T Nation

Lower Body W/O Herniated Disc?

I herniated a disc in my lower back (I believe the lowest one, L5/S1) around August 8th or so. I began upper body training in the form of gymnist rings about 6 weeks ago, and that has allowed me to maintain some of my upper body strength and build.

I plan on hopefully adding in some lower body workouts into my routine within the next month and I’m wondering what you guys would recommend. An important note would be to say that the herniation occurred while deadlifting from a deficit.

I was thinking of doing box squats to get myself back into it, and back extensions both at 180 degrees and on the 45degrees. After I herniated my disc (I didn’t have it diagnosed until 2 months later), reverse hypers hurt the most of all lower body extensions so I’m hesitant to put those back in. I’m also especially afraid of pultting in deadlifts, because I assume that I’m going to be more prone to injury in that lift than I used to be.

Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks.

-DTC

I know the craving for big PL compounds is strong in real men and hard trainees but…

maybe take this as a sign to change it up a bit. Give your back time to chill out and get it together. Use this time to work on your calves and get some unilateral work in. Try heavy sled drags to keep down ward pressure off the disc. I’d suggest to keep weight off the top of you.

Try some one legged squats (pistols) but on a tall box so your back can stay straight. I’d say the sled drags are the key though, because there is little pressure on the low back.

I assume you have both good chiro and ART? Or both in one. Also look into some acupuncture/pressure. You can’t fuk with your back. good luck, train smart,

-chris

Hello DTC,

I’ve been fighting lower back injuries since I was 16 (i’m now 29). I was diagnosed with not 1 but 4 herniated discs in my lumbar region. l2 - l5/s1. I tried many, many treatments including the new non-surgical spinal decompression which really did end up helping. I lost all but 40% of my muscle function in my lower back and my erectors are still very weak and fatigue quite quickly. If you’re having these type of issues, here’s my advice for leg workouts.

  1. Vaccuum’s were instrumental in getting my core to be strong enough to do any type of lifting while in a standing position

  2. I would not do any type of squating. Further damage to your discs, and sciatica are just not worth it; they can literally ruin your life. the seated position (even though you’re not actually sitting) increases the stress on your spine by over 100%

  3. I would not do any type of Romainian or Stiff leg dead lifts as the bent position for the same reason as the squat

  4. Being a T-Nation reader, the leg press may sound like a cop out, but it’s not. Crank up the reps and do break downs and it is perfectly effective and won’t cause you nearly as much pain. Just be sure not to let your back rond.

  5. Monitor those discs at least once a year. Yes htat means getting an MRI.

  6. Use Flameout. It has worked wonders for my low back pain (and no, T-Nation didn’t pay me for saying so)

  7. Increase your potassium intake

  8. for lower back rehab, I started with static holds on the hyper extensions. I tried to build up to 60 seconds but at the begining all I could do was 9 seconds at a time.

  9. Find a “good” chiropractor. When you find an honest one, it really does work.

I hope this helps.

-Steve Warshaw

Chris and Steve,

Thanks for the advice guys, I appreciate it. Not being able to do squats and DLs is really depressing, and I’d really like to work them back into my program within a year. However, I do like the idea of sled drags - I was actually thinking of incorporating them in but I was afraid with the belt around my waist that it would somehow put unstable/dangerous pressure on my lower back.

Again, thanks guys. Everything you said was really helpful.

-DTC

[quote]stevewar wrote:
Hello DTC,

I’ve been fighting lower back injuries since I was 16 (i’m now 29). I was diagnosed with not 1 but 4 herniated discs in my lumbar region. l2 - l5/s1. I tried many, many treatments including the new non-surgical spinal decompression which really did end up helping. I lost all but 40% of my muscle function in my lower back and my erectors are still very weak and fatigue quite quickly. If you’re having these type of issues, here’s my advice for leg workouts.

  1. Vaccuum’s were instrumental in getting my core to be strong enough to do any type of lifting while in a standing position

  2. I would not do any type of squating. Further damage to your discs, and sciatica are just not worth it; they can literally ruin your life. the seated position (even though you’re not actually sitting) increases the stress on your spine by over 100%

  3. I would not do any type of Romainian or Stiff leg dead lifts as the bent position for the same reason as the squat

  4. Being a T-Nation reader, the leg press may sound like a cop out, but it’s not. Crank up the reps and do break downs and it is perfectly effective and won’t cause you nearly as much pain. Just be sure not to let your back rond.

  5. Monitor those discs at least once a year. Yes htat means getting an MRI.

  6. Use Flameout. It has worked wonders for my low back pain (and no, T-Nation didn’t pay me for saying so)

  7. Increase your potassium intake

  8. for lower back rehab, I started with static holds on the hyper extensions. I tried to build up to 60 seconds but at the begining all I could do was 9 seconds at a time.

  9. Find a “good” chiropractor. When you find an honest one, it really does work.

I hope this helps.

-Steve Warshaw
[/quote]

Re-read this a couple times. It pretty much mimics my experience. I would also add that unilateral work helps minimize back stress and still lets you use great movements. Take it very easy at first when you decide to progress to them. My back is quite the picture show (the specialist looked at my MRI and pretty went…wow…), sometimes I’ve had issues with these exercises when my back has been under more stress. Maybe start doing bulgarians and step-ups with bodyweight and slowly progress up through the colored dumbbells.

also, my issue was caused by a congenital curvature issue we did not know about. My lumbar essentially don’t curve. This can change things, but I can deadlift conventional now fine. Sumo is dicey for me (which I could pull much more weight with back in the day). Before tackling any big compound movement analyze technique in terms of your body. People often throw a fit if you round your upper back some, but it takes pressure of my lumbar spine for me personally and so I use it.

Be careful, progress slowly, and do your homework.

also, I found that back squatting is definitely out of the picture for me with any real weight. Eventually I hope to ease my back problems enough and work on technique enough that I could put up a half decent squat for a PL meet and rock my bench and dead.

Front squatting hasn’t been very good on me either. Mostly due to a lack of flexibility I think though. Doing leg movements with dumbbells helps some.

Static stretching your hip flexors frequently and working on your hammie flexibility is strongly recommended. Not only can it reduce stress on your back, but it can allow you to do movements without placing more unneeded stress on that disk.

Steve’s advice was great.

I too have serious back injuries and for whatever reason actually feel guilty that I don’t squat and deadlift (despite them hurting me even if I don’t use much weight).

Aside from using machines and pistons you could try one-legged romanian deadlifts. It takes very little weight to challenge your hams and glutes; and it doesn’t hurt your back (well at least not mine, and my back is very sensitive).

Best of luck.

What do you guys think of glute ham raises? Would those be okay? Cleans and snatches I assume are as bad as front squats - how about 1 arm dumbbell snatches though? Also, how is sprinting and body weight vertical jump training on your back? Etc…

Also, are overhead presses going to be out of the question?

Thanks for the feedback so far guys.

-DTC

I have a L5/S1 herniated disc…numbness all the way down to my toes…the only thing that fixed it was the gym…
look up rolfing aka “myofascial release” it stregnthens and at the same time stretches your muscles…

and slowly but surely strenthen ur back and legs…think of a herniated disc like a crack in a wall…you need to put bands all around it so the stress on the crack is less and more on the bands…and the bands in this case are ur stomach muscles, tva, obliques, lower back extensors, glutes, hammys, quads…

Rome wasnt built in a day and chances are ur disc didnt herniate over night…Fixing your back is a long term process, but the way i look at it is now I have no excuse not to get into the gym…if i dont ill be in pain…and that sucks…Good luck my man