Broken Toe Xray

How to Workout with a Broken Toe

Being an amateur bodybuilder going into my first offseason with pro-coaches I had high hopes.  I think anyone has high hopes when you have 3dmj backing you.  Right when my food was brought back up to normal levels and I reached the 170ish weight, I felt my strength going through the roof.  The hybrid-5/3/1 I was running had me back into the 500’s for deadlifts in less than 2 months.  I was stoked…………. until I ran into a huge roadblock.

If you want to skip the story or you don’t enjoy cringe-worthy writing, go ahead and scroll down until you reach the first header.

A few days ago I was at the gym training one of my clients.  As usual, I was focusing more on my client than my own workout.  (He’s a gym partner and client).  Anyways, we were cranking out our last sets of standing calve raises on a smith machine before the glorious end of leg day and the nice drive back to work.  I did my last set and went to grab some water.  When I came back to the smith machine we started taking off the 45’s we had put on each site.  I started talking to my client while I took the first of the 45’s off and BOOM my toe was in extreme pain.  I shot a glance down to the source of the fire and saw a circular 10lb weight that seemingly blended into the 45 I had been pulling off.  I danced around for a minute knowing full well that my big toe was broken. I’d had a broken bone or two in the past and I knew this wasn’t something that I would walk off easily.

My partner finished un-racking the weights while I began limping to the car in immense pain.  I told him multiple times that it was surely broken, but I tried to keep my spirits high and second guess myself.  The first thought that came to mind was that I was going to lose all this precious strength I had been building up for the past few weeks…the next thought was all the money I would have to spend going to see a doctor.  I called someone who had experience with broken toes and they assured me that there was likely nothing that could be done for the injury.

I arrived back at work and started back on my computer.  Luckily for me, in an office full of intelligent people there happened to be a retired surgeon who had dealt with broken bones before.  He took a look at it and told me it wasn’t broken (or so he thought).  Regardless, he said I should see a doctor and all my co-workers agreed that I’d be a complete retard not to get an x-ray.  Sighing to myself, I hobbled to the doctors only to find out that the surgeon was wrong.  My big toe was indeed broken and broken in 4 places at that.  I was recommended to an orthopedist which was scheduled the following day.  To spare everyone the gruesomeness of what happened at the orthopedist I’ll let you know that he did some “manual alignment” of the bones.  I was not sedated….and I was not happy.

The Workout

I began dreaming up ways to work around the injury the second I broke my toe.  Matter of fact, the very first thing I did was email my coaches and let them know the bad news and ask there advice on how to exercise around a toe injury.  They gave me some great feedback and after a week I think I have a firm grasps on how to retain and even grow muscle mass with a broken toe.


Obviously this is going to be the most affected bodypart by a broken big toe (or any toe for that matter.)

Exercises to stay away from:

  • Conventional or Sumo Deadlift
  • Free-weight squats
  • Calf Raises
  • Lunges
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Leg Press

Exercises to Replace them with:

  • Hack Squat with Feet at the pad (Dangerous, but effective)
  • Leg Extension
  • Occluded Calf Raises (Read below)
  • Leg Curls (Lying seemed easiest).
  • Glute Ham Raises
  • Hyper Extensions (For lower back)
  • Hip Abduction/Adduction (A “Girly exercise I know, but they’ll keep the inside of your hips strong without the sumo deadlifts).
  • Glute Machines.


Exercises to stay away from:

  • Barbell Rows
  • DB rows with a foot down
  • Seated Rows

Exercises to Replace them with:

  • Close-Grip Pulldown
  • Hammer Strength Pull-down
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Chins


Exercises to Stay away from:

  • Standing Overhead press.
  • Standing Lat Raises
  • Most other standing exercises that require good balance
  • Power lifting Bench Press form

    Knee Wrap Occlusion

Occlusion Training

Occlusion training is a relatively new method of training.  It requires bands or knee wraps wrapped at the top of any particular bodypart.  Both Bicep/Triceps and Calves are great body parts to utilize this training method on.

Take the knee wrap and wrap it about 70% tightness around a body part.  70% meaning about a 7 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the tightest you can possibly wrap the body part.  Load up about 20-60% of your 1 rep max and crank out high reps to failure for the body part. For my calves with my broken toe, I’m performing 4 sets to failure of occluded band calf raises.  Essentially I’m taking a go-fit resistance band, sitting on the ground, wrapping right below the knee, and slipping my foot onto the handle.  Then I do calf raises from the ball/arch of my foot to insure that I don’t hurt the toe.  I usually crank out about 20 reps before I fail and trust me…you will fail HARD.  Occlusion training forces blood in the muscle, but the point is to prevent it from coming back out.  This allows growth factor that is produced by the muscle to remain in that section for an extended period of time rather than being washed away.  You have never experienced a pump like this until you try it.
This isn’t ideal for my calves considering I feel like I respond best to heavy weight type exercises, but 3dmj is confident that it will retain my muscle mass while I recovery from the shattered toe.


Overall, this is not a hard injury to work around.  When you DO get an injury, don’t be depressed.  Realize that there is at least a way to retain your muscle mass although you may lose a bit of strength.  Occlusion training and google are your best friends for workout out body-parts in unique ways.




Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

January 18, 2015 at 09:01 PM

Thanx for the great advice! 3 days ago I dropped a 10kg weight on my big toe, It was a stupid mistake I could have avoided if I was concentrating on what I was doing. I am back in training mode and actually the change in routine is beneficial as It will be perfect timing to switch back when the toe has healed. Cheers

Zach Hudsonreply
January 28, 2015 at 08:01 AM
– In reply to: Jean-Louis

10kg is a lot more than my 10lber. Ouch! Glad the advice hit home!

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