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Life After Squats

17 y/o here. I’ve had a herniated disc since Sept. 2016. PT said on Monday to never squat again.
When I stopped, my squat was at 355lbsx4 @180lbs deep.

I squatted last week and my strength dropped dramatically, where 185lbsx5 deep was challenging.

I need leg strength, I’m a basketball player and I want to play D1, D2, or D3. Leg press puts pressure on my discs too. The doctor didn’t say anything about deadlifts when I asked what other exercises to avoid.

The herniated disc is a bummer, but the PT said that although I have it, loosening up with stretching and yoga should do the trick for me.

You don’t need to squat 300+ lbs for basketball.
Focus on plyometrics and agility training.

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The doctor is full of shit. You will still be able to squat after herniating a disc, but first of all you need to fix your technique and don’t squat if your back is still hurting. Just for an example, Blaine Sumner squatted over 500kg with a herniated disc (might be more than one). Of course that isn’t what you want to be doing to help it heal, but the point is that you will definitely be able to squat again. I messed up my back a couple years ago, never went to a doctor but I assume I herniated a disc (they can only know for sure with an MRI) and have added about a hundred pounds to my squat since then. Reading some of Stuart McGill’s work might be helpful, one thing he said is that herniated discs can still tolerate compressive forces but not shear forces and loaded flexion. In other words, even if your disc hasn’t healed you can still lift as long as you are able to keep a neutral spine. I remember you posting “ATG squat” videos, you need to stop that shit because going too deep is going to put your lower back in flexion at the bottom (butt wink), squat as deep as you can go with a neutral spine and learn to brace properly.

What sort of stretching do they have you doing? Stretching your back is something that doctors and so-called specialists have recommended for years but according to Stuart McGill that will fuck your back up worse, you want spinal stability not flexibility. I know I sound like a McGill groupie right now, but he has fixed numerous lifters’ backs including Brian Carroll and Blaine Sumner and had works with Chris Duffin, he is regarded as the world’s leading specialist in spinal health for a reason. Look for videos/instructions on the McGill Big 3 (McGill curl up, bird dog, side plank) and do those regularly. He wrote a book with Brian Carroll, “The Gift of Injury”, I haven’t read it but it might be useful for you.


What were you doing when you injured your back?

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belt squats are great for guys with back problems! Theres this thing called a pit shark that most big college athlete programs have, hard to find but great to use when my back is acting up

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Single leg work, like rear foot elevated split squats (Bulgarian Split Squats) with DBs, is great for athletes. I worked for a while as a strength and conditioning coach and we didn’t even have athletes back squat, we focused on single leg work with great results

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This is the squat that started it.

The PT gave me hamstring stretches (which are extremely difficult because they pull my nerves) hip rotations, basically hip and lower back stretches. He said “I know you have this disc problem, but you’re really tight in the hips and back.” I noticed that my hamstrings are very tight.

I actually injured my back a long time ago, and still hit several PRs without pain afterwards. This is so weird.

Also, my father happens to have a herniated disc in the exact same area.

I nearly got injured just watching that. If you ever get back into back squats, do yourself a favour and get your form down pact before you start putting plates on.


Did he tell you to keep a neutral spine when you do hamstring stretches is it a bend over and touch your toe kind of thing? My father has back problems and I eventually realized that lot of stuff the doctors/specialists had him doing are exactly what Stuart McGill says not to do. That probably explains at least part of why he continues to have issues.

Herniated discs heal, and some herniated discs have no symptoms. There are plenty of people walking around with herniated discs that have no idea because they have no back pain. It’s not like you are fucked for life, a lot of the best lifters have injured their backs. If it doesn’t hurt then I don’t see any reason why you can’t squat, just don’t go too heavy, go easy on the volume for now, and don’t allow any technique breakdown.


It’s the lying hamstring stretch with the towel on the foot, but it’s very hard anyway because hamstring stretches (besides PNF) pull the nerve taut, or that’s at least what it feels like. So I can never get the full effect because the pain from the nerves make it nearly unbearable.

What program for squats would you recommend. The last time I really squatted heavy was around Sept 2017. Since then my max has dropped from ~405lbs to ~240lbs. I was thinking 3x6 moving up 5lbs a week.

But the real goal was increased athleticism, which I must say, had only slightly increased from increased strength. I noticed that my vertical jump has decreased even though I have been practicing and playing basketball almost every day. However, though it was not increasing when I was lifting heavy. It only increased after the initial introduction of strength training.

I really don’t understand what’s going on. It seems like nothing works. I thought that maybe ceasing lifting would result in supercompensation, but my vertical feels like a legit 12 inches. I’m 6’1" , 180lbs. I used to could grab the rim 2 hands. I can’t do that anymore.

Athleticism isn’t the holy grail, my actual skills have improved a lot, and I’m planning on waking up early in the morning to practice before school, then practicing after school too.

My athleticism is a problem for me indeed, though; I’m slow and stiff.

Look at this video for example of me working on my crossover before working on my shooting:

Do you see that stiffness? I’ve been actively trying to fix it. I practice a lot, on everything, but this stiffness is really a hindrance for me. I consider the stiffness an athletic weakness too.

You could do something like that, maybe squatting twice a week would be a good idea too. I was telling you before that you could do other stuff like half squats and power cleans to improve your jump, you don’t jump from a full squat position when you are playing basketball so these would probably be more specific and I have heard of athletes using them. Squatting for improved sports performance and squatting for powerlifting are two different things and I only really know about powerlifting, you could find more info elsewhere online. I know that Joe DeFranco trains athletes and has helped improve their vertical jumps, look up his site and see what you can find.

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Stretching is overrated and oftentimes counterproductive, especially for hams.

This is what saved me.

I have it done 2x week, before squats and before pulling.

Also, I’ve found that hanging like a monkey from a bar, 30 seconds x 4, helps not only with shoulder health and mobility but helps distract the spine and feels good.


That look like it feels SO good.

Figured this is worth bumping instead of side-tracking the other thread.

Are you done with any rehab work and cleared to resume training on your own? If so, what’s your plan?

As I’ve said before, over-emphasizing the squat was your biggest mistake. You can do absolutely fine without back squatting. The only lifters who have to back squat are competitive powerlifters. Nobody else has to do the lift and, in your case, it’s more beneficial not to.

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Thanks for the concern.

I’ve been doing physical therapy and stretching for two weeks now. The pain is getting slightly better but the most significant difference that I have seen is that my body is moving more fluidly.

2 Physical therapists told me not to squat, but maybe I can later on after I get better. Or just deadlift.

My plan for my athleticism is

  1. Get stronger and jump/sprint
  2. Stop all lifting and only sprint and jump.
  3. Rinse repeat.

For the past few months I have not been able to do speed training because of Chicago winters. I just don’t have the means in the winter.

Yea I learned my overemphasis the hard way.

However, according to the other thread, the best piece of advice is to give up, in which I would have no motivation or reason to train.

Nobody online is in a position to tell you to disregard the advice of therapists who’ve examined you. That said, the advice “not to squat” from doctors is almost-always referring to the barbell back squat. Squat alternative like goblet squats and front squats, along with single-leg work like lunges and split squats, are much less stressful on the back and should definitely be manageable.

I don’t think “stop all lifting” should ever be part of the plan for an athlete. Adjusting volume, intensity, and frequency, sure. Dropping gym time to zero, nope.

More specifically though, what’s your current weekly routine? Are you doing any lifting now?

Not sure what you consider “speed training”, but how familiar are you with explosive lifts like power cleans, swings, and dumbbell snatches? Those are the kinds of lifts we need to work on for explosive strength that will actually translate from the gym onto the court.

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Damn 17 y/o and already banged up… I think you’re #1 priority should be staying injury free, above gaining strength.

The bad news is, Squats and Deadlifts are not for everyone, no matter how many times some PLers will try to claim otherwise. The good news is, there are better athletically suited alternatives.

If I was you, I would focus solely on rehabbing, flexibility for a few weeks. After that, focus on Split Squats, Lunges, Farmer’s Walks, Trap Deadlifts, GHR, Back Extensions, Front Squats. You’ll reap all the benefits of squats and deadlifts without the downsides and injuries.

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I actually read a lot and talked with this guy named Daniel Back. He owns a website called Jump Science, and has a degree in some sort of anatomy. He is where I got that idea from.

He backs a lot of his things up with both physics and personal training experience.

He told me to stop lifting, that was when I listened. Every single one of his statements lined up with all of my issues.

I have not squatted heavy in 6 months, only bench pressed a few times a month. My squat dropped massively but it doesn’t really matter, because I wasn’t using ANY of it explosively.

I was a powerlifter basketball wannabe. Literally. I might has well have been the physically weakest person on the court. Lifting gave me a shit ton of mental strength though, and now, my ability stick with something I’m passionate about even at the risk of losing everything is present. I’ll live through it.

Speed training I consider as max sprints and jumps.

There’s a continuum called the speed- strength spectrum. Foot contact and force development happen in the time frame of foot contact.

From 0.0-0.2 seconds is the force window for sprinting. This is the fastest possible movement, but also the hardest to influence with training. Max force development within this window, especially the first 0.1 seconds is what sets people like Usain Bolt apart from guys like me and you.

0.0-0.4 seconds is the time window for max vertical jumps, which is far more able to be influenced by training because the time window is larger so more force can be used.

From 0.4-0.6 seconds is the window for olympic and explosive lifts. I was never properly trained in the clean so I never really wanted to do them, especially without an instructor. Daniel Back said these lifts make you “faster” but aren’t within the window of jumping.

0.7 seconds+ is max force, like squats and shit. My specialty. This is why i was super slow, my body was adapted to lifting heavy and that strength was only usable in a time frame too long to be used on the court. I lifted too heavy and for too long a time.

And I know this is all true because my vertical increased about 6 inches from strength training alone up until a certain point, about 1.6x bodyweight I think. However i trained until 2x bodyweight+. My vertical actually never changed despite extra strength.

I know that we all have different genetic limits, but most people are far from their actual potentials.

I have a herniated disc. It acted up in 2014. My disc slowly swelled and finally pinched the nerve enough to affect my leg. My shin was numb and my medial quad quit firing. I couldn’t flex it and it got to the point where I couldn’t lead with that leg going up the stairs.

I still squat. It’s fine. Once the swelling subsided I was able to return to my normal training. I had an MRI and visited both the neurologist and spinal specialist during the process.

Trap bar deadlifts can be done in a manner that is like a squat but there’s way less compression.

The things you mention about speed, jumping etc have a lot to do with neurology. Most of that can’t be trained. On the plus side no one said you have to squat heavy to jump high or run fast.

The “stop lifting” thing is kind of dumb unless it’s meant to be short term while you heal.

You can get the benefits of Olympic lifts by learning variations like the pull and high pull and they take less skill.

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The difference between your absolute maximum force and the force you can develop in a certain time frame, such as vertical jump take off, is known as your explosive strength deficit. The explosive strength deficit is about 50 percent in tasks like jumping.

If you quit lifting completely and just focus on plyometrics you will reduce the explosive strength deficit and be able to use more of the maximum force you possess. However this style of training alone will only take you so far and at some point you will need to increase your maximum force production.