Post-Mastectomy At-Home Training Routine

After my bilateral prophylactic mastectomies, I trained at home and mostly focused on physical therapy exercises. I just was not ready to hit the gym until recovering from after my reconstruction. There are both physical and mental hurdles to overcome when you’ve had your breasts removed and replaced, and my insecurity about being in the gym had to do with my appearance (lost muscle, different breasts) and my high level of discomfort and pain. Doing this routine at home worked perfectly, but I missed the gym… a lot.

The pulley I used to regain shoulder mobility.

My Post-Mastectomy Workout

Following is the workout I did at home starting about six weeks after my bilateral mastectomy (my exchange surgery for implants happened at week 10, and I talk about how I came back after that one here). This workout incorporated physical therapy exercises to strengthen my upper back and shoulders and stretch my shoulders, lats, and pectoral muscles. I also included a bit of lower-body work and lots of walking.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or physical therapist. This information is only to show what I did personally. I can’t possibly know what YOU should do – check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.

  1. PT-prescribed pectoral and shoulder stretches and mobility work 2x/day:

– Lie face up on foam roller and alternate lifting arms overhead in full flexion
– Use pulleys to assist in shoulder flexion from seated position

  1. PT-prescribed strength exercises 1x/day for 2 sets of 10:

– Band straight-arm lat pulldown
– Band standing rows
– Band internal and external rotation
– Dumbbell YTI 2×10 (1-lb weights)
– Dumbbell bent-over row (3-lb weights)
– Dumbbell rear delt raise (bodyweight or 1-lb weights)

  1. Lower-body strength 1x/day for 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps:

– One-leg glute bridge
– Deadbug without arms
– Bench squat / Bulgarian split squat
– Romanian deadlift
– Seated band abduction
– Standing hip extension
– Single-leg calf raise

I also added band bicep curls and tricep pushdowns right before my second surgery.

  1. Walking or hiking for 1.25 to 2.5 miles

Once I got through the initial recovery period after my mastectomies, I regained my fitness level. But of course, I lost strength and muscle after 10 weeks of no heavy lifting. After reconstruction, it was time to start rebuilding. Patience, patience.

Once you’re past physical therapy, surgeries, and have your doctor’s ok, you can proceed directly to my posts about strength training after a mastectomy!

One last note: If you know a woman who is having or has had a mastectomy, please share my blog with her. It’s challenging for women to find the right support, but they can find a bit of comfort and hope here.

This article originally appeared on

7 thoughts on “Post-Mastectomy At-Home Training Routine

  1. Really enjoyed your articles. I am a recent 7 weeks post op – breast cancer survivor – mastectomy left side with direct to implant reconstruction. Im in PT with a breast cancer specialist and what a life saver that is – was released yesterday to go back to the gym, spin class and weights. WOW am I ever still tired at the end of the day, struggling to find the stamina. I wanted to immediatly jump back into spin class, realized I will need to start with longer walks etc. Its been hard to find support for this part of the journey! Oh yeah and I’m 52 on Tamoxifen (no side effects) Thanks for the encouragement ! Susanne in Phoenix


    • Thanks for writing Susanne! Congratulations on getting through your surgery. So glad you found a GOOD PT, too. But yeah! Isn’t it surprising how much stamina decreases?! It’s like moving through mud or being in slo-mo. I sure felt that way too. Nice that you’re doing good on Tamoxifen… I have sometimes wished I had taken it instead of surgery, but then I’d still be stuck with all the tests and stress. So it is what it is :).


  2. Hi Suzanne –
    Love your website. I am 3 weeks out from my surgery to clear out ruptured implants from mastectomies 10 years ago and a PAP flap – second phase of reconstruction will be in about 10 weeks. I am just starting to do some upper body range of motion (still have leg drains) but am trying to plan and learn from your fantastic posts. Is there a size and brand of foam roller that you recommend? I am overwhelmed with all of the options out there and I want to get my equipment lined up and ready to go! Again thanks for your wisdom and inspiration.


    • Hey Linda! Yay for planning ahead! The foam roller you choose really depends on your level, because some are firmer than others. I’d say get a longer one (36″) so you can lie lengthwise along your back and stretch your arms to the sides or upward. If you’re new to foam rolling, this one has some give ( If you’re familiar with foam rolling already, this one’s a little firmer ( My favorite roller is this one, but it’s quite firm and may not work for lying on too well ( :). Good luck with your procedures!! xo


  3. Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly Suzanne. I am totally new to foam rolling so I will definitely go with your first suggestion ( in the longer 36″ length. Is the 6″ diameter version the one you recommend as well – I just want to be sure before I make my purchase! Thanks again ~ you are awesome!


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