T Nation

Can't Do DLs or Squats

Hey all:

I need some T-Nation advice on diagnosing & rehabbing what feels to be a lower back strain or muscle pull; I think it was from squatting improperly & not doing enough ab workouts… I’ve always been gifted with good strong leg,s but now that is jeopardized.
Bottom line, I was an idiot in neglecting my abs at the expense of big deadlifts and squats. Yeah, I know “balance”… shit…

Now with this back injury I cringe in pain when trying to pull decent weight in the DLs and get concerned at the thought of putting 135 on the squat… Strangely enough, it hurts pulling from the ground up but pullups and DB rows are still OK… I’m thinking it’s a muscle pull and not spinal or nerve damage, but damn does it nag me throughout the day… Anyone recognize the symptoms ? Is there an RMT in the house ?
Any of you guys and ladies have advice on how to rehab this ? It’s pain throughout the day across my lower lumbar region and it hasn’t gone away or subsided much since New Years.

I went to see the clinic doctor and I think he is a moron; he is a marathoner and doesn’t seem too interested in helping me… He diagnosed a back strain (“take some Advil”) but trust me it kills sometimes just to tie me shoes in the morning. As well it feels like my ROM is diminishing for my hamstrings and lower back.

I need to know if chiro or heat or therapy helped any of you lifters that suffered a previous back injury. Please PM me or just reply with advice; my complete physical and first chiro appt. is still a week away. Any advice is appreciated. I’ve got to know that I’ll come back from this.

Sounds like you MAY have a disc problem.
Signs are: It is worst when you have just got up in the morning (due to the spinal discs being a little larger after a nights rest).
Pain when you tense your abs to have that first p*ss in a morning (increasing oressure of the disc onto nerve).
Sitting for long periods makes it worse.
Lying, face up on the floor, raising one leg causes pain (compare to other leg).
Lower back has lost some or all of its natural curvature (lordosis).
My advice: See a Physical Therapist.

From my experience working with this problem (or at least close to it), you will have to increase your trunk (core) strength. Training the rectus abdominis is fine for looks, but the stability will come from transversus abdominis, internal obliques, and erector spinae.
Get the core up to par and you should be able to get back into using compound exercises.
Also, if you are lifting like a powerlifter change up a little…use proper form (lack of better words)with squats and deads for awhile…and assess your posture and performance.

Paul Chek, Ian King, Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey have effective abdominal “core” routines…check them out.

good luck

I have heard good things about Sarno’s book on back pain. I believe it is called ‘Healing Back Pain.’

I have not used it: Someone whom I know personally (i.e., not over the internet) used it succesfully after a disc problem.

A lot of times lower back pain can be caused by tightness in other areas of the body…
Stretch your hip flexors, glutes, quads, ITB’s and see if this alleviates some of the stress. The lower back pain may be just a symptom of the problem…not the cause.
Weak abs and hamstrings can also contribute to the problem.


I feel your pain. That was me two years ago. Unable to sit for more than 10 minutes at a time, couldn’t pick up a pair of shoes from the floor. I pulled my right side QL. Very ordinary.
I could still do vertical pulling movements, but not vertical pushing, and I couldn’t do horizontal movements at all.
The Physio I was seeing had me do all of these wierd and wonderful exercises. I got better at the exercises, but it did not improve my ability to operate as a normal human being. I was also told to take anti inflammatories and pain killers.

After dumping the physio, I started on a new regime:
I did a whole bunch of Ab dominant routines for about 4 months, neglecting other training out of necessity. I started off with the series by Ian King (search the archives), then incorporated other stuff like the bent press, samson side bends.

I deadlifted. I squatted. I stretched, particularly around the hip area.

At the start, my deadlifting and squatting consisted of limited range, bodyweight only, VERY GRADUALLY increasing the loading. Once I was back to where I was prior to injury, I started incorporating a lot of unilateral stuff, single leg squats, goodmornings and deadlifts. I probably took an excessive amount of time (18 months) to get back to where I was, I think fear of another injury was limiting my progress, but I got there in the end.

I have no rehab qualifications, so YMMV, but this helped tremendously.My back is now in better condition than ever. Just take it SLOWLY at first and be sure you are not aggravating things.

Seek different medical advice. I made the mistake of sticking with someonene who had not much idea for too long.

Good luck with it.