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Living Out My Dreams


Hey guys, just letting you know ahead of time, I'm the kid that fractured my L4-L5 vertebrae. I've been gettin' a lot of shit lately. My parents are trying to tell me that I'll never play football again. My doctor is trying to tell me that I'll never be able to squat and deadlift again, let alone compete. From this day forward, I've decided that I am going to dedicate everything I do to being able to play football and eventually compete again. I try to tell my parents that football and lifting are some of the most important things to me, but they don't get it. My doctor looks like he's never lifted a day in his life. My friends are telling me that I'll never recover, but I don't give a flying rat's ass.

I have been in physical therapy for the past 2 weeks and have another 2 weeks to go, pending my therapist's decision. There is a chance that the fracture will never go away. There is a chance that I will never play football again, but there is not a chance that I won't ever lift again.

So, what I'm trying to get at is where to go when I'm able to lift again. It's been exactly 2 months to the day since I suffered the fracture. I was planning on returning to the weight room as soon as I was finished with physical therapy, but I'm considering putting it off until New Year's.

So, when I do return to lifting, what do I do for my squat and deadlift? How do I get back into the groove? What can I do to avoid injuring my lower back again? I know as a powerlifter, there's always the chance of injury, and nobody's immune. So, any input that somebody who has been in my shoes before can offer, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE for the love of God, let me know. This is something that is near and dear to my heart. Thanks.



I'm no expert, but I would start very very slowly. Like starting with the easiest of body weight exercises (bw gm's, prone cobras, bridges). I wouldn't even think about doing any weighted exercises that involve your even a little bit (that includes bench pressing). If you added a link to your former post, you might get more responses.

DISCLAIMER: Again, I'm not an expert. I can't promise that doing this won't get you hurt again. It's just what I would do in your position from what I understand about it (which is very limited).


I do think that you will likely be able to get back to lifting, but you need to be very careful and make sure you do things correctly. It doesn't sound like your doctor is doing a very good job of explaining exactly why he is making his recommendations. I would urge you to find a sports medicine ortho that has experience with athletes and active people and get his opinion.

I know this may take extra time and money, but we're talking about your long-term health and safety so it would certainly be worth it. I honestly don't think anyone here can give you anything other than very, very general advice.

You may also submit a question over at the the elitefts Q&A and direct the question to Mike Hope and/or Thomas Deebel. They could provide some help if they have the pertinent details, but again it won't be as good as seeing an expert in person.


Good luck with the recovery. Just remember, people recover from stuff like that all the time. My friend was hit by a car and told he'd never play sports again, let alone contact sports, after crushing his pelvis and several vertebrae. He did the required physical therapy and went on to be the best defensive tackle on our team my senior year. Just don't push it too hard too early, and remember that the most important thing is keeping yourself out of a wheelchair.


Firstly, I do understand you passion. I've had a very serious back injury myself, and I won't go into details now, but I make it clear that I tought my "lifting career" was over, and that I could never squat heavy again. But after about 1 year after the injury happened I could squat again. In the meanwhile I tried to do whatever I could, but for the first 3 months I did absolutely nothing and got into a state of total depression, basically stopped caring about anything, and I could feel how my body deterioated.

I did not have the money for fancy treatment. So I basically just started training, walking uphill a lot, taxing my body without doing the heaviest movements. I also started doing front squats first, as I found these easier on my lower back. It was the lower back that went south for me too.

Another decision I made was to stop using a belt, and I have never looked back. Never felt stronger in my back. I kept fighting, and then finally about 3 years after the accident happened I had not only gotten back to my previous levels, but also reached an all time best squat of 250kg raw and natural (of course, that's the only way people).

So if nothing else, I never gave up, and I regained my strength and improved even more. But it was not easy.

I am no MD, so I do not know how serious your injury is, but be assured that doctors do not always know what is right, they do make mistakes sometimes.

I had a doctor tell me once to NEVER lift anything heavy on my back, and never extend my arms over my head with a heavy barbell. I never listened to that advice, and that decision have never been better for me. That doctor to did not look like he ever lifted a weight. This doc was unrelated to my back injury, but was even earlier in my "lifting career".

So I'd say to follow your heart, be patient, and build everything up slowly. If you do it too fast, then re-injury might happen. That happend to me a couple of times, and I tell you it is not funny at all.

Good wishes for your recovery and continued ability to lift heavy!

-- Stallion


My Girlfriend recently won a world title in her weightclass in the (wdfpf) world championships in Ireland there last month.. Joy Fleming is her name.. Last summer she had a brain hemmorage and 2 strokes (before the age of 20).. She was also told she would never lift again. Ive had to take a long hard look at my list of "injuries" after seeing this. Not to make light off yours, just want to encourage you.. Keep lifting man, start light, get heavy.


I think Thomas Deebel posts here as tom63.


Thanks guys. I asked my therapist what exercises I can be doing as soon as I'm done with therapy. She said that I can do all of the lifts that I normally do, just VERY VERY lightly and with impecable form. It ain't much, but I'll do anything to be able to get back into the weightroom.


Years ago I had a benign bone tumor growing off my left arm, near my shoulder. It was about the size of a golf ball, I still have about a 7 inch scar from the procedure to have it removed. After the surgery they told me that they had to remove more of the humerus bone than they wanted. They also told me that there was a chance my radial nerve was damaged in the procedure and that I might never have the same range of motion or have the same strength on that side, due to the bone strength and/or the nerve. They told me I could work out again after 6 months.

After 6 months, I went to the rec center and tried to bench really lightly. It felt like my shoulder was going to explode. I then tried to do some pulldowns -- once again, I couldn't do it. This was a very humbling experience. Even things like dumbell curls were too stressful for my arm. It was over a year before I felt like I could "push it" and even then I was worried about it.

I'm not a health professional and I don't know anything about your injury, so I'm not going to give you advice. But I will say a few things about my situation:

  1. I had to come back slow. Like really slow. I mentioned it was over a year before I could "push it". I had to focus in doing upwards of 30-40 reps at times just because I didn't feel like my bone could handle higher weights. I lacked the flexibility in my shoulder to hold a bar while squatting for a long time -- probably 2 years after the original surgery. There are still some things I can't / won't do.

  2. If it hurts or stresses my shoulder, I don't do it. It's not worth it to me to mess it up.

Good luck man


The answer to your questions depends a lot on the exact nature of the fracture. If it is a compression fracture, you may have a very good prognosis and recover very well. If we are talking about a fracture of the pars, your prognosis is more questionable, but there is certainly room for hope. Pars fracture and spondylolisthesis is a very misunderstood phenomenon. Many or most doctors would give the advice you have gotten from your doctor, but this advise is misguided. These fractures rarely "heal" in terms of bone growing back together, but they can become very stable.

Follow through with your therapy, then you can very gradually resume previous level of activity. Or, the better option, get an MRI with a protocol that dampens the fat signal (one name for this is a STIR sequence, but there are other names) and accentuates the water signal. What you want the doctor to look for is edema in the pars area. If you are relatively active, are having no pain, and no edema is evident in the MRI, you can continue to gradually increase your training intensity with a good prognosis.


Thanks for your post. I suffered a stress fracture of the pars. As it turns out, I was born with a pars defect, so it was a matter of time before I fractured it. Like the doctor said, it could be there forever, and there is surgery to correct it if it doesn't heal, but the risks out weight the benefits so I'll just have to be patient. Thanks a lot.


Well for myself I had a disc protrusion in my lower back. The pain was so bad that I couldn't even bend down to tie my shoes or even pick a bag up off the floor!
I basically went to a physical therapist and did a lot of core work, focussed on bodyweight stuff such as pull ups, push ups, tabata type workouts for about 2 months after the therapy work. From there I did a lot of mobility work with bands and started focussing on getting my glutes to fire properly and strengthen the entire posterior chain!

The doctors also said I would never deadlift/squat again or lift anything heavy for that matter.

Two days ago I trap bar deadlifted 396 and since the tear/protrusion zercher squatted 220 for reps...

You should focuss a lot of your energy in core work, mobility work, taking the ego out of the weights and slowly getting back into developing posterior power.
Try keep spinal loading to a minimum and when you get strong again and so forth, goblet squats are a good way to get back into squating. Helped with getting back into deadlifting again too!


Thanks man. I feel your pain. I couldn't roll out of bed without someone helping me. And the night that I fractured it, I had to crawl off the field. Thanks for the advice too. My therapist is really stressing core work for right now. She said I could squat and deadlift after I'm done with therapy, I just have to keep it very light and use good form.


I agree with Dr. J. I haven't seen tons of spondylolysis / pars injuries, but they are a different beast. The sports med docs I used to work with went to the NFL combine every year for the Pats. One year one of the fellows said that every lineman they looked at had a Pars problem. I don't know the full stories or context, but my experience is that they are not easy to deal with. You have to be patient and careful with progressions. There is a lot of literature out there about pars-interarticularis problems, so you should learn as much as you can. If you can, find a good back doc who is affiliated with a sports medicine group if you re-injure.

I do have to say that I cannot stand docs who say "never again".


I don't have any love for the thing you call "God".


My training partner has spondylolisthesis and has squatted over 1000 lbs in competition, so it is possible to lift with these types of problems. I know that doesn't necessarily mean you will be able to do the same but at least there's some hope. Here are some of things he's done to keep his back healthy.
1) Tons of lower back and abdominal strengthening. He usually does some type of ab work 3-4 times a week and low back work twice a week.
2) He adopted SQ and DL technique that allowed him stay pretty upright through the torso and minimize shear forces on the spine. For him this is a wide stance SQ and sumo DL. This may be a little trickier if you are a raw lifter, but is still likely worthwhile for long-term health.
3) He absolutely swears by reverse hypers and claims he wouldn't still be lifting without them. I realize this may or may not apply to you, it has worked well for him.


Thank you so much. This was exactly what I was looking for. I read an article on EFS's website that Louie Simmons wrote. It was about how he rehabed from fracturing his L5 TWICE. He said that reverse hypers promote blood flow to the lower spine, an area where there typically isn't a lot of blood flow. So, increased blood flow = faster healing. Also, it is one of my goals to sqaut 1000 lbs. As much as I dislike sumo deadlifting, I suppose it is in my best interest for long term health.

As for the exercises, I'm thinking about throwing in reverse hypers on my squat and DL days, and just working abs 4 days a week, like your friend has. Like you said, it may not work for me, but hell, I'll give it a shot. Thanks again.



I should also mention that he never ever, ever loses his back positioning in the SQ. His form is absolutely perfectly spot on every single time. In 4.5 years I've never seen him lose his arch whatsoever when squatting. I've heard lifters who have trained at Westside Barbell for years remark that he has the best SQ form they've ever seen. I say all this to stress how important perfect form is going to be. Not just good and not just most of the time, but perfect form every single rep of every single set no matter how heavy or how light. He has had his back act up many more times from doing something benign like working on the lawnmower than he has lifting.