BBB for Lower Back Issues

Jim and T-Nation elites,

I hurt my back a 2 weeks ago, well not from training, but when I was helping together with my dad and brother renovating the house. I was walking while carrying a cement sack when suddenly along the way, I feel pain in my lower back. The feeling is like a sharp pain with a very tight stretch in my lower back that rendered me sitting for almost an hour and the pain slowly disappears. Although I am now experiencing tightness and a bit discomfort in my lower back when I am not in proper posture when sitting(I have a desk job) but no pain. I also applied the ice/heat combo on my lower back and did some static stretching before sleeping and it really does relieve the situation.

I don’t experience lower back issues when I’m training Bench Press Day.

For Squat Day, I was doing my warm up sets for Squat when I feel really tight issues in my lower back. I decided to stop the exercise and proceed to bodyweight wide squats as an additional warm up then proceed to 45 degree leg presses, light lunges, lying leg curls, dumbbell 1 legged calf raises while holding a rack and did some reverse crunches.

For Press Day, I feel some tightness in my lower back after each set of heavy Overhead Presses and some of it when doing Dumbbell Bent Over Rows in the bench.

Things got worst in Deadlift Day. I was doing warm up sets for my deadlift and similar thing happened when I was in Squat Day but this time, it is with little pain in my lower back. I immediately stopped the deadlift exercise, proceeded to leg press and so on. Same routine I did on Squat Day.

My gym partner told me, which is a physical therapist, that I should stop doing exercises that compresses the spine such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and bent over rows because it will aggravate the pain will causes more serious issues. I also told him that it is just lower back issues and no leg weakening. I learned that one leg weakening and lower back pain is a symptom of herniation.

Anyway, I loved the BBB workouts and I made awesome gains with it. From my long story above and for that I apologize, I am currently a resident of snap city for injuring my lower back caused by not a squat, deadlift or overhead press but a crappy bag of cement.

Now, I was just wondering if there are any variations for the BBB template if you have serious back injuries which is similar to mine? Maybe a subtitute for deadlifts, squats and heavy presses perhaps?

Very much appreciated and more power =)

Thanks in advance.

I’ll bite here as I am working around a back injury.

First, I HIGHLY advise you to get it checked out - especially if it is your first back injury - just to get a finger on the pulse of where you are. Your friend is probably correct for the short term - no way would I resign to a life without squat/ deads…no way. It is unfortunate that it happened, but make the most of it and observe how your body as a whole responds for future issues. Unfortunately there is a lot of trial and error here.

Second, I HIGHLY advise you to get it checked out.
Whenever this happens to me and I am hell bent on being a knuckle head and not letting it heal, I eliminate the exercises where weight is out in front of my lower body that require reaching and moving, i.e. bent rows, dead lifts, etc. Just for awhile. I then work with just squats and benches…you may think you’ll loose pounds on the dead lift not training it, but I have always been able to build back quickly as long as I squat. If you can’t squat at all - I would rest as long as needed.

Third, I HIGHLY advise you to get it checked out.
But… how old are you? Training age? Whenever I hurt my back the first thing I do is reset to stupid light weight and drop my belt. With 5-3-1 you can do this because you can still get stronger with the last set and jokers if you heal quicker than you expected.

Fourth, I HIGHLY advise you to get it checked out.
When I see a doctor, therapist, etc…I try to discern between the diagnosis and his advice. No doctor has ever told me my back was fucked up but go ahead and keep lifting. They usually say, “can’t you just use machines or take a walk?” To which I reply, “No.” But you may have to lose the battle to win the war.

Agree on getting it checked out.

But as far as a “work-around” goes, I’ve relied on Leg Presses, Walking Lunges, and Leg Extensions in place of Squats and Back Hypers, RDLs and Leg Curls in place of Deadlifts when coming back from a hernia repair.

If and when you see a doctor, make sure to get referred to a PT who has experience with athletes. My PT told me never to lift more than 40lbs again and had a very condescending view of powerlifting. Finally I went to a PT who plays on my rugby team and he took my goals into consideration and refused to concede defeat on anything. Because of that I’m back to where I used to be strength-wise, and still getting stronger…

I am 24 years old and it’s not my first back injury but I tell you, it is my worst discomfort as of now. When I am sitting but not in good posture, I get discomfort. When I try to lift moderate objects from the floor such as water bottlles for dispensers, I get pain if I round my back but when I mimic the deadlift stance, there’s no pain. Most people think it’s odd but I believe it’s the proper posture.

Anyway, I’m getting this one checked the soonest time possible. Maybe I will be doing ‘stupid light weight’ and obviously no belt for squats and seated barbell overhead press. I’m still planning what routine is best for my condition for deadlift day. Any ideas?

Try the Triumvirate assistance template. Only two assistance exercises besides the main lift. Jim wrote in one if not all of his books that this template forces you to choose ones that really build the main lift FOR YOU. Follow what he says in the books. The reason I suggest this is because BBB is probably tempting fate a bit much - specifically the extra 50 reps of deads and squats. Choose exercises that promote low back health.

I often cycle in light front squats - in your case you might try goblet squats. The added benefit of these two is they hone my form like no other because they force you to brace your abs and keep good posture - which is what you probably need right now - and they teach you how to drop your gut between your legs - which is vip for the power lifts. Just lose your ego, go light and live to fight another day.
FYI leg presses, curls and extensions aren’t as safe as you may think if your back is compromised. You might try single leg presses so you can lighten the load and still build.