T Nation

Putting my Back On Track!


ok, first the background:)

Age: 50
Years Post-Menopause:4
Age that I feel: 20
Height: 5'5"
Weight: 150 (up 15 pounds from where I like to be)
Preferred Exercise: Cardio, Dance, and Cardio Dance!
My Feelings about lifting weights: Like eating broccoli.
Why I am lifting weights: Bone Health/strength/posture

So my physical life was fine until a year and a half ago. I was doing a lot of dancing. Some running. Some yoga. Some exercise classes- a few abs classes etc. Weights here and there.I have always felt I should be lifting weights more- I feel that the strength it provides is protection for the cardio I love. But I just never got around to doing it regularly. Then 1.5 years ago my feet started getting sore (plantar fascitis) and I stopped exercising like a good little patient. I gained weight and became an unhappy camper. This time last year, for the first time in my life, my back started to hurt. I spent $2000 last year roaming around between physiotherapists and chiropractors, xrays, ultrasounds, yoga teachers etc. I started lifting weights last fall, taking it into my own hands. I am getting back in shape. Doing aerobics again. My back still isn't what it was but it is getting better.

I finally got in for an MRI of the lumbar spine in December, plus found a new doctor who said it was a no-brainer that I should have a bone density scan. Well, the MRI shows a probable minor compression fracture at T12 and the bone scan came back with a combination of osteopenia and osteoporosis. I have decided against the biophosphenates after doing a fair amount of research- I have decided to go the HRT route for a year or 2 because thing is, it is extremely difficult to build bone once the estrogen is gone. I feel happy with my decision. I feel HRT is safe enough for me in the short term. I hope to get them denser and stronger in the next couple of years and then hopefully I will be in a better position when I come off HRT.

So I really need to make the most of this opportunity and build some big bad-ass BONE! And oh ya, what builds bone is the muscle pulling on it- so building muscle and bone are the same thing. I always ate pretty well but I am making improvements in that area too. But lifting weights in combination with estrogen is really the only way I can see of building some serious bone. Cardio doesn't really build bone- I never knew that.

I have been back at my weights routine for a couple of weeks now and already my back feels better. Forward bends where you curl the upper back are contraindicated for me, but who wants to do that anyway?

So I am hoping to log my progress here. The nice thing about this is that I have concrete bone density numbers that I will be able to compare with a year or two from now. For anyone who is interested in T-scores:

My femoral heads are -1.7 so that is osteopenia
My hips are -0.8 so they are fine
My lumbar spine is -2.6 so that is osteoporosis

It is funny- it ends up I am having to do exactly what I have been wanting to do for years: lift weights. It was like, I knew in my heart (or was it in my bones) that I needed to start strength training seriously.... I felt it in my body- I felt something changing. But who has the time, and compared to cardio, ugg what a drag.. I don't feel that way anymore.

So I really hope this works. I have been doing the same back routine 3 times a week.

2 sets of 12 reps of everything:

Lat Pull-downs: 60#
Seated Cable Row: 40#
Prone Rows: ?#
Seated Posterior Flys:25#
45 degree back extensions with 5# overhead weights-
Seated Chest supported rows: 50#
Cable/rope Face-pulls: 30#
Cable/rope Pull-downs: 40#
Cable/rope Standing rows: 40#

I am into a really nice routine with that combo and actually look forward to it. I am trying to proceed gradually and maintain really good form. The whole thing takes about 30 minutes. And it makes my back feel absolutely fantastic. I feel like the muscles back there just need some exercising and some oxygen and they really don't get that from cardio. It often feels like I've had a massage after doing that routine- it's hard to describe but it really feels great.

I have also been doing prone back extensions etc but I am still toying around with combinations that feel good- I can feel what I need to do, it's like scratching an itch.

I have also been working on arms and legs but that is still a bit all over the place. I have gone back to yoga and step aerobics but I won't be doing any barefoot dancing anytime soon. I have run a bit on the treadmill but depending on the day I can feel it jarring my back a bit so I have stopped running and high impact activities for the time being. I am also trying to use the step mill once a week.

So that's it for me. This has to be a really personal journey for me. I need to do this on my own, you know- it has to come from within. But I still very much welcome any advice or comments that anyone might have and thank you for being here!


I'm sorry to read about your issues with bone density. I'm sure that's something that a few of us here think about. I've been weight training for 5 years and will be 48 this year.

It's hard to do something you don't love to do. It's like taking medicine. I would feel the same way about being prescribed cardio - blech. Once you find a routine that you enjoy, hopefully you will come to love it the same way you love cardio. Most of the people here lift because it's something that they loooove to do.

Welcome and I'm looking forward to following your progress.


welcome to PW


Thanx for the welcoms ouirobore. Thank you very much for commenting- I appreciate it. I think that is great that you just started 4 years ago. It is a good time to start!

A very long time ago I didn't love cardio either. I grew to love it. I am really hoping the same thing will happen with the weights. I remember that I hated cardio because it "hurt" but I grew to love that feeling. Like- "it hurts so good" now. I don't like weights now because they "hurt" (well, also other reasons) but I hope I will grow to like that aspect. I already love the way they make my back feel afterwards so hopefully I will really warm up to them.


Thank you very much nlmain!


Wednesday Feb 8

total walking (to/from work and gym and at lunchtime)- 2hrs
Pilates and

2 sets of 12 reps of everything:

Lat Pull-downs: 60#, 70#
Seated Cable Row: 40#,50#
Incline Lever Rows: 0#
Seated Posterior Flys:40#
45 degree back extensions with 2.5# overhead weights-
Seated Chest supported rows: 50#,55#
Cable/rope Face-pulls: 30#,25#
Cable/rope Pull-downs: 40#,40#
Cable/rope Standing rows: 40#,45#

I find with some of the exercises if I go higher I am not isolating my muscles as much- esp wrt the facepulls and tricep pulldowns (which oddly work my lats way more than my triceps)

I really noticed an improvement in strenght today- first time since I started. I was surprized how easy the incline lever row machine was- only 2 weeks ago I even felt a little ill on it and tonite it was a piece of cake!

I think I made a big jump improvement because I took and extra day off.


Welcome! Ah back troubles, I'm having some of my own right now.

But enough about me. You'll learn to LOVE lifting, there are so many different variations & programs to find something you'll love.

And lifting makes you young & sexy just check the vid out on another thread here...



Hi minimaltechno :slight_smile: Thank you for visiting! I have seen another video of that woman and yes she does inspire me! I think if I got my back as muscular as hers it won't bother me. I am especially impressed that she gained all that muscle post menopause, though in the other video it shows a bit of her diet and it includes multiple eggs a day. I had a look at your journal, and I saw the back troubles. The MRI would have picked up a fracture so at least you know that isn't it.


Thursday Feb 9

total walking (to/from work and gym)- 1.5hrs
Yoga and

this was supposed to be leg day but I got to the gym and had to quit early to get to yoga on time. I still managed
2 sets of 12 reps of:

One-legged seated Hamstring curls: 40#
One-legged seated quad extensions: 25#
Seated abduction:60#
Standing calf raised: body weight

My quads still feel destroyed from an exercise class I did on Sunday where we did tons of squats. I decided in that class that I really don't want to do that anymore because it is at the teachers pace and judgement. I often feel rushed etc. I rather go a little slower and keep really good form. Plus, it destroyed my quads- even just climbing a few stairs today and my quads were burning- that is 4 days since the class.

Anyway, that is why I had to drop the weight way down on the quad extensions- I could barely do them even at 25#. That is one thing I like about lifting weights on my own- I am in control of what I do and how I do it.


Friday- total walking 45 minutes

Saturday- walking 45 minutes and weights for the back (complete) and legs (partial)


3 sets of 12 reps of everything:

Lat Pull-downs: 70#
Seated Cable Row: 50#
45 degree back extensions with 5# overhead weight
Incline Lever Rows: ? + 5#
Seated Posterior Flies: nil- machine was non stop occupied
Seated Chest supported rows: 60#
Cable/rope Pull-downs: 50#
Cable/rope Face-pulls: 30#
Cable/rope Standing rows: 50#
Supine Chin tucks: 30 secs iso hold
One sided Farmers walk: 4 laps with 18#, 2 laps with 25#
Seated Military Press: #25


3 sets of 12 reps:
seated double legged Quad extensions 30#
single legged seated hamstring curls: #40
seated abduction: 60#

2 sets of 50 reps dorsiflexion with 10# each foot
2 sets of 50 reps calf raises plus 20#
calf raises with holds at the top
wobble board
one legged toe taps 12 f,s,s,s,b,s,s,s,f=108 taps plus 12 rdj front and back

that last one killed my glute medius.

I am very happy I went to the gym and did the weights. My back feels very nice and I really believe if I keep at this all my physical problems will resolve. Key is to not proceed to quickly. I have upped most of my weights this last week. I think I could still go higher but I need to resist the urge to push on too quickly. I need to think long term.

I think I will stay at the back levels for 2 more weeks. I'd like to get all the rows pulling the same amount of weight so maybe try for #60 and then coast for a couple of weeks.


Hi Recon-I like what you've got going here.

I had to do some research regarding bone density and exercise, and seem to remember that weighted-vest walking was proven to help. May be another avenue if you're looking for one.

I love the avi, by the way....and I'm curious, has your attitude toward weights changed at all since you've started? Or are we still talking broccoli?


Hi there and welcome! I'm very interested in your journey and how you progress. Please keep sharing.


Thank you for visiting cholululula :slight_smile:

I am walking sometimes with 2.5 pound wrist bracelets- but only when I don't have to carry anything else like a purse. I plan on increasing the weight gradually. I will go up to 5# each arm and probably stop there. I have also researched the vests. Apparently they are better at increasing hip density- not spine. In fact the vests may be contraindicated for someone with osteoporosis of the spine. But the vests are not supposed to weigh more than 10% of your weight so I think it is ok if kept within those limits. I have also read some stuff by Stuart McGill (a back expert often quoted here at T-Nation) that suggests the best thing you can do for backs in general (no mention of osteoporosis) is go hiking with a weighted backpack.

I think the most important part of these weighted vests etc is maintaining impeccable posture while wearing it.

My attitude towards my weights for the back have changed, absolutely. For one thing I have a nice little routine set up so I am not wandering around- . The other reason is that the weights are making my back feel absolutely amazing- just wonderful. They feel like they are scratching an itch. And they are really helping my posture. I am feeling very hopeful.

I wish I could say the same thing about the other weights but I am not ready yet.


Thank you very much arachne12 :slight_smile:


Sunday Feb 12

I did wrist exercises with 5 pound dumbells.
Curls, reverse curls.
Pronation, suppination.
Ulnar & radial deviation.
I got these exercises from exrx.net

Monday Feb 13

walk 60 mins (to/from work) plus 60 mins with wrist weights(to/from gym & yoga)
Hatha yoga

Chest weights;

2 sets of 12 reps of everything

peck deck #25
seated chest press #25
supine dumbbell pullover #15
Supine dumbell flies 7.5# each hand
Incline bench press #20 rod
Incline scapular raises #20 rod
Incline dumbbell flies 7.5# each hand

that was my first chest workout in 5 years

yoga tips from today:
1-actively engage back when doing forward bends and returning to keep back flat and give it a workout. Stretch arms out and back to really open chest.
2-lengthen spine upon exhaling
3-really stretch and engage back leg when going from warrior 3 to warrior 2.


Ooo, I was just thinking about how I needed to add back in some wrist exercises for when I go back to snatching. At least I can do that for now. Thanks for reminding me. So you just substituted the machine for the DBs for the Ulnar & radial deviation?


Hi minimaltechno :slightly_smiling: Thank you for visiting.
well I held one side of one side of the dumbbell for the ulnar and radial deviations. The chunky part. It was only 5 pounds so it wasn't too big but 5 pounds was not enough to feel like I was working anything. I don't know what machine you are talking about? I haven't seen one at the gym. I am going to have to find a better way to do them because holding one side of a larger dumb bell is going to be very difficult because I have small hands. I was thinking of using a theraband but it is so hard to measure progress with therabands I would rather use weights. The diagrams at exrx show a barbell style dumbell with the plate removed on one side. I'd rather not have to buy those though and they don't have those at my gym.


Tuesday- total walking 60 minutes

Wednesdat- walking 90 minutes


2 sets of 10 reps of everything:

Lat Pull-downs: 70#
Seated Cable Row: 50#
45 degree back extensions with 5# overhead weight
Incline Lever Rows: ? + 5#
Seated Posterior Flies: 40#
NEW: prone upper back raises with a plate on my back, arms in W-shape: #5,#10
Seated Chest supported rows: 60#
Seated Military Press: #25
Cable/rope Pull-downs: 40#
Cable/rope Face-pulls: 30#
Cable/rope Standing rows: 50#
FORGOT to do: One sided Farmers walk: 4 laps with 18#, 2 laps with 25#
Straight-legged deadlift: 5# dumb bells
Bird-dog: about 30
Supine Chin tucks: 10x 20 secs iso hold

The whole thing took 45 minutes

I think the deadlift will really help me as long as I make sure to keep my shoulders back and my back straight and start really small.

Also, I got reminded of the importance of the spinal stabilizers and the danger of not explicitly exercising them. I have no idea if this is correct but the source said if the stabilizers become inactive, then the larger muscles such as the erector spinae and lats etc will assume the stabilizing role, which would normally be ok except when doing movements that require those muscles to do what they are supposed to do (eg say a lat pulldown) the muscle like the lat cannot be a prime mover and a stabilizer at the same time so if the stabilizers are not trained I will be unstable during my back exercises.

I am not sure if that is true but is makes sense so I plan to start doing more exercises for the stabilizers such as the bird dog.


Thursday Feb 16

walk- 1.5 hrs

Yoga- it was quite challenging. I had planned to do legs afterwards but just didn't feel up to it. I also felt absolutely muscle bound in there.

Friday Feb 17

today was the first day in months where my upper back did not fatigue by 4pm. It fatigued a little around 7pm and that's it. Today was a real milestone for me. The back exercises are working.

walk 1.5hrs


3 sets of 12 reps unless otherwise specified:

-seated double legged Quad extensions: 30#
-single legged seated hamstring curls: #40
-seated abduction: 1x12x 60# ; 2x7x70#
-step ups to an 18 inch high "bench" : 50 each leg
-calf raises: 50 x BW+20#
-I forgot the dorsi flexions
-one legged rdj's: 48 each side (not enough)
-BW Romanian dead lifts to 12" from ground
-BW Bulgarian split squats with back foot on a bench
-BW pelvic thrusts with feet on a bench

the whole thing took 55 minutes (too long!)

I wasted a lot of time on the step ups- I felt I could have kept doing them for hours without getting tired, so I will have to figure out why they are supposed to be such a great exercise and make them more difficult.

Overall this was a quite easy workout but I want to focus more right now on getting into a routine with the legs etc and practice my form on the RDL's and squats before adding weight. I was doing RDL's before Christmas and they were surprisingly easier tonight .



This happens to me too, I feel all hulky and stiff in yoga sometimes. I think it makes it all the more important to do it then.