Lifting with Weight Restrictions

I’ve searched the forums and have read lots about the diagnosis and how I should listen to medical advice, etc.

First, the background:

At 22 I was accepted in to Army Special Ops. I was a serious athlete- I trained with the unit in the morning and again after work. I had no life. I did about 2 hours a day of cardio (running, dance).

I was injured in a bizarre accident during an operational deployment. Bizarre, as in, a safe landed on me, affecting my cervical and lumbar spine. (Actually, my T-spine was worked on by a retired SF doc and it’s in pretty good shape- he injected volcanic dust into the ligaments to shorten them up, but refused to touch the other ligaments due to the risk of paralysis.) My thoracic spine was protected to some degree by the vest I was wearing, as well as by gear.

Right now, I have degenerative disc disease (DDD) in 4 cervical vertebrae and 4 lumbar vertebrae. L5 looks like a flat tire on the MRI- it’s pretty well gone, I’m told.

I was doing okay with chiropractic until about 5 years ago. An orthopedic surgeon went on record as saying I couldn’t do a zillion things and I lost my job, etc. as a result. (Got a nice check, however, but that’s gone now.) I’ve since found a new guy who says the opposite, with a few exceptions.

For example: I can’t use dumbbells of greater than 5kg in mass. Training wearing a vest/backpack is out. I can’t do anything that involves ‘impact’ (i.e. jumping) either. I could try ‘hip-hop’ but I’m only competitive in the Senior Citizen category.

Unfortunately, I’m only 37 years old.

Which brings me to my question: How to build when I can’t increase the weight?

I’d love to pump up my arms, at least, and get rid of these Man Boobs which are forming. Am I stuck with endurance routines (and the attendant slim/trim aerodynamic build?) or is there some way to bulk up a bit more? I know I’ll probably never grace M&F but I’d like to look and feel better.

Guess it’s time to revive my own thread. The sad news is, like some of the other guys on here, there is nobody around with whom to share this stuff.

My routine of late has been pretty limited, mostly due to time constraints:

Flat bench dumbbell flys 3x25 with 10 kgs
Incline reverse flys 3x15 with 5 kgs
Lat pulldown 3x12 (machine says 45 kgs)
Incline seated dumbbell curls 3x15 with 10 kgs
Back extension 3x10 reps with body weight
Roman chair 3x15 with body weight
Ab wheel on knees @ the room when I have time.

If I can squeeze in an hour at the gym I’m happy. In the last 2 weeks, I put in 130 hours. I should be sleeping right now, I guess…

I’m going to be brave this week and see how much I can bench. It’s been a while.

That’s the way to start in my opinion. See what you CAN do and go from there.

Doctors frequently say one can’t do certain activities only because they’ve never heard of someone actually doing them after the injury.

“Can’t” often gives way to “Gonna.”

Just be sensible from session to session is all.

No pull-ups or dips??? How about single leg work like lunges or Bulgarian split squats? You can do ab wheel with a messed up spine?

TNT

I’m certainly not an expert, but…

I’ve done phase 1 of the Workout from Hell before

http://stuff.mit.edu/afs/sipb/user/yandros/doc/TWFH.html

Basic idea is 3 sets of 30 reps for 4 exercises for chest and back on day one, and for arms and shoulders on day two. You could certainly throw in a leg day, or use the basic idea for some other combination. If you really want your muscles screaming at you, try sets of 40 or 50 reps.

You may want to try this. Be prepared to be humbled! I was surprised how much of a burn I developed around 25 or so reps. I was also surprised at how much I could lift for a small number of reps after 2-3 months of this.

Another idea to consider is Vince Gironda’s 8x8 system:

For what it’s worth…

Another good thread to read when I feel like complaining.

Keep at it dinero, and certainly keep posting.

[quote]TNT-CDN wrote:
No pull-ups or dips??? How about single leg work like lunges or Bulgarian split squats? You can do ab wheel with a messed up spine?

TNT[/quote]

I’ve (finally!) got a great therapist- we are about the same age, he is specialized in Rehab, with certifications in chiropractic and osteopathic technique. He’s also an athlete, so he understands. He explained that the degeneration is happening no matter what I do, but we have to manage the remaining discs (including 2 which are prolapsed) carefully and keep the spinal column from flopping around too much, so to speak.

I’m venturing into pull-ups territory when the muscles in my neck region (e.g.my levator scapulae) aren’t whining. I’m pretty sure it’s more a safety thing as I might fall- my language skills aren’t all that great and his English isn’t fantastic, either. It’s not specifically prohibited. He still isn’t happy with dips, probably for the same reason.

I suppose that I could do something that would use those muscles in a similar fashion until I built up a reserve of strength, like cable crossovers.

Leg work is something I know I’m weak on, so I’ll look those up. Thank you, Mr TNT.

I will also look up those training regimes, Mr Mathineer. Thank you, too.

Yeah, I am allowed to do the ab wheel only if I’m kneeling the entire time. I tried it (once) the proper way and bloodied my nose, I collapsed so fast. I guess it was pretty funny to watch.

The big one is that I can’t load my shoulders or hips (e.g. hanging a plate from a belt during dips) with anything more than body weight right now, unless the spine is supported, like on the flat bench. So squats, military presses, deadlifts are all out.

I appreciate the feedback and encouragement from all. Special thanks to Mr. DaCharmingAlbino for being the first posting after myself. I was kind of surprised since I couldn’t even see my own post after I clicked ‘Submit’!

Yeah I would take your doctors advice with a grain of salt.

However, you seem to be one of the few people that says “I can’t squat because of a back injury” and actually has a real, present injury. I will give this advice though - my experience is that the human body is capable of a lot more than people give it credit for, even recovering from injuries. Further - I’ve found back pain tends to greatly over-exaggerate it’s severity (simple self-preservation), so push yourself gradually and back off once it starts hurting.

I’ve never been in a serious accident, but I’ve hurt my back 5 times in training and work - once so badly that I could hardly walk for two days, and had to take two weeks off training. It was touchy for a while, but I’m now pulling over 200kg and my back is healthier than ever.

Obviously that’s nothing compared to the injury you suffered, but know that your body will give you a more accurate indication of what it can handle than your doctor will. Doctors are even more self-preserving that back pain.

That being said - look into hyperextensions (don’t over-arch though), reverse hypers, Abdominal pulldowns, push ups. I would have thought the ab wheel would be pretty hard on your back - if your low back sags at the bottom that is bad news. Try hanging leg raises also - if you have to use one of those elbow supporting benches, don’t let your legs swing back and hyperextend your back, and always emphasize pulling your pelvis up to your chest a little.

read and re-read stuart Mcgill “ULITAMATE BACK FITNESS AND PERFORMANCE” I was laid up for over 3 months went I hurt my back, then took me another 3 months before I was walking any where near properly. I listened to the Doc’s and then ignored anything that did not seem to make sense to me. If your doc does not lift or has not studied lifting how the hell is he going to be able to give you proper advice ? Get McGill and go from there, you NEED to be workingout. good luck cheers Spud

In my training of people with extensive lumbar/spine damage we always slowed the rep speed way down and used all chest/back supported machines or seated machines.

Learn how to keep tight on all exercises- real tight did I mention stay tight.

And If I read correctly you are worried about certain exercises but you went and did the ab wheel of death wtf??

Alot of problems also come up because of extreme tightness of back muscles- I would start a Yoga program to gain back your flexabliity in your spine and slowly go from there.

I second what Spud said about readinf Mcgills book - good read.

Fischer

[quote]FISCHER613 wrote:
In my training of people with extensive lumbar/spine damage we always slowed the rep speed way down and used all chest/back supported machines or seated machines.

Learn how to keep tight on all exercises- real tight did I mention stay tight.

And If I read correctly you are worried about certain exercises but you went and did the ab wheel of death wtf??

Alot of problems also come up because of extreme tightness of back muscles- I would start a Yoga program to gain back your flexabliity in your spine and slowly go from there.

I second what Spud said about readinf Mcgills book - good read.

Fischer[/quote]

Doesn’t McGill promote and encourage STABILITY of the back, spine, core, rather that FLEXIBILITY??? I’m not so sure about this recommendation.

But I’m with you on the ab wheel. I just can’t imagine someone with spine issues even attempting it. That fact that the OP can do it surprises and confuses me.

TNT

I am throwing out suggestions to see what works and what does’nt . Alot of what the OP says or states confuses me alot. With the whole flexiblity thing there would be no load per se , most people have have erector/scapula issues caused by previous trauma that was never addressed and now whatever they do something these act up and cause a boat load of trouble .

Personally I would walk around with a weighted vest on and slowly increase the weight over a long time

If you are having trouble with your Levator scapulae - you should not be doing pull ups or dips find out what is causing the nerve damage and address that first.

Have you tried EMS or Ultrasound therapy ?

I should just keep my mouth shut and not try to answer these type of questions because I am not there in person to test/observe you in a controlled manner. I could end up doing more harm than good.

Fischer

Wow, this is great feedback! Thanks to all.

I’m the OP. I played the idiot card and tried the ab wheel thinking it was within my ‘rules’ (no additional weight) and learned the hard way that it was dumb. I can do okay if I don’t raise up from my knees. Shorter lever arm= less force.

I use the Roman chair for my straight leg raises- that elbow supporting rack that ShannonBay refers to in his post. I’ve always done this. Likewise, I’ve always done push-ups. Pull-ups have come and gone and come back.

My current therapist MANDATES that I work out at least 2x week, if not 3x/week or more. He prescribed OTC magnesium supplements after I started cramping in the office. One thing led to another and I found this forum.

The pain from levator scapulae etc. is likely (in my estimation) from degeneration in the C-spine. My take is that I have to manage pain through developing stability. The stability comes from muscle mass. Its been working on the L-spine so far, so I plan on using it up top, too.

An important part I left out- I have to return every 4-6 months for a tune-up. He pushes everything back into place and tells me what to try next. We are 4 years into his treatment. This trip, I was told to start running. He prescribes starting with 100m and gradually building up. I plan on hitting 5 miles before I go back.

He is not a doctor, but a physical therapist. He isn’t worried about lawsuits (Unlike the orthopedist in the US who told me not to do anything for the rest of my life!) The plane ticket costs more than the total cost of his fees. It is worth it.

I appreciate the texts. I will look at them when I finish P school. I tried yoga ages ago and was informed by the very good surgeon that yoga was BAD on general prinicples because of hyper-extended ligaments in my spine which healed in the hyper-extended position.

El Dinero - have you read around the site enough to figure out the difference between flexibility and mobility? If you haven’t I’d recommend reading everything Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, and Mike Robertson put on the site and see if it gives you any ideas. For me, figuring out to get my hip stronger and more mobile helped my lower back a lot (by making it more stable).

Also, if you’re going to do leg work and can’t load your spine much, consider unilateral lower body work. Lunges and one legged romanian deadlifts don’t need to be loaded much (or at all) in the beginning.

You might also want to see if things like bird dogs, side lying clams, deadbugs, palloff presses and planks help.