have a few surgeries and they will tell you, each one is harder and harder to come back from.

With that in mind, make sure you nutrition and supplementation is on track. Things like water, fish oil, vitamin C & D3 and a diet free of crap are fundamental to speed healing. Start doing these things now; if you wait till after surgery it will be too late.

I know things have changed light years from when I had my ACL repaired in 1996. Back then, they used the middle 1/3rd of my patellar tendon and the rehab and recovery was lengthy and painful. I never understood the destruction of a healthy body part to fix another. In 2011, they use cadaver ligaments and space age stuff to fix ACL’s. Without inducing the massive trauma of cutting into the patellar tendon, the knee heals pretty fast and I have seen people back to full speed in 6-8 weeks, instead of 6-8 months.

The last clean out I had was after I left New England in September 08. I went up to San Francisco to have surgery and rehab with the great Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD fame. Twenty-four hours out of surgery, I was at San Francisco CrossFit doing a Kstar-inspired metcon involving pulling myself off the ground by a rope, push-ups and DBs. We capped the day with a friendly challenge of me trying to good morning more weight than Kelly could back squat. I won that day.

And just for some reference, nothing adversely affects your ability to recover like anesthesia. The faster you can get the anesthesia out of your system, the better you do.

*Now for the legal stuff…I don’t suggest or recommend you start training 24 hours after surgery to flush the system of any lingering anesthesia. Please follow the advice of your doctor and make sure you are healthy and ready to engage in physical activity before starting any training regiment.

However, personally, it has always helped to speed healing.

Sorry you got hurt. I hate to hear about injuries, as I have had several, and they are never easy. Be smart with your rehab and let your body dictate the rate of recovery. Push too hard and you can set yourself back. Push too little and never make it back.