Can You Lift Weights After Shoulder Replacement: Expert Advice

Shoulder replacement surgery can significantly improve the quality of life for those who suffer from debilitating shoulder pain and limited mobility. But what about those who are passionate about weightlifting? Can they resume their sport after undergoing such a procedure? This blog post will explore the recovery timeline, benefits, and risks of weightlifting post-surgery, and provide expert advice on “can you lift weights after shoulder replacement” while protecting your newly-repaired shoulder joint.

Key Takeaways

  • Patients should expect to slowly resume activities within 4-6 months post shoulder replacement surgery.
  • Consider the pros and cons of weightlifting before resuming, as it carries risks such as joint strain, re-injury or revision surgery.
  • Seek expert advice and physical therapy guidance for informed decisions about potential risks & benefits while gradually increasing intensity & monitoring progress.

Recovery Timeline After Shoulder Replacement

Shoulder replacement surgery, also known as total shoulder replacement surgery, aims to halt the advancing course of arthritis, reinstate range of movement, and provide pain relief for shoulder pain brought about by bone-on-bone contact. After undergoing this procedure, patients are enrolled in a graduated 4-phase rehabilitation program to maximize range of motion and strength, including the muscles around the shoulder blades. It takes time and dedication to regain strength and mobility in the shoulder joint.

Patients can anticipate resuming light activities once pain-free, with normal activity expected to resume around 4-6 months post-surgery. Patients who have undergone minimally invasive surgery typically go through a physical therapy program of 12 weeks. After this, they are usually capable of doing upper-body exercises like push-ups, shoulder flies and presses using light weights. In the case where a patient underwent revision surgery, the recovery timeline may vary. It is important to note that some patients underwent revision surgery, which could also affect their recovery process.

Following the advice of seasoned shoulder surgeons and physical therapists throughout the recovery journey is vital to sidestep any setbacks and achieve an optimal outcome.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Weightlifting Post-Surgery

Weightlifting after shoulder replacement can indeed enhance strength and suppleness, yet it also carries dangers such as joint strain and potential re-injury. Grasping the advantages and drawbacks of weightlifting after surgery is fundamental for making well-informed decisions about resuming this exercise.

The subsequent subsections will further explore the benefits and risks tied to weightlifting post-shoulder replacement surgery.


The advantages of weightlifting following surgery encompass:

  • Expedited recuperation
  • Decreased risk of re-injury
  • Augmented range of motion
  • Augmented mobility
  • Alleviation of pain and inflammation

Certain exercises can be particularly effective for increasing mobility in the shoulder joint. Gradually ramping up intensity while tracking progress is crucial to prevent overloading the shoulder joint and risking further injury to the patient. Focusing on proper form, utilizing lighter weights, and allowing rest periods between sets can help prevent re-injury and maintain joint health.


Despite the benefits, weightlifting after shoulder replacement surgery is not without risks. The potential risks associated with heavy lifting following shoulder replacement surgery include joint strain, the possibility of re-injury, and the potential requirement of revision surgery. To mitigate these risks, it’s important to consider the type of exercises performed.

Light resistance exercises like pull-aparts, dislocates, and presses can be advantageous for shoulder recovery while avoiding excessive strain on the joint. However, it’s of utmost importance to abide by your physician’s advice and avoid heavy lifting or exercises that could amplify the risks tied to weightlifting post-surgery.

Preparing for Weightlifting After Shoulder Replacement

Before commencing weightlifting after surgery, it is recommended that patients complete appropriate physical therapy and adhere to their doctor’s advice. The three primary recuperative milestones prior to weightlifting following shoulder surgery are the healing of tissue, attaining full range of motion, and developing full strength of rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles. Exercises that concentrate on strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder while not imposing additional strain on the joint should be executed to enhance shoulder strength and flexibility following surgery.

Some recommended exercises include:

  • Shoulder shrugs
  • External rotations
  • Internal rotations
  • Scapular retractions
  • Shoulder presses

Utilizing dumbbells as part of a shoulder rehabilitation program is suggested to minimize strain on the joint and maximize the benefits of the exercises.

Safe Weightlifting Exercises for Post-Surgery Recovery

After completing the recommended physical therapy program, patients can begin incorporating safe weightlifting exercises into their routine. Bicep curls, triceps pulldowns, and rotator cuff exercises may be performed with caution following shoulder surgery. These exercises focus on flexibility and muscle strengthening, rather than heavy lifting, to minimize the risk of re-injury and strain on the joint.

Being mindful of the exercises you perform is crucial. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Avoid any exercises where your hands are not in plain view, such as triceps dips.
  • Additionally, avoid exercises with arms extended away from your body or with a wide-grip position.
  • Instead, prioritize exercises that promote range of motion and muscle strengthening without imposing unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint.

Gradually Increasing Intensity and Monitoring Progress

In the context of weightlifting after a shoulder replacement, it’s necessary to gradually ramp up
the intensity so as not to overload the shoulder joint. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Begin with light weights.
  • Concentrate on range of motion and mobility exercises utilizing light weights or resistance bands.
  • Augment the amount of weight lifted by no more than 10-15% every 10-14 days.
  • Pay attention to your body and reduce intensity if you experience discomfort or pain.

Keeping a close eye on your progress is vital when weightlifting post-shoulder replacement surgery. Keeping track of your progress and making necessary adjustments to your routine will help ensure that you are not overexerting yourself and risking re-injury. Be patient and permit your muscles to reconstruct strength and flexibility over time.

Tips for Preventing Re-Injury and Maintaining Joint Health

To prevent re-injury and maintain joint health after a shoulder replacement, it is advised to:

  • Warm up before each workout
  • Cool down afterwards
  • Regularly stretch
  • Utilize correct form when lifting weights

Furthermore, heed any sensations of discomfort or pain and reduce intensity accordingly. Finally, it is important to allow sufficient rest and recovery time between workouts.

By adhering to these guidelines, patients can effectively minimize the risk of re-injury and maintain the health of their shoulder joint post-surgery. Remember to consult with your doctor and physical therapist throughout your recovery process to ensure that you are making the best decisions for your joint health and overall well-being.

Real-Life Experiences: Weightlifters’ Return to Sport

Many weightlifters return to heavy lifting after shoulder replacement, despite surgeon’s recommendations against it. In a study involving high-demand weightlifters who persisted in lifting after undergoing total shoulder arthroplasty, 78.3% resumed heavy weightlifting postoperatively in spite of senior surgeon’s advice. However, it is important to note that these weightlifters often experience lower lifting performance than before surgery.

The performance level of weightlifters who resumed sport following shoulder replacement was significantly diminished in comparison to their preoperative maximum bench press, which affected their maximum lifting capacity. While the majority of these patients were able to return to their sport, they had to adjust their expectations regarding their lifting performance, as indicated by the average lifting performance measure. It is important to note that the ability to measure clinically significant improvements in these patients’ performance may be limited due to these factors.

Patients need to thoughtfully weigh the potential risks and advantages of resuming heavy lifting post-shoulder replacement surgery. Each individual’s circumstances will vary, and it is crucial to follow the guidance of experienced shoulder surgeons and physical therapists to make the best decisions for your long-term health and well-being.

Expert Recommendations and Surgeons’ Advice

In general, orthopedic surgeons such as myself may discourage heavy weightlifting following shoulder replacement surgery. However, individual recommendations may vary based on a patient’s specific circumstances, such as age, overall health, and preoperative lifting experience. It is important to consult with your doctor and physical therapist to determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

While some patients may gradually return to heavy lifting post-shoulder replacement surgery, it’s crucial to carefully evaluate the potential risks and benefits. Following expert recommendations and adhering to a well-designed physical therapy program can help patients make informed decisions about weightlifting after shoulder replacement surgery and protect their newly-repaired shoulder joint from unnecessary strain.

The Role of Physical Therapy in Post-Surgery Weightlifting

Physical therapy plays a vital role in weightlifting post-surgery, assisting patients in regaining strength, flexibility, and range of motion, while lessening the chance of re-injury. Progressive strengthening exercises help patients regain the shoulder’s range of motion and augment the strength of the adjacent muscles, reducing the chance of re-injury following shoulder replacement surgery.

Physical therapists have a significant part in guiding patients who have undergone shoulder replacement surgery on their weightlifting journey. They help design and implement
individualized rehabilitation programs that promote optimal recovery, ensuring that patients can safely and effectively return to their sport while minimizing the risk of complications and re-injury.


In conclusion, weightlifting after shoulder replacement surgery is a complex and highly individualized process. By understanding the recovery timeline, weighing the pros and cons, following expert recommendations, and participating in a comprehensive physical therapy program, patients can make informed decisions about their weightlifting journey post-surgery. Ultimately, the goal is to regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion while protecting the newly-repaired shoulder joint and maintaining long-term joint health.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I lift weights after shoulder replacement?

It is generally advised to wait 4-6 months before starting any weight-lifting activities after
shoulder surgery, although this may vary depending on the type of procedure and the individual’s
recovery rate.

Can you bench press with a shoulder replacement?

As a result of having a shoulder replacement, it is typically advised to not bench press with the
surgical arm and limit lifting to no more than 40lbs. It is therefore recommended to take precautions when exercising in order to prevent any re-injury.

Are there permanent restrictions after shoulder replacement?

Although shoulder replacement surgery can provide excellent pain relief and restore range of
motion, there are permanent restrictions in place; it is recommended that patients not lift more
than 25 pounds post-surgery.

What are some safe weightlifting exercises for post-surgery recovery?

Safe weightlifting exercises for post-surgery recovery include bicep curls, triceps pulldowns, and
rotator cuff exercises.

How can I gradually increase intensity and monitor progress during post-surgery

Gradually increase intensity by no more than 10-15% every 10-14 days and monitor progress as
you go, reducing intensity if discomfort or pain occurs.

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Orthopedic Surgeon Modesto CA Dr. Eric Giang

Dr. Eric Giang, DO

Dr. Giang is a leading fellowship-trained shoulder surgeon in Modesto, CA. As a trusted orthopedic surgeon, he is serving the Modesto community with a commitment to enhancing the quality of life for every patient.

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