Leg Workout w/ A Sciatic Nerve

I am looking for some advice around designing a leg workout that doesn’t use squats, deadlifts, goodmornings, leg press, or any other hip dominant compound movement…I know that sucks but I’ve run out of options.

My primary goal is to continue building muscle but I have my sciatic nerve being pinched in 2 different spots in my hips due to a rock climbing/Lord knows what else injury that accumulated over time. I am safe to exercise but absolutely cannot put much weight above my shoulders so I’m stuck using isolating movements and movements that utilize light weight/body weight. Sometimes I can do bulgarian split squats and weighted walking lunges but I can’t do them every workout.

If anyone has any advice on a leg workout, including the best rep range (or if I should alternate between high and low reps)and which exercises to do at what reps to make the most of this situation, that would be greatly appreciated.

Because I am so active in climbing I only want to do one leg workout a week while incorporating 2-3 sessions of HIIT training on non weight lifting days.


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Yeah, I’ve seen a chiro and continue to work on the issue but it seems as if this is going to be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life, or at least a really long time.

My chiro says it’s okay to lift but to do “feminine” lifting such as really high rep and low weight…I’m not stoked, but what can I do?

So I’m trying to generate some ideas on how to build a decent leg workout using bodyweight and lighter weights for compound movements and then keeping things like leg extension, leg curl fairly heavy. I can do 180lbs on leg extension and about 140-150 on leg curl for 8 reps each, I realize doing leg extension that heavy can cause “jumper’s knee” and so I don’t want to rely too heavily on that movement.

I have tried various workouts but they suck. I hate leg day now cuz I don’t that that pump going. So if anyone has some ideas on how to put together an effective and challenging workout in order to continue to build muscle, that would be great.


hey I feel you on the Sciatic pain, I have a herniated disc in my lower back and its just too painful to do regular squats anymore. I always do front squats now and suprisingly have no pain. Try Roman Deadlifts for your hamstrings too, they’re a great excercise. Zercher squats might work too, I’ve noticed that if the weight is in front of my body it doesn’t hurt. As for reps, I stick to the high volume range, from 8-12 reps. Like Jay Cutler says “don’t ego lift”. Hope this helps.

Thanks, I’ll check out those exercises but I seem to have issues with anything that requires me to pull my hips forward and tighten my ass (deadlifts)…

Me? Ego lift? Never :wink:

Guess I’ll continue to drop the weight


[quote]Lokelani wrote:
Thanks, I’ll check out those exercises but I seem to have issues with anything that requires me to pull my hips forward and tighten my ass (deadlifts)…

Me? Ego lift? Never :wink:

Guess I’ll continue to drop the weight

Thanks [/quote]

I would ditch the leg curls and extensions (extensions generally force people to sit with a rounded back and are not good IMO) and just do single leg work.
Can you do lunges (all directions), step-ups, single leg RDLs? These are all good options.

Lunges I can do sometimes but with only a little weight, maybe 40lbs or something.

Step ups can be painful as I lean forward and put pressure on the joint (hip)

I don’t round my back on leg extensions as I am very aware of my back position at all times, but I do wonder about leg curl because of the arching of the back.

Maybe single leg would be better on the leg curl? My gym only has the laying machine, which I think is the worst for the back.

You think high rep for single leg?

I’m curious as to whether I should kick it into 15-20 rep for single leg and functional moves and then maybe pyramid for leg ext. and leg curl. Sometimes I can do the leg press but I have to keep that at around 90lbs so I keep those reps around 20-30 or just do single leg for fewer reps.

I really want to continue to build muscle (ya food is in check)

Where are the 2 nerve impingement spots (are they disc related or muscular)? Did your chiro diagnose these? Have they done any soft tissue work on the surrounding hip musculature? How about assessing your pelvic alignment?

Many sciatic issues can be cleared up with some sort of myofascial release technique applied to the appropriate tissues along with assuring the pelvis is in optimal alignment through the use of proper mobility and muscle activation drills.

They’re at the second to last and last vertebra (felt right at my hip joints and deep in the middle of each butt cheek) and he thinks it’s primarily muscular because the pain I get in my calf/knee isn’t consistent. The nerve only hurts when I’m having a flare up (mountain biking bails or if I twist at my waist with any weight above my waist)

Yes my chiro has diagnosed it. He does muscular work with me but nothing with my pelvis. He focuses primarily on getting the muslces around it to relax so that things will settle down. I do find that it helps, and I am observing what seems to bother me the most and then avoiding those movements, however, I do want to continue building my legs and my chiro has no recommendations on how to do that other than not squatting/deadlifting, or putting heavy weight above my shoulders.

I’m hoping that the pain will go away but that still doesn’t leave me with an effective leg routine. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to squatting or heavy deadlifts as they seem to be huge triggers for me.

I ignored the issue for 6 years, so while it could be worse, I’ve definately messed something up royally

Thanks for all the input

It sounds like your problems are coming from a strained piriformis muscle. Pain in the piriformis refers pain to the middle of each but cheek and when dysfunctional, can cause the sacrum to twist. This twisting leads to a number of other problems one of which is one hip being higher than the other. This will in turn inhbit the glute medius among others throwing off proper hip musculature mechanics and everything snowballs from there the longer its left untreated.

You can treat the surrounding areas all you want, but if you don’t hit the cause of the problem, it will continue to flare up when overworked. Try to have your chiro assess your pelvis to make sure its level. Also, get yourself a lacrosse ball and begin to roll out the entire glute area. Check out Cressey’s article here ‘Feel Better for 10 Bucks’ if you need some guidelines on self myofascial release.

If you want to take it a step further, pick up the book “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook” by Clair Davies. It’s the best $20 you’ll ever spend if you want to keep money out of your chiros pocket and take a proactive approach to treating all of your aches and pains.


I’ll bring it up with my chiro and see what he thinks about it all. I’ll also do some research so I can get a picture of what you’re talking about (piriformis muscles doesn’t mean much to me)

I’d like to save cash (obviously) but I’m more bummed about having physical limitaions

Thanks again for all the ideas