How Should A Breast Cancer Survivor Begin A Resistance Program?


First, check with your oncology team and then begin slowly.  Even if you were active before your diagnosis and treatment, begin slowly.  Start with light weights, 8-12 repetitions with  one set of each exercise to cover the major muscle groups.

But, before I go any further, perhaps I should define some terms for you.

  • Reps – a single cycle of lifting a weight.  For example, in a biceps curl, each time your bring your hand toward your shoulder and then return it to your side you will have completed one rep.
  • Set – the number of reps you’ve done of one exercise. So, if you complete 12 reps you will have completed one set.
  • Major Muscles Groups – The muscles of your core, back, hips, legs, chest, arms, and shoulders.

For those who have had lymph node damage, or lymph node removal, you will want to give your body 2 days of rest between workouts.  I would also suggest planning your workout to alternate one exercise for the upper body and one for the lower body.  That way you’ll limit  repetitive movement.  For example, 1 set of squats, followed by 1 set of back rows. It’s a good idea to have your arm measured before you begin the program.  That way, if you have any changes in the arm you’ll have those baseline measurements to work with.   NOTE:  If you experience swelling, heaviness or redness, contact your oncology team.

If you have a Hickman® Line or PICC line, you can move that shoulder in any direction but avoid strong swinging or forceful stretching. Avoid heavy resistance exercise on that side and be careful not to pull on the line.  If you have a port avoid heavy resistance exercise on that side.That doesn’t mean letting your arm just “hang around,’ you’ll go through the range of motion on that side while performing the resistance work with your weight on the other side.

When you feel that one set of 12 reps is easy — you could perform more reps — then go ahead and add a second set.  When that second set becomes simple, increase the weight by approximately 5% and try one set of 12 reps at the new weight.


Plan on performing your resistance workout 2 times a week with at least 2 days  of rest  in between.  If you have any questions, contact me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: