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Leg Exercises With Herniated Disc?

hey guys, I’m not new when it comes to bodybuilding, but this is somewhat or a newbie question… I have a herniated disc in my back (L5/S1) and basically I’m being told that I can NEVER do any form of squats or leg pressing anymore…

what are some suggestions for good leg developing exercises that I can do without compressing the spine or messing with the disc anymore than I have already… and I def. can’t do deads anymore which I’m most upset about… any suggestions would help. thanks in advance, guys.

Lunges, bulgarian split squats with BW, bodyweight pistols (one legged squats)…try using a hip belt or dipping belt to avoid loading the spine. Not sure about leg press, but perhaps thats an option too.

[quote]metalmuscle wrote:
hey guys, I’m not new when it comes to bodybuilding, but this is somewhat or a newbie question… I have a herniated disc in my back (L5/S1) and basically I’m being told that I can NEVER do any form of squats or leg pressing anymore…

what are some suggestions for good leg developing exercises that I can do without compressing the spine or messing with the disc anymore than I have already… and I def. can’t do deads anymore which I’m most upset about… any suggestions would help. thanks in advance, guys.
[/quote]

I think dumbbell lunges would probably be about the least stressful to your lumbar region. Make sure to work your core. If you do cardio consider the elliptical.

[quote]metalmuscle wrote:
hey guys, I’m not new when it comes to bodybuilding, but this is somewhat or a newbie question… I have a herniated disc in my back (L5/S1) and basically I’m being told that I can NEVER do any form of squats or leg pressing anymore…

what are some suggestions for good leg developing exercises that I can do without compressing the spine or messing with the disc anymore than I have already… and I def. can’t do deads anymore which I’m most upset about… any suggestions would help. thanks in advance, guys.
[/quote]

WHOMEVER SAID THIS TO YOU IS FULL OF LIES. Specially if it was a doctor. If it was for the medical field I would still be in pain, unable to run, lift or even sit down for extended times.

I have an even worse injury (T7, L4, L5S1) and I squat, deadlift and leg press more than when I was a teenager. The thing to understand is that you have a compromised skeletal structure. The surrounding musculature has to be extremely strong to support the weakened area. All your posterior chain, obliques and abs have to be trained with high reps and high weights.

In fact if you want to eliminate pain in your lumbar area forever start doing hyperextensions until you reach no pain whatsoever in the complete range of motioin, perform GHR and good mornings with bodyweight only for endless sets every day to return the area to its high enduring purpose. Once that happens use the 15-20 rep range with bodyweight, then use bands, then use free weights and work your way up in poundages. Never go into the 5RM. Learn staggered reps and become intimate with pre-exhaustion.

PM if you want to talk in private about operations, procedures, recovery times and therapy.

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[quote]metalmuscle wrote:
hey guys, I’m not new when it comes to bodybuilding, but this is somewhat or a newbie question… I have a herniated disc in my back (L5/S1) and basically I’m being told that I can NEVER do any form of squats or leg pressing anymore…

what are some suggestions for good leg developing exercises that I can do without compressing the spine or messing with the disc anymore than I have already… and I def. can’t do deads anymore which I’m most upset about… any suggestions would help. thanks in advance, guys.
[/quote]

WHOMEVER SAID THIS TO YOU IS FULL OF LIES. Specially if it was a doctor. If it was for the medical field I would still be in pain, unable to run, lift or even sit down for extended times.

I have an even worse injury (T7, L4, L5S1) and I squat, deadlift and leg press more than when I was a teenager. The thing to understand is that you have a compromised skeletal structure. The surrounding musculature has to be extremely strong to support the weakened area. All your posterior chain, obliques and abs have to be trained with high reps and high weights.

In fact if you want to eliminate pain in your lumbar area forever start doing hyperextensions until you reach no pain whatsoever in the complete range of motioin, perform GHR and good mornings with bodyweight only for endless sets every day to return the area to its high enduring purpose. Once that happens use the 15-20 rep range with bodyweight, then use bands, then use free weights and work your way up in poundages. Never go into the 5RM. Learn staggered reps and become intimate with pre-exhaustion.

PM if you want to talk in private about operations, procedures, recovery times and therapy.

Hye Sawadeekrob
I suffer from a disc bulge which has lead to sciatica.
I can leg press properly. The only back exercises I do are bridges, bird dogs and some improvised reverse-hypers.

Could you please go deeper into the procedures, recovery times and therapy you are talking about? As I understand, your advice in a nutshell is to do what you can without pain and build up from there, right?

A lot of people (including myself) have recovered from herniated discs and can do stuff like squats and deadlifts. Figure out how you hurt your back in the first place and learn how to avoid doing it again. If you have a history of injuring your back, it’s particularly important to work very hard on flexibility and ab strength.

Be careful with leg presses. It may seem that you are not loading your back but if your back starts to round because your hamstrings are tight and you are going too low you will place your back in a very comprimizing situation. I would stay away from the leg press completely until your back is very strong. Sawadeekrob just told you how to do it.

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this guy is a sports spine specialist (spine and neck specialist)… he told me to try and not only strengthen my abs more than they already are, but to start using some hyper-extension machines. I say machines, cause he didn’t even say to do just hypers, he said use that hyperextension machine and get my extensors to the point where i can do about 180 for reps, easily… he said stay away from leg presses, squats, etc. basically all my favorite exercises…

problem with my injury is, i dont even know how it happened! it wasn’t something like i was lifting crazy weight one day and just felt a pop or pain all of a sudden… it was a built up thing. So i cant really avoid anything because im assuming it was just accumulated lifting. I’m 20 years old and have been lifting since I’m 13. Not as seriously at first, obviously, but I’d say lifting seriously for about 3 and a half to 4 years.

Pay attention to him. Eventually when your abs and lower back are strong you may be able to squat again. In th meantime, lunges and one legged squats are your friends.

Thanks guys I appreciate the tips. I’m going to get started on my back development and in the meantime also start doing more Bulgarian squats and lunges. Let’s see what results I get! thanks again!

I have been told that front squats with light weights may be good for this. Can anyone confirm?

If your injury built up over time, you have to retrain all your movements and the way your brain recruits muscles during those movements.

It seems hard at first and takes a lot of patience.

I also have herniation at L5/S1 (among others). My movement problems during compound leg exercises are

  • thoracic flexion
  • lack of ankle mobility
  • excessive lumbar movement: extension at the beginning of any compound leg movement, but flexion at the bottom
  • no glute activation on the left side

My DIY rehab protocol is still evolving, but the following is working well so far:

  • mostly single-leg exercises with attention to keeping spine straight and stiff. I especially like single-leg SLDLs. Mike Boyle has a great article on single-leg exercises complete with videos. I am doing most of them, in 2 lower-body sessions per week.
  • I also work on the movement patterns 2-3 times every day. Just 1-3 reps of a few movements, like unloaded squats and DLs with perfect form.
  • foam rolling and soft tissue work, especially the thoracic spine
  • ankle mobility, in a dynamic squat type movement
  • wall slides
  • iso holds at the end point of good form in my limited ROM
  • lots of spinal stability stuff (NOT balance stuff) where I focus on keeping spine straight and stiff during various movements, including pushups, rows, etc.
  • glute activation with Gray Cook hip lift every day

Also, ANYTHING that hurts, I don’t do it, or don’t do it with the movement pattern that hurts. My goal is to eliminate pain, not only for my quality of life now, but also to possibly avoid spinal stenosis in my future.

I have had great results so far. Zero pain following workouts or movements (which I previously thought impossible). Radically different posture. Much better muscle recruitment. I now have hope that I’ll be able to do real workouts again someday.

Good luck.