After his withdrawal from the 2021 Shaw Classic five days before that contest began, strongman Robert Oberst went to the hospital and subsequent appointment with shoulder specialist Dr. Joseph Lynch. Oberst suffered a half-centimeter bursal-sided (outer joint) tendon tear in the front of his right shoulder at some point, either in training or competition. The World’s Strongest Man (WSM) mainstay was fortunate not to need surgery but was told he would need several months of conscious recovery effort for the injury to heal correctly.
Oberst, relieved by the news that his strongman career could continue, took the advisement seriously. He recently took to his YouTube channel to share how he trains around a shoulder injury properly. His first bit of advice: “don’t make your injury worse.” Check out the full video below:
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Before hopping into his training session, Oberst calls out the dangerous practice of overworking while injured, which he sees as commonplace in strongman. He offers examples of how strongmen often underplay their injuries to train, only to set their recovery process back further by re-aggravating their injury. Long story short, Oberst says: play it smart by giving an injury proper time to heal. When training with an injury, focus on training around the injury so other aspects of fitness don’t also suffer. Oberst’s tendon tear means he’s not going to train log lifts, but there are other movements to do.
Oberst plans to perform single-arm movements with his left arm, even though he won’t do anything with his right.
I’m not going to stop everything. I’m going to work my other side…do the best I can to…stabilize with [my right] arm, but not using it.
The first movement of the session is single-arm Hammer Strength bench presses. Oberst lays back on the bench, assumes a grip on the apparatus with his left hand, and notes how he maintains his alignment as though he is pressing with both arms. He does not compensate his body position towards either side.
Before Oberst starts his first set of incline dumbbell bench presses, he highlights the importance of access to the proper equipment when injured. If Oberst had been training legs on the day he recorded his video, he would have struggled to perform squats as the gym did not have a safety squat bar (SSB). Compared to a standard barbell, a safety squat bar (SSB) has neck pads and handles that stick out straight at neck level so the lifter can grab one in each hand. The SSB is more stable and, due to the perpendicular handles, more comfortable on the shoulder as the lifter doesn’t have to bring his arms back and behind themselves.
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If you’re training with an injury, you’ll likely slow down your lifting tempo, Oberst says. The weight is unlikely to move as quickly, and taking the additional time to stabilize the position before each set is critical.
You have to take your time. Go slow. I’m making sure to go through it properly. It’s a whole new game now. We’re all freshman.
Oberst is a former American log lift record holder and starts his incline dumbbell pressing with a single 35-pound weight. That is exceptionally light for the near 400-pound strongman, but he wants to illustrate how to thoughtfully train when nursing an injury. Oberst eventually worked his way up to a 120-pound dumbbell but made sure he could stabilize it first with weight working up to it.
Don’t Neglect Upper Back
Oberst attributes much of his stability to his upper back. He trains it with a mixture of landmine presses, bent-over rows, rear delt flyes, front raises, lateral raises, and seated rows. He treated each lift as though performing them with both arms despite only using his left. He used each grip available to him and hammered home the idea that form is king.
Oberst will continue to build strength around his injury so that when he is healed, he will only be so far back from where he wanted to be.
Feature image: @robertoberst on Instagram