Bodybuilding with Pacemaker

Hello all,

I got my pacemaker on 07/06/2020. Prior to the pacemaker, I was an avid weightlifter and competitive bodybuilder. My doctor cleared me to exercise about a week ago, but told me I should avoid any intense weightlifting or repetitive movements ( which exercise is a series of). Has anyone had any issues with the device or leads when lifting? Also, if there are any bodybuilding competitors on the forum, how has this changed the way you prepare for shows and/or are you still competing? Are there movements I should be avoiding? This has been life changing so I want to take precautions and not cause issues.


Be carefill

by qwerty - 2020-08-21 20:33:43

While you can pretty much do whatever you did before pm, just be sure to give your body time to heal.  They put wires in your heart and it needs to heal before you resume activities. You don't want them to pull out because you tried to exercise too soon.  Your Dr. Will tell you when it is safe to resume.  

The only activity I have not been able to do after pm is skeet shoot and for some secret reason they put it on my right side where the stock would sit.  It is a real ouch to do it so I found a different hobby.


Bad advice gets repeated over and over

by Theknotguy - 2020-08-22 10:07:04

After you get your pacemaker you find there is a lot of bad advice out there that gets repeated over and over.  What may have been true in 1970 is not necessarily true today but nevertheless, the information gets repeated as though it were gospel truth.  Add in tort law and people repeat the stuff in an effort to absovle themselves from any responsibility - othewise known as "CYA".  So it makes it really hard for people who have just gotten their pacemaker to tell what is valid information from what is just noise.  We've also had people who delighted in telling newbies scary mis-information.  Kinda like the kids who tell ghost stories on camp-outs to scare the first-timers.  

I was volunteering in the hospital where I got my pacemaker.  First surprise was the heart floor nurses didn't know very much more about pacemakers/ICD's other than to get you up on your feet and out the door.  They didn't know anything beyound the basics of a pacemaker or ICD.  That was left up to specialists.   Consequently I ended up in a conversation with one of the better rehab people.  She was telling me - and had it in writing- there was a lifetime limit of lifting 47 pounds of weight with the arm on the pacemaker side.  Per hospital policy she had to tell every one of her pacemaker/ICD patients that information.  She got the jaw dropping, questioning look from me.

The reason for the surprise on my part was because I had gone back to working in a volunteer wood shop and was regularly moving 55 pound 4x8 sheets of manufactured wood.  Didn't matter what arm I used and I was doing it all the time.  Also lifted various weights of wood through out the day.  No problems.  So I don't know where the supposed 47 pound weight limit came from.  

After talking with the rehab person I literally walked down three flights of stairs and had a conversation with one of the security guys who also had a pacemaker. He had been lifting weights as part of his security/police force training and had worked himself up to bench pressing 300 pounds.  While rapidly and repeatedly lifting that amount he finally broke one of his leads.  He said he knew he was pushing it and wasn't surprised it happened.  As long as he wasn't lifting weights he got along fine but his EP immediately stuck him in the hospital and fixed/replaced the lead.  

Post the six week or so period it takes the outside layer of skin to heal, there is a lot of underlying healing that goes on.  I had had a traumatic intro to getting my pacemaker with CPR, broken ribs, and a collapsed lung.  Consequently it took me a full two years to get back to "normal".  So take it that my numbers are off.  At or about seven months I went back to working at the volunteer wood shop.  Limited myself to not lifting anything more than 20 pounds.  I'd get along fine while I was at the woodshop but the next day it would feel like someone had wrapped my pacemaker in sandpaper and scrubbed it around in the pocket.  It took me the remainder of the first year until I could work comfortably at the wood shop.  

Based upon what the security pacemaker guy and what I have personally experienced I'm fairly sure you can go back to lifting weights.  However you are really going to have to pay close attention to what is going on with your body.  Where you could, in the past,  just push through and keep on going, you will probably need to stop and then re-evaluate over the next few days.  It takes a while for that underlying tissue to heal and you can then re-injure yourself by pushing it.  I can also tell you that working through the scar tissue that forms is no fun either.  And, no one can tell you what that will be like as we all heal differently and in different ways.  

So I'm not telling you no.  Just be careful in how you return to weight lifting, listen to what your body tells you, and accept the fact there might be limits and you may have to live with that.  Otherwise, I hope the adjustment to your pacemaker goes well.  

Body building

by AgentX86 - 2020-08-22 20:46:27

The only exercise that proscribed by my EP was pressing free weights.  There is a chance of the bar resting (or worse) on the chest, breaking a lead.  He said anything on a machine was fine.  My exercise is walking so a prohibition of free weights didn't much matter to me.

The other prohibition he gave me was riding lawn mowers (charging system).  That worked out for me too.  The boss won't "let" me do the lawn anymore.  ;-)

Lifting weights

by doublehorn48 - 2020-08-23 13:19:41

I've read the other comments and I won't disagree with any of them.  I received my first pm in 1987.  I was 38, I think, it's been awhile, and I'm now 71.  There was no one to talk to about lifting or running.  So I took some time to heal and eased back into running and lifting.

There are no lifts that I have wanted to do that I haven't done.  The reason I don't lift more than I do is because it's too heavy for me to lift.  I've become aware of other people's opinions and I might add Drs. that have been against lifting weights.  My wife objects to my lifting.  She has read the negative comments.

The security guard has the right idea.  If I break a lead I will just get it fixed.  I've had leads replaced, but no more than anyone else.  I use to move furniture.  Now I drive a truck and deliver to restaurants.  The heaviest cases weigh 65 lbs.  Dressers and pianos weigh a lot more than that.  I'm glad that I went back to a normal life after gettin a pm.

Have a good life with your pm,


Watch out.

by Hoser - 2020-08-23 21:41:57

Guaranteed if you hit your PM with a weighted bar while bench pressing you will feel it for a while.

I added free weights to my initial walking/treadmill and body weight exercises with no issues. I was careful, and I also wasn't lifting anything over 200 lbs doing a 5x5.


by firekurt - 2020-10-01 06:31:14

I do powerlifting and studied the movements for many years now and the best bodybuilders were first powerlifters (fun fact). It's a way better form for lifting heavy. Bench press for example is slowly lowered to the bottom of the ribs from the starting position over the head/upper chest. You'll never hit your pacemaker if you lift like a powerlifter. I do shoulder presses but rarely touch the bar to my upper chest. If you get into Olympic lifts you may want a pad for over your PM. Just make sure your pocket is completely healed up before doing anything with reaching.

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