T Nation

Pushing Through a Back Injury - Push Press 225x5


This is my first workout since having 2 sets of shots in my spine for my herniated and slipped discs and since finding out that i will eventually need surgery on my back. I'm feeling pretty good though now that the shots in my spine have kicked in. Hoping that i stay good for awhile.


Why do an exercise that could aggravate your injured back??


Wow. I did not realise that genie in a bottle was playing in the background. I apologize for that. Says a lot about my universities gym.


I dont understand. If you have a herniated disc, why are you doing this before its completely healed? Makes no sense.


Because nothing short of surgery is going to fix my back. The stronger i make it the better off i will be. I was told by my doctor that having a strong bad back that is still able to lift things is better than having a weak bad back that can lift and do nothing. The other alternative is stopping squatting, deadlifting, cleans, snatches, overhead pressing, really any type of upright lifts. i would be confined to lifts that put no pressure on my spine.

After hurting my back I pushed through some lifts that hurt and had to stay away from those that were too painfull to do. The more i worked at the ones that caused pained the better they started to feel and the ones i couldnt do at all started to be more managable. The more i work at lifts the more lifts i find myself able to do and the more weight at them. I would like to believe that there is a difference between the the pain that is making something worse and the pain that that comes from making something better. Rehab after surgery is painful, but it is to strengthen and improve and thats the way im looking at this.


Two questions:

1) How did you hurt your back in the first place?

2) Knowing there are other exercises that can strengthen your back without putting stress no your discs, why not do them instead?


What kind of back exercises can you think of that put no pressure on your discs at all?


Hyperextensions, reverse hyperextensions, prone hyperextensions, hip bridges, supermans, etc...


BTW, what was the point of your original post?


And how long do you propose i do only variations of hyperextensions while doing no other lifs? Im sure hypers are good but their is no way that they make my back as strong as getting back into squats and deadlifts would. If my discs arent going to heal and my only option is surgery, why wouldnt i at least try to get back into lifting like i used to. Do you think if i can get back to deadlifting and squatting a fairly good amount of weight that my back wont be stronger from that that from hyperextensions. not to mention i said that i felt good doing push press, they werent causing me pain.


Just to post a video after some time off from an injury and being pretty happy that im feeling good.


I only suggest that you consider them over weighted variations as your dealing with an injury now that WILL result in surgery as you said. Disc surgery is not something to take lightly. There is a good chance your lifting career will be greatly effected as a result of it. As you never responded into how you originally injured your back, I'm going to assume it was from lifting. If your lifting goals are that important, that's your priority. But if your expecting not to further damage your back doing the same action that damaged it in the first place, that's just fool hearty. But this is JMO.


To go along with Backinaction's questions and responses, how did you originally injure your back? What is the official diagnosis? What imaging did you get done and what were the results? What type of physician did you see (ortho back specialist, general sports med, general practitioner)? Have you been going through rehab/therapy and what courses of treatment have you had?

Also, how long ago was the injury and how long has the injury been going on? I am assuming when you say you "had two sets of shots into your spine", that you had epidural steroid injections into your disc. This means that there has been around 1 month timeframe since generally there is a 2 week separation between epidural injections and it is highly suggested that no heavy lifting is done immediately after an epidural injection.

Did the doctor say why surgery was ultimately going to happen? What degree of bulge do you have and at what level? Where there any other pathologies associated in your spine along with the disc injury? Depending on the severity/size of the disc bulge, oral medications, steroidal shots, and rehab/therapy can resolve many disc problems. It is a long recovery process though, and depending on where you are at in your recovery, heavy push presses may or may not be your best option.

Also, having a "strong back" is usually a precursor for injury. Before you start flaming me, hear me out first. When the lumbar musculature is overly strong, it usually means it is because the glutes and hips are weak and the lumbar musculature have to take over and compensate for the lack of hip extension with lumbar extension. Lumbar strength is important, but the biggest thing you want is lumbar musculature endurance and static stability (the ability to hold the lumbar spine in neutral) during movement.

If this is an acute disc issue, I completely agree with BackInAction about sticking to the basic exercises (extensions, bird dogs, supermans, glute bridges, etc) that place significantly less stress on the disc and spine. Your progression also depends on your goals, which we are unfamiliar with as well.


I can't believe some of the responses to this thread. The OP is push pressing 225 for reps; he's far from your normal patient. Those exercises you listed won't even take the stress off his discs. The extension will cause the erector spinae muscles to contract and expose the lumbar spine to compressive forces. The fact that he's doing it standing is better than sitting down, in terms of compression.

Does anyone else notice how he doesn't mention anything at all about radiculopathy? The man could have herniated discs and still not have pain from them. It could be a ligament issue, SIJ dysfunction, who knows. It's standard practice to give a series of epidurals when a patient comes in with a nasty MRI and back pain. If all else fails, it can be a diagnostic tool to see where the pain is coming from. Certainly easier than a discogram.

Now you're picking apart the phrase "strong back." It's just a saying...
I'm sure he's not going out of his way to strengthen his lower back in the absence of other core muscles.

My two cents: I think you're strong as hell and most powerlifters have MRIs that look like a train wreck. Do as much as you possibly can without pain and stay away from what hurts you. Get a second and third opinion before deciding on spine surgery. Doctors aren't fortune tellers and for all you know, your back may look like a train wreck on MRI in the future but function without pain.


I originally did it warming up with front squats 11 months ago. My first rep at 185 i went down and as i tried to push out of the hole i felt like my back exploded and i hit the floor and didnt think i was going to be able to get up. i laid there for 10 or 15 minutes before even trying to stand and once i got up couldnt stand straight up. After that I took time off. I started to feel better but I noticed as i took time off, the longer i was away the more just standing or sitting or everyday things were beginning to hurt me more and more. I started trying to push weight again and at first it was rough but i started to get much better much faster and had pain in my back but it got better and better the stronger i got. Then 9 weeks ago warming up for deadlifts i pulled 365 for a few and thought that i felt like i wasnt warm enough, didnt quite feel right so i thought id do one more warm up with 365 before bumping up. i locked out my second rep and on the way down it felt like my back burst again. This time i have pain that goes down my left leg thats been getting better with streching and lifting and the steroid shots in my spine of course.

I have yet to deadlift since aggrevating my injury because thats where i am weakest and i have gradually added lift after lift as the pain became less with each one. Im not doing anything that is very painful because like i said, there is a difference between the pain that causes injury and the pain that helps and im hoping im sticking more towards what helps. i dont plan on trying to deadlift in the 6's again, but im hoping for a 500 something squat and a 600 something deadlift again sometime and i think its doable wih little to know pain as long as im sensable


I do not plan on having surgery until i basically can not walk. And my Surgen has recomended nothing less. He's been very good about not telling me to quit lifting and about how serious back surgery can be.

But i know what you mean, Look at derek Poundstone. he has 3 herniated discs and can pull 900 and put 1100 on his back and walk for time and is just crazy strong. hes the kind of person i want to be, not the one who gives up when they come into some back pain.


I have a herniated disc as well (L-5), and got to visit what is considered a somewhat cutting edge spine center at New England Baptist Hospital.

They are proponents of strengthening the back rather than protecting it too much, and having gone through their program of therapy, my back is stronger and less painful than I can ever remember, and am no longer considering surgery.

Nevertheless, even they are opposed to heavy deadlifts or squatting, so proceed with caution.


I completely agree that he is different in terms of strength than most people. But from my experience working with disc issues with athletes who were comparatively strong, that with ACUTE disc issues, very similar approaches would initially need to be taken across the board. Also, the compressive forces on the disc from birddogs and similar exercises (which I recommended if it was an acute disc issue) would not nearly be as high as a loaded standing exercise. I do agree though that if somebody was going to be pressing, I'd rather than be standing than sitting to decrease disc/spinal pressure and loading.

The big thing is that the OP still hasn't answered many of the questions (what type of doc he saw, what the official diagnosis was, what MRI results showed, other pathologies associated, etc) and we just found out the history of his injury. 11 months was the first injury where he was injured in an extremely submaximal load (185lb warmup on front squat). That shows that at that time he had some glaring pathology (whether it be an imbalance, inhibition, etc). He didn't mention any radicular symptoms, so there may have been no disc injury at that time. Then 9 weeks ago, he (re)injured his low back deadlifting and had radicular symptoms, which most likely points to disc (especially since the epidurals have helped). Knowing this, I would definitely say at this point it is okay for him to begin to progress to some higher loaded exercises (push press, etc) as long as they do not exasperate symptoms. But still, I would be CAUTIOUS of pushing things too fast, even if symptoms do not resurface, as it takes time for the disc to scar over and you do not want to overstress the discs until they have had a chance to shrink, heal, and scar over.

So am I saying not to do those exercises - no. He is past that acute stage and already begun to progress with the assistance of ESI's, so as long as he is intellegent about it. I think the initially questioning of the exercise came from a lack of information (history, etc).

The "strong back" information I presented was to make sure that the OP understood the information I presented since he said his doctor had stated "The stronger i make it the better off i will be. I was told by my doctor that having a strong bad back that is still able to lift things is better than having a weak bad back that can lift and do nothing." I completely agree that multiple opinions should be taken before going under the knife. I honestly feel that the majority of disc injuries (minus those extreme bulges in size of 12+ mm) can be corrected and handled with proper therapy, rehab, and conservative treatment.



When you say corrected, do you mean back to 100 percent able to lift and do things you did before the injury? Does this happen?


You will always have some kind of pathology at the level where there was a disc injury, whether it be a decrease in disc height, some stenosis at the spinal level, or something else. But with disc injuries, if proper rehab, treatment, and therapies are done, most can get back to their previous level of activity.