Best Types of Workouts to Do Before Surgery in 2 weeks and Extended Time off Bike/Trainer

So I learned yesterday that I have torn my Rotator Cuff (from an injury at the end of September). I had also separated the shoulder and the doc wanted me to go through PT before doing an MRI. But now we know, so I am scheduled for surgery mid January.

I have just completed SSB LV1 and am supposed to be starting LV2, but only have two weeks before surgery and a prolonged time off the trainer (minimum 6 weeks is what doc is saying at this point). So trying to figure out what would be my best use of time before surgery. My thought is working on base cardio type work as that type of fitness is the slowest to fade away vs VO2 type fitness? I am not sure this is correct though so thought I would see what you all would recommend. I am 51 and started riding in spring of 2017. I only ride mountain bike and about 90% of my time is on singletrack (mainly XC type) if that matters at all. I used TR last winter through Spring and basically rode outside all summer and fall.

Thanks in advance

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Personally I don’t see why you can’t ride the trainer if you simply keep the affected arm in a sling or something. At least you’ll be able to engage your cycling muscles and cv system to some degree.

This is exactly why I bought my KICKR and what ultimately led me to TR. I hurt my hip, went the physical therapy route and after a slew of false starts, ended having to have surgery. Before hand I decided I didn’t want to cash in all the hard work I had done on the bike in the preceding year so I bought my trainer, and hit Zwift a few times, which led to TrainerRoad. My initial thought was just to try to maintain some of what I ha already done, I didn’t really understand that I could actually improve…

In any case, I agree, once your doc clears you to sit up, put that bad boy in ERG mode and do some riding. Due to the nature of my injury, and my inability to get on and off the trainer by myself, I stuck to some basic aerobic stuff the first ten days, but then I started pushing a bit. My FTP was like 110 because of my hip, but I was able to train just the same. I would expect to lower your FTP and training intensity due to the inability to hold the bars solidly, but I don’t imagine you’d be off the bike much more than ten days, depending of course on what the doc says. I’d make sure they understand you’re talking about a stationary trainer ride, and not a road ride, but I’d also explain that it isn’t on an olds kool gym bike either you know?

Mine was super supportive of my plan, especially when I showed him some data and images of what I wanted to do, he gave me specific guidance on reducing my intensity and even advice that helped me mentally reset to the new lower FTP me.

For the record, I was completely no load bearing for ten days post op, then crutches with assistance for ten more, so it was about the 15th day that I got on the trainer with zero resistance and just pushed the pedals. I did this the first time at the Physical Therapist so they could observe what I was doing in detail. it was about 20 days before I was able to run some basic resistance work, like a 2 out 20. By 45 days I did a ramp test (again with my PT) and I was like 85 (:joy:), but it was progress. Im 45 so I feel your aging pain, and I would say its important to keep progress and performance in perspective. The mental part of understanding my limitations was the hardest for me after 25 years in the military of just pushing through everything. That got me in the boat I was in with my hip, so I made a real determined decision to heal correctly this time, regardless of what the numbers showed on the meter. I’m 7 months post op right now, and my FTP is back to 200 with another ramp test scheduled for Jan 5th.

You can do it, and I think you can do it on the trainer too if you do it smartly.

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Definitely going to get on the trainer as soon as I can. WIll discuss more with the Doc as we get closer. His PA indicated I should stay off it it the first 6 weeks. Hopefully that will be reduced - even if just easy spinning…

Thanks Mellowdave - this gives me hope I can get back to some riding fairly quickly. I was told no mountain biking for 6 months and road riding possibly in 3 months. I have not spoken to the doc directly about timing but rather his PA at this point.

Will definitely get on the trainer as soon as I feel I am able and at a point I can do it without risking a set back on the overall recovery of the shoulder.

Trying to decide for the next two weeks do I begin the SSB LV II part of the plan or just focus on doing regular endurance type rides instead.

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Good luck with the whole thing, I hope your recovery goes smoothly and you can get off the opioids asap. They re such a buzzkill.

Stronger every day man, its my mantra all through recovery.


I’m currently recovering from a shoulder reconstruction. I was hit by a car at the start of September resulting in my AC joint being ripped apart. I couldn’t have surgery for 4 weeks but took a couple of weeks post-surgery before I got back on the trainer. I started steady, didn’t re-test but dropped my FTP by 10% and did nothing but endurance workouts (Beech and Baxter). I also did a few Sufferfest sessions before doing my first outdoor ride 6 weeks post-surgery. I then started SSB LV at the end of November.

My tips:

Get that shoulder mobile ASAP, I have previously broken my scapula and both times I’ve found getting light movement into it really helps speed of recovery, don’t overdo it but as long as you’re not weight bearing. It helps.

As Jonathan said in the latest podcast, treat PT as seriously as you do any other session, I’m doing at least 2 sessions a day at the moment there are so many people who don’t take PT seriously who never fully recover from injuries.

Keep the training steady for a while, when I re-tested at the start of SSB I was barely 5% down and had 6 weeks off the bike.

I rotated the bars on my bike up to give me a more upright position so that I wasn’t putting much weight through my injured shoulder; your shoulder will feel tired late in a session, don’t be afraid to cut it short if it becomes too much.

When I broke my scapula I was back on the trainer after a week and raced 9 weeks post-injury, I was slower this time but that was mainly because I was away from home when I was injured and didn’t go home until after my surgery.

Good luck with the surgery and with the recovery.


Personally I would be keeping all pre surgery training light, don’t over fatigue yourself and ensure your body is well rested and ready to heal quickly following the surgery.

Best of luck.


Please consult a PT. There’s some bad advice in this thread. RC repairs are notoriously painful at night and prevent people from sleeping well. Why ride when you are trying to rehab an already tenuous surgical procedure? After all, most of these things re-tear within a couple of years anyhow depending on your age. There’s not really a good reason to compromise your shoulder for a couple of weeks of base riding. Make your shoulder the priority.


I have not had a rotor cuff surgery but in the past yearish, I had a hernia surgery and a septoplasty. Before, the surgery I’ve found its best to make sure you are actually pretty recovered. That way the body can focus on healing your shoulder not the training. Post surgery follow the PTs and docs guidance. Also I recommend a week of ramping up intensity to get used to it again.

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My doctor and PT gave me the go-ahead for light spinning about 3 weeks later - provided I was careful and used the sling while on spin bike. My surgery was over 3 hours with two anchors installed, remove bone spurs, clean out acromoin, and fix a bicep tear. Only needed 4 little holes, yay!

Do you have stats on re-tearing? The only ones I could find were for people with massive tears. I had my surgery six years ago and still doing rotator cuff strengthening exercises, and lifting in the gym. Shoulder is better than new, but I don’t do stupid things anymore (e.g. lift things overhead with elbows flared out) now that I understand proper biomechanics.

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It’s hard to know the true prevalence of tears and re-tears as most of them are asymptomatic or become so. I’m forgetting a bit but most people over 70 have RC tears regardless of pain or not.

My real point is that arthritis and partial tearing of tendons and ligaments are typical parts of the aging process. The rush to orthopedic surgery isn’t needed as most orthopedic injuries are self limiting and can resolve with therapy. Only the most extreme cases require surgery. It’s actually quite interesting reading prevalence studies of individuals in the general population with disc injuries, rotator cuff tears, meniscus tears, etc that don’t have pain. It’s even more interesting that there are many people who’ve had surgery for those “injuries” and still have pain.

Had trouble using my right arm, as in I couldn’t pick up anything heavier than 5 pounds, seemed like surgery was warranted. I did PT for a couple months with zero progress before deciding on surgery option.

p.s. no real pain before or after surgery, I simply lost the use of my arm because muscles lost attachment.

Thanks - That is a very good point. I think I will continue to ride up until surgery, but will keep them light to moderate. Would like to try to do a little towards reducing the impacts from the holiday season…

@AndrewL, thanks! Will definitely be working in conjunction with the Doc and the PT. Won’t be riding too early, but will also try to get riding inside (lightly) when it seems to make sense so as not to jeopardize the work done in the surgery.

@bbarrera - thank you. I have come to the realization that I too need to start working on not doing stupid things. It’s so hard when I am out with my son and his friends and or XC team and try to push things in order to keep up with them. I definitely am not rebounding from things like I used to do. Getting older - need to recognize, accept it for what it is and ride in a responsible manner…

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@basshunter best of luck, it took me a year to rehab (frozen shoulder) and 6 years later I can say it was totally worth it.

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@andrewl - I’m hoping the surgery will have good results for me. I am not one to rush into a surgery, and feel this is the correct approach for where I am at now. Of course, will not know for sure. Have been dealing with a partial tear since 2017 and now a full tear in Sept. PT helped the separation injury but did not address the rotator and am looking forward to being able to get a better night’s sleep and better mobility. Still doing research though…

Great responses and insights! Thanks everyone for your feedback…

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