Recover Like A Pro: Chris Tuttle’s Post-Injury Leg Workout

Team Universal
Written By: Team Universal
April 8th, 2015
Updated: October 27th, 2021
15.3K Reads
Chris Tuttle doing hack squat in the gym
Don't let injuries keep you from making progress in the gym. Learn how IFBB Pro Chris Tuttle worked around his knee injury to continue building killer legs.

My leg workout is probably going to be very different from most, since most workouts deal with extreme intensity and heavy weight. This one is more of a rehabilitation workout from a cartilage tear I suffered 14 weeks ago underneath my left kneecap (patella).

This is real life and is an example of what happens to a lot of us at some point. Injuries are a part of the game but most people do not know how to deal with them. Many people quit, which was not an option for me.

The limitations of my injury have caused me to think outside the box. I had to figure out what I could do to stimulate the muscle while not interfering with the healing process or further injuring my knee.

Overall, my knee gets a little better each week and I am able to do heavier weights and more exercises. When I first injured it, I could not even bend my knee and had trouble sitting down. So you can see from the video how far the knee has come. 

The first exercise I did was leg extensions. Now I know leg extensions are not good for the knee and more specifically the patellar tendon. However, it was the only exercise that did not bother my knee when this first happened. I started very light with 20+ partial reps to get everything warmed up. As my knee warmed up, I was able to go heavier and use a fuller range of motion.

Again, I did whatever I could do to stimulate the muscle and avoid any type of discomfort to the injured area. So I started with 20 partial reps of heavier weight and then cut the stack in half and did another 20 reps but with a fuller range of motion to failure. The number of sets I did was determined by how I felt  – generally 3-5 sets.

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The second exercise I used was a single-leg banded leg press. I attached two grey bands together and wrapped them around the seat to the bars on either side of the leg press. This added progressive resistance at the top of the motion where my knee didn't hurt at all.

I chose single leg because in the presence of an injury the body starts to compensate and push harder with the uninjured leg causing a muscle imbalance. Muscle imbalances can greatly increase the chance of injury during muscular failure training. This also allowed me to focus more on the injured leg to make sure it was stimulated. I did 3 sets of 20-30 reps.

Then I went right into regular banded leg press with added weight. This utilized the same concept as described above using progressive resistance to ease pressure off the knee. I kept my reps here between 20-30 and did about 4-5 sets. For each set I added one plate to each side until I felt that the knee had enough.

You will also notice I did not lock out and kept a very continuous motion. I wanted to keep constant tension on the legs so I could cause them to fatigue quicker without having to use heavier weight. Each week I was able to do 1 more plate on each side. I tried not to push it too hard but enough to make progress each week.

Chris Tuttle Leg Exercise

The fourth exercise I chose was the Nebula Hack Squat with the added bands to add progressive resistance. The Nebula Hack Squat has adjustable safety pins where I could adjust for the depth of the sled.

What bothered my knee the most was the change in direction from the concentric (contraction) to eccentric (muscle elongation). The safety stops takes the change in direction completely out so I could still get that muscle firing without any type of pain at all. Here I kept the reps high and weight very light. I did between 20-30 reps and just 3 sets.

My last exercise was a stationary lunge with one dumbbell in the opposite hand of the lunging leg. This did not bother my knee at all but I still had to be careful changing direction. I did 10-20 reps here with 3-4 sets.

I have to tell you that this was not my typical workout but one that I have been forced to do. I could quit, postpone my pro debut, or work around my injury and move forward; I chose to push forward!

Some might say it is not advisable to work out while injured, but I can assure everyone that I am not new to injuries and would never do anything that does not feel right. As long as I am making progress in my recovery and I am able to do more and more each week, I know that I am doing the right thing.

I hope some of you can take something away from this article and my video. Remember, injuries are a setback, but they don’t represent the end of training. You need to be creative and come up with out-of-the-box strategies for working around them if you want to achieve your goals. Below is my full, revised leg workout.

Leg Extensions

I do two warm-up sets of leg extensions with light weight and quarter reps, just to get the knee warm and get the blood and synovial fluid to the knee.

Exercise/Weight Sets Reps
Warm-Up:    
- 50lbs (quarter reps) 1 20-30
- 60lbs (quarter reps) 1 20-30
Working Set:    
- 80lbs (quarter reps) 1 20
- 40lbs (full reps) 1 20
- 120lbs (quarter reps) 1 20
- 60lbs (full reps) 1 20
- 180lbs (quarter reps) 1 20
- 90lbs (full reps) 1 20
Leg Press

I use bands on this movement because when the weight comes down, there is less pressure and no damage to my knees.

Exercise/Weight Sets Reps
Warm-Up:    
- Band Only 1 10-15 (per leg)
- Band (with one plate on each side) 1 10-15 (per leg)
Working Set:    
- Band (with 1 plate on each side) 1 10-15 (per leg)
- Band (with 2 plates on each side) 1 10 (per leg)
- Band (with 4 plates on each side) 1 10 (both legs)
- Band (with 6 plates on each side) 1 10 (both legs)
Hack Squats

I use the bands on this machine as well. I adjust the pins higher so that, on the way down, I can come to a dead stop. I’ll go from eccentric (extended) to concentric (contracted) and vice versa, without changing the direction of my knee. This is key for me while I train with my current injury.

Exercise/Weight Sets Reps
Working Set:    
- Bands Only 1 10-15
- Bands (with 1 plate on each side) 1 10-15
- Bands (with 2 plates on each side) 1 10
Lunges (Single Leg)

Lunges don't bother my knees, so I’ll do a dumbbell on each side (10 reps) and then drop it and finish each leg with no weight, until failure.

Exercise/Weight Sets Reps
Working Set:    
- 50lbs 1 10
- Bodyweight 1 Fail
- 60lbs 1 10
- Bodyweight 1 Fail
- 70lbs 1 10
- Bodyweight 1 Fail

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1 Comment
Anthony
Posted on: Fri, 04/10/2015 - 12:25

Awesome. Very informative article. I just started working out again after a long break due to a knee injury. It's so frustrating to see your gains go out the window but like you said, it's part of the game. Now I'm real careful about my form and try to prevent injuries. Taking Animal flex helped me out with with the recovery process and I think it's one of the must haves for serious bodybuilders. It's got great reviews.