T Nation

Scoliosis and Weight Training?


Dear Sir,

I have a friend (really!), who is like 190 cm tall and because of hard work he has damaged his spine on top of his scoliosis.

When he asked me how to train abs the only thing I could come up with are hanging leg raises, this little roller that trains the abs without putting load on the spine and this crunch thing that actually forces you to train your abs if you want to or not. I try to find a picture of at least one.

However, since you know things, what would you tell someone who cannot put a heavy weight on his spine to strengthen the posterior chain and his abs?


picture one was device one, this is number two.


Romainian Deadlifts? If he can't do those try some reverse hyper extensions, leg lifts, hanging leg raises, bosu ball rollouts/ab wheel rollouts, one legged RDL's might be better if he can't have too much weight going on...


I think a Romanian DL is not a good idea. One of his vertebrae is already slightly out of place and he needs to lose weight and to strengthen his core or else have surgery of the rather unpleasant kind.

Strengthening the core though without putting weight on the spine is tricky though.

I might have found a legitimate reason to use a Bosu ball.


How about roll-outs on a stability ball. Hands together and forearms on the ball, body in plank position toes on the floor. Roll forward till only the elbows are supporting, roll back. Keep the feet close together to make it tougher, farther apart to make it easier.


I would be cautious with the AB wheel rollouts. They are an advanced exercise and will already require significant core strength to be performed correctly ( See http://www.tmuscle.com/article/sports_body_training_performance/anterior_core_training ). I would be careful with hanging leg raises as well.

A very back sparing way to train your rectus abdominis are Stuart McGill's curl-ups. You can make them more difficult by prebracing your abs and deep breathing. Stuart McGill's "Low Back Disorders" book is a recommended read for anyone with low back problems. The two other exercises for strengthening the core recommended in the book are side bridges and bird dogs. Both of them can be made harder by doing pyramids (e.g. 5x10sec hold, 4x10sec, 3x10sec).

In addition to strenghtening the core, your friend should look for ways to make his work more back friendly. Especially, since his work seems to have caused his back problems in the first place. E.g. does he currently do activities with a flexed back during his work. Can they be modified, so he can keep a neutral spine. "Low Back Disorders" contains a lot of ideas on this point.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


Thank you, that could be one of the exercises to build him up to more advanced stuff


Thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely get the book.

His English is not too good though, I´ll have to write a summary.

His job is no longer a problem, he works to become a lawyer now, so hours and hours in a chair.

When would I know that he can safely progress to more advanced exercises and if I can make him work his abs, glutes and lower back I could make him work his upper back through seated rowing movements or would that neglect some part of his back that is important for "structural integrity"?

This guy does not want to be pretty, he just wants to prevent that people cut open his abdomen and take out his intestines to operate on his spine.

So he is kind of motivated.


My brother has that issue with his back too. I did a little looking around about it a couple weeks ago and found a couple articles here that said working out the lower and mid back muscles can actually help straighten out the back. As such, I'd try doing light weight RDL's and good mornings for lots of reps to work out the back muscles. Doing them with one leg might be a good way to get enough weight to workout the posterior chain as well. I tweaked my back a few years ago and my recovery was slow until I started doing back exercises.


Since your friend is studying law, I assume you are living near a city with a university. You might check the library. Maybe you can borrow the book from there. Apart from that you can use google books to get a preview of the book.

At the following link you can find a description of the 3 mentioned exercises:

Actually, prolonged sitting IS problematic. When studying your friend should frequently shift position while sitting and get up about every hour or so and walk a bit around.

Well, in this case I do not think it is necessary or even advised to have him do more advanced exercises. I would also urge you to have him check with his doctor which exercises are safe for him to do. Did your friend not get referred to a physical therapist for a rehabilitation program?


Actually yes, they recommended some kind of Pilates?


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


Im a retired chiropractor (still working out). I no longer give medical advice, and want to make this clear. But I do have some suggestions.

First of all, your friend should NOT put any weight on his spinal column until this injury is cleared up - period! The only safe way I can think of to do any ab work is to do a pull-down on a lat pull-down machine (palms forward, shoulder width). As he's pulling the bar down (actually taking weight off his spinal column), he should tighten his mid-section as much as he can.

He should start with as little weight as possible, and do the reps v-e-r-y slow. At the slightest hint of pain, he should stop. He can increase the weight stack as he feels comfortable.

Abdominals are easy to incorporate into many exercises, but this is the safest way I can think of to do them effectively.


I have scoliosis too but I am not tall enough so that that would cause any problems. Most people I know that have back problems are 10-15 cm taller than me.