T Nation

Exercise Recommendations for Back Injury

Please can you take a look at the MRI results on my back.

I am looking for safe exercises to strengthen my back without provoking these injuries.

Are you in pain right now?

Are you having any shooting nerve pain in your legs (like sciatica) from the disk bulges?

Did your doctor say it’s OK to train?

1 Like

No pain right now - as long as warm up and stretch my hips out. Plus doing hanging leg raises has helped loosen things up.

The MRI is from a couple months ago. So I am over the rest period and good to train.

Occasionally shooting pain but not down the leg like Sciatica, localized to lower back.

1 Like

OK! If your back is messed up you want to train your abs and obliques, and your hamstrings and glutes. You want to strengthen these muscles so that they support you take the load off your lower back. Ideally this will improve your posture and help you keep your spine Neutral with no bulges instead of over extended and pinching on your disks.

This is a long winded video from the top spine guy. In the beginning of the video he talks about a strategy to stay within your lower backs capacity. And to not overdo what your back can handle, so it actually heals.

If you don’t want to sit through the whole thing, jump to 11 minutes in and watch the part where Dr McGill explains painful back “flexion” and “extension” and then shows how to find “Neutral.” And how to hinge at the hips instead of bending at the spine.

Dr McGill also recommends 3 basic exercises to build up your core strength and posture. Here’s a video showing those 3 moves.

As far as real lifting, what equipment do you have? Re you in a loaded gym or in your garage with nothing?


I have the same question I have pain down my right leg and ass cheek. An inversion table has helped in the past and doing glute ham raises is helping me a bit now I also started doing more core work but any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Also any of you guys have experience with a safety squat bar? I heard that helps you still squat with out inflaming the discs

Man this guys is a life saver - thank you!

I have joined a local gym with decent equipment.
I haven’t seen any inversion tables or Joe Rogan approved kit… but your usual racks and machines are all present and accounted for.

1 Like

Also check out donnie thompsons practical work with body tempering and movements on his youtube and instagram.

1 Like

For hamstrings (so your legs and ass work, not your low back)

Leg Curls (laying down, seated, standing, 2 legs, single leg, etc)
45 Degree Back raises
Single leg bending over moves
Maybe have the goal of working towards Glute/Ham raises or nordic hamstring curls or other Hard stuff

For abs (keep a level pelvis and neutral spine)

Suitcase Walks
Leg Raises
Planks with your elbows higher than your feet

Fro quads/hips (learn to bend your knees and “squat down” vs bending over, old man style)

Step ups
Split Squats
Maybe with the goal of working towards belt squats, goblet squats or zercher or front squats

For upper back (to keep strong posture, not round over and stress your low back)

Face pulls
Chest supported rows
Chest supported shrugs on an incline bench

Here are a bunch of videos from one of my favorite lifter/coaches. A lot of these videos say the same thing over and over, Do lots of abs, hamstrings and upper back before you do squats/deadlifts/benches. But if you need ideas, dude demonstrates lots and lots of dumb little moves.


Athletic Trainer and Physio Student here:

Any of those MRI findings could be purely incidental. Particularly for active people, 80-90% of lumbar spines show some degree of degeneration. The more active person, the more severe the degeneration.

However, degeneration of the lumbar spine on MRI has no correlation to long term pain and function, and this has been supported by data from the last 10-20 years of research. I for one have two completely herniated discs (L4-5 and L5-S1), 5 degenerated facets, a spondylolisthesis at L5-S1 and foraminal narrowing at L4-5 and L5-S1. I am looking completely pain and symptom free, except for the occasional low-back stiffness the day after particularly heavy lower body training.

Surprisingly, the factors most strongly associated with back pain are not heavy lifting, lifting technique, MRI findings, trunk strength or trunk stability. In contrast ,fear of movement and a fear that one’s own spine is fragile or unstable are the two things most likely to contribute to back pain. For an athletic population, proper load management (not doing too much, too soon) is probably the most relevant factors when managing and preventing LBP. Everything else is fairly inconsequential.

Luckily, the human spine is among the most resilient structures in your body, being able to withstand thousands of kilograms worth of torque hundreds of times throughout the day.

Nothing about your MRI concerns me, especially if you are currently pain-free.

Pick the movements you would like to get better at. Start at a moderately challenging load for a moderately challenging number of reps, and progress over time. Repeat forever and you’ll be just fine.


Front squats and some type of loaded carry (farmers walk, suitcase carry etc.) No belt, controlled, deliberate, mind muscle reps. I injured my back a few years ago and this was the recipe.

1 Like