After a breast cancer double mastectomy, you can eventually get back to any chest workouts you desire!

This means bench press, dumbbell chest press, pushups, the “pec deck” machine – you name it.

Somehow, someway, many breast cancer survivors and women at high risk for breast cancer — who’ve undergone a double mastectomy with reconstruction — believe that this means lifelong restrictions when it comes to strength training the chest.

The Truth About Chest Workouts Post-Double Mastectomy with Reconstruction

“When breast implants are placed, whether a mastectomy was performed or not, there is about a 6-8 week window of time that certain physical activities are strongly discouraged,” begins Rola E. Eid, DO, FACOS, Medical Director of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery & Plastic Surgeon, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southwestern Regional Medical Center.

“For example, strength training the chest muscles too early in the recovery process entails potential risks:

• bleeding in and around the breast pocket where the implants were placed

• tearing of a chest muscle

• rotation of an anatomical-shaped (‘teardrop-shaped’) implant

• tension along incision lines that may lead to widened scars, etc.

“Beyond that eight-week window of recovery, though, there are no restrictions related to strength training—at least, from a plastic surgery standpoint.”

This means that, despite having had breast cancer and a double mastectomy plus the ordeal of reconstruction, you can then—after that recovery window has passed—do any of the following:

• Flat bench press
• Incline or decline bench press
• Dumbbell press (flat, incline or decline)
• Machine chest press
• Pushup
• Cable crossover
• Butterfly (pec deck)
• Dip
• Flye

What Is Animation Deformity?

Dr. Eid says, “You may have heard the term ‘animation deformity’ within the context of female bodybuilding or simply referring to active or athletic women who have breast implants.

“The issue here occurs when breast implants are placed beneath the chest muscle (pectoralis major), and when that muscle is engaged it shortens and causes the breast implants to seemingly shift ‘up and out’ on the chest wall, as if migrating toward your shoulders.

“But since animation is temporary, so too is the animation deformity. For active women who wish to forego this temporary deformity, it’s worth considering having breast implants placed atop or superficial to the chest muscle.

“There are several considerations involving whether a woman’s breast implants will be placed ‘in front of’ or ‘behind’ her chest muscle, and those considerations can be discussed with her plastic surgeon.”


Great news for breast cancer survivors who either want to return to chest workouts or who want to employ chest training for the first time in their lives following their breast cancer treatment:

With the exception of surgical (and other treatment) recovery time, you are under no restrictions for lifting weights!

For additional information about breast cancer treatment and post-mastectomy recovery, contact Cancer Treatment Centers of America at (855) 993-3381. 
Dr. Eid received advanced training in numerous plastic surgery procedures, including breast reconstruction and microsurgery at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Duke University Medical Center.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Alan Poulson Photography