Skip to content

Defying Medical Restrictions: My Path from Hernia Surgery to Deadlifting 265#

Author: Farren Welzel

In June 2020, I first noticed pain in my abdomen accompanied by an unusual bump above my belly button. Worried about the seriousness of this symptom, I consulted my doctor immediately. The diagnosis came as a shock: an abdominal hernia requiring surgery. Despite my limited understanding of the situation, I trusted the medical expertise at hand and booked the surgery for the upcoming week.

The surgical procedure was swift. The surgeon found several smaller hernias during the surgery, repairing them alongside the main one. After the surgery, the doctor debriefed me and handed me a package of post-operative instructions before discharging me from the hospital.

Recovering was more challenging than I anticipated, with pain and discomfort highlighting how frequently I used my abdominal muscles. However, after a couple of weeks, I was able to move around without assistance. I diligently followed the post-operative instructions, but there was no follow-up appointment.

About two months later, discomfort persisted around the surgical area, pushing me to consult my doctor. She identified my abdominal wall as weak, warning against lifting more than 25 pounds to prevent future hernias.

Feeling deflated and scared, I abandoned my workout routine entirely for fear of another hernia. Even running, a consistent activity since my teens, caused discomfort. But then I came across a post by Kelton on Instagram. It discussed why it's unwise to trust medical providers who permanently set limits to your activity. This resonated with me.

Working with Kelton, our early sessions focused on mastering core engagement and dispelling my fears about lifting more than 25 pounds. One defining moment was when Kelton introduced me to deadlifting. Despite his assurances, I couldn't let go of the 25-pound limit set by my surgeon.

Fast forward to August 2022, I joined Ashten's small group barbell strength class at Steady State, where I had been a client for a year. My comfort level with lifting had gradually increased to 65 pounds, entirely pain-free. In October, the main focus was on deadlifts. By month-end, I deadlifted 190 pounds, still without pain! February saw me break my record with a 225-pound lift.

In April, the Form Lab announced their first annual deadlifting competition. Despite my initial reluctance, encouragement from Kelton and Ashten gave me the confidence to participate.

The competition had three rounds, each increasing in weight. Despite knowing I could do it, lifting the starting weight of 240 pounds filled me with anxiety. Nevertheless, I did it. Encouraged by my success, I attempted 265 pounds, a full 10 pounds heavier than my record. Lucia, a Form Lab coach, was super encouraging nearby. I focused on my core and successfully set a new PR!

Attempting 285 pounds for the final lift proved too much, and I failed. However, it represented the first time I exerted my maximum effort since my surgery, without any abdominal symptoms.

Today, with patience and practice, I can lift over ten times the limit set by my surgeon, all without symptoms. The occasional symptoms I still have are only ever associated with upper body movements like pull-ups and overhead presses, and I'm excited to keep working on improving these.

My story is a testament to pushing boundaries, a reminder that there's typically no limit to what we can achieve with patience, perseverance, and the right medical guidance. I hope it resonates with anyone who has faced limitations, and encourages them to redefine what's possible!