T Nation

Coming Back from Disc Injury


Hi folks, I know some of you have been in this situation before so I'm looking for some advice.

I've been lifting for about 5 years, mostly to keep myself in shape for rugby. I would consider myself a moderately-experienced lifter. The winter before last I herniated L3-L4 & L4-L5 while doing a warmup set of squats. Took about 3 months off from lifting altogether and then returned to light weights, gradually progressing back up to about 70-90% of my previous maxes (pre-injury squat/DL/bench 400/475/335 at 195 BW, post-injury 315/405/315 at 205 BW).

This past spring I somehow managed to herniate L3-L4 again outside of the gym - picking up a suitcase of all things. I've been rehabbing it and doing physio, and was cleared last week to return to light weights again and slowly progress, being especially cautious with exercises that stress the lower back.

Now that I'm in the position to lift again, I'm looking for a routine to try. After two rather severe back injuries within a 14 month period, I'm leery of hopping back into a squat and deadlift-centric routine, which have been the mainstay of my lifting for years.

At the moment it's doubly frustrating for me, as not only do I feel like I've lost a significant amount of strength but also the best exercises for (re-)gaining strength are relatively off-limits to me. It's amazing how quickly you can lose strength and conditioning... first day benching last week in months, warmed up with bar, 95, 135, 175 then tried 205... barely managed 3 reps, whereas 5 months ago I could bang out 285 for 3 =(

Only been back in the gym lifting 3 times now, what I've been doing is upper body staples like bench, pull-ups, standing rows (staying away from military press & bent over rows; too much pressure on lower back) and basic assistance work like dynamic stretching & foam rolling, good mornings (zero weight), BW squats & lunges, side raises, ab / bi's / tri's.

Anyone have some suggestions? Thanks in advance!