T Nation

Fractured Vertebrae, Squat Alternative


Hi guys, I'm 16. I got some very sad news from my doctor a couple days ago. I have a fractured vertebrae (L4-L5) and i might not be able to squat ever again, let alone play football, but its only a stress fracture and im optimistic about my recovery. it will be a long and tedious one. I planned on competing this winter/spring but thats definitely not gonna happen.

I've been dreaming of competing for about a year now and i dont know how im ever going to with an injury that might not allow me to squat ever again. I don't want to be one of those lifters who specialize in one or two lifts, I want to be a real powerlifter, and god forbid i have to become a bodybuilder.

I love lifting and football, they are my life, and i dont know what id do without them. anyway, to get to the point, if im not able to squat again, what is a good alternative? is there one? like Kirk Kowarski said, "What the hell is wrong with squatting?"


Never squat again with a stress fracture? whoever told you that is an idiot. that sounds like total bullshit to me. Normal bone healing is about 8 weeks. Assuming your not doing something stupid like lifting while the fracture is healing and you give it time, you should be good to go. Your back may be weak once the fracture heals but you should be good with a gradual progressive strength program to get you back in shape.


You will squat again if you allow your vertebrae to heal...
As far as what leg work to do while it is healing i would suggest performing a lot of single leg movement to lessen the stress on the vertebrae themselves (ie. single legged leg press, split squats with one leg on a bench, light walking lunges). You are 16, just don't fucking over do it, and just let yourself heal...


Telling him to do leg press, or in fact any weighted exercise whilst he is healing a bone is plain stupid. Please do not give your advice to someone who has just fractured a lumbar vertebrae, the lumbar section is closest to the hips, and any hip activation will transfer to the lumbar region (considering half of the hip flexors and hip-back muscles attach to the lumbar region.

If you are going to do any exercise consult a physiotherapist, until you have recovered most or all of your flexibility and stability, THEN pick up a weighted program. I would assume any exercises a physio would give you will be bodyweight exercises at most.

Remember this is your back, and not just muscular, it your SPINE.

Recovery AND physio may take 4 months, but then you should be good to go, and have no problems you can't handle squatting. No need for a squat alternative, unless it is assistance exercises to strengthen your weaknesses caused by the injury.


There are countless lifters who have suffered the same injury you are describing and much, much worse; and they still squat, and still have very high fucking totals. Yours is just a stress fracture, don't let whoever said you might never squat again get in your brain like that. That is just plain stupid.

Even Louie Simmons, who seriously fucked up his L4-L5 is a squatting machine at age 60 something.

Keep the right attitude about it and let it heal properly.


thanks for the positive feedback guys... i really appreciate it. i have a month in a back brace and i go back for another x-ray in about 3 weeks. after my x-ray, ill have physical therapy for a while and im sure ill be able to go back to lifting after a while. ill keep ya posted.


I would personally concentrate on sled work for a while. That ill get you away from spinal loading and still let you strengthen your legs. A stress fracture is chronic right? not the result of impact or something?


it results in over use of a certain area of the body... so yes and no. ive taken a number of hits over the football season (i play inside linebacker) and its just been a cumulative thing...


I fractured my L3 a couple years ago. I didnt have insurance so no money for PT. So, I looked into and tried every form a rehab I could do for myself. Constant stretching/foam rolling helps. Ice at first then eventually contrasting with heat pads helps tremendously. The biggest thing that have kept my back healthy since then: Good Mornings. I did them with bodyweight a few days after my initial trauma. starting using LIGHT band tension 2 weeks later. Was able to use a bar relatively pain free in a month and was back to consistant heavy lifting in about 2 and a half-3 months. I never did heavy good mornings before my injury and now I max out on them once a month with zero lumbar pain. Your doctor mught be a great doctor but I'm willing to bet he cant squat worth a shit.


Stormthebeach, do you do any stretching of foam rolling directly on the lumbar spine, or do you keep it to the hips/hams?


that should work out good because i lift at school and they have a bunch of foam rollers there that i can use...


As someone else said above, just consult with your physical therapist and take your time with everything. No need to rush back into exercises if you aren't doing the right things. You have your entire life to improve your squat so be conservative and let it heal.


Seriously, I wouldn't do ANY strenuous exercise with a spinal fracture. Take the time and let it heal and follow the advice of your doctor and physiotherapist to the letter. Any exercise that stresses the spine (which is pretty much any of the major lifts) could cause complications in the healing process.

Look at this way: you're only 16 and it's only 2-4 months. Let it heal and heal correctly and then start back slowly. You will lose SOME strength, but muscle memory will be your friend here -- it won't take you nearly as long to get back to where you were as it took for you to get there in the first place.

If you overdo things however and fuck your spine up further, then you'll be out from lifting for even longer.


In a normal training week, I will probably do about 3 hours total of band tractioning for my lower back. When I was recovering, it was more like 10+ hours. Tons of stretching/mobility work like GM's with just a bar for complete range of motion with different foot positions, foam rolling and lax ball stuff, and just plain old stretching. I don't care what studies or other meatheads say or what anything says, if you lift heavy weights you need to static and dynamic stretch A LOT.


I'm definitely not a doctor but I feel your pain, man. That sucks. Biggest peice of advice I can give you: Don't do anything stupid. You need to take it VERY easy for a while. I'm not talking weeks, I mean months. First and foremost listen to your doctor but all that stuff I said really helped me out and I hope some of it helps you too.



Thats about the wisest thing I have heard on this forum in years.