T Nation

leg trainig with injury

For the past 6 months I have been bothered by a pain in my lower back. I went to the doctor and he said to not put any direct pressure on my spine, mainly squats, for a few months because I had a disk that was slightly bulging. For the past few weeks I was not experiencing any pain until I try to do squats the other day. This caused a lot of pain on my right side from my low back to yhe middle of my leg. The doctor said to stop doing squats or I would eventually have to have surgery. Can you give me some alternate exercises or routines to develope size and strength. I am 25 years old and have been weight training religiously for 6 years. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I have just been through this. First off, be sure that you are rotating your hips properly whenever you bend over to pick up things, not just at the gym. Your lower back should always remain slightly curved in. Herniated discs (My MRI just revealed 2 of them) are a cumulative stress injury that develop over time. If you frequently bend at the waist, as I did most of my life, then your lumbar region will ‘round over’, and the curve will reverse. This tends to happen at the bottom of the squat unless you’re really sticking your but out, rotating the hips, and stretching the hams. The worst case occurs when the lumbar curve reverses along with vertical spine compression loading. This lets the vertebrae open at the rear, inviting the discs to pop out at the spinal column.
Do not ignore the warning signs! Stop loading your spine now and assess your posture and form (get experienced friends to help assess your form) and obtain an MRI to know for sure what’s going on down there before you risk permanent damage.
Now, to answer your question, I have been performing one-legged squats using bodyweight with good success. I use a flat bench press for support. I stand next to the bench pad, facing away, and hook one foot back on the pad, steadying myself by holding onto the end of the bar on the rack. I perform each set on one leg at a time. It’s a combination lunge/squat, depending on how far out you place the foot of the working leg. I do 5 sets of 20 on each leg, resting 30-60 seconds when switching legs. I follow that up immediately with 2-3 sets of 15 on leg extension with slow tempos.


I had to lay off deadlifts, except for lightweight, stiff-leg deads for hams, taking great care to only rotate at the hips and maintain minimal back flexion. This can also be done on a hyperextension bench with a plate clasped to your chest if you set yourself up on the pad to allow some hip rotation. I follow these up with conventional leg curls.
Good luck, and take it easy. If your discs herniate, you could be in a world of hurt. Getting old has its drawbacks, so don’t ever do it! LOL!

doesn’t sound too good, but you may have some options…how do leg presses feel? I had to start doing them because of a shoulder injury I had that prevented me from squatting. A good series of sets on a leg press machine can be quite effective at building up the quads. If the pressure is too much on your back and you can’t use heavy weights, do a superset consisting of slow, full range leg extensions followed immediately by lighter leg presses. Good luck!