Strength Without Squats/Deads

Hi! So I can't squat due to hip bone structure. I literally can only go down a few inches when standing feet flat on the floor. I've tried oly shoes, stretching/rolling for months, seeing doctors and therapists. I also have very poor ankle bone structure. I've just about given up.

I can't deadlift because it causes back pain every single time. I've tried many ways - lighter weight, really high reps, single dumbbell, from higher off the ground, and more. I know my bottom vertebrae's spinous process didn't fuse when growing. I think this is playing a big factor, it is exactly where my pain is. I get pain often, whenever I have weight on my back. I also think my bone structure is playing a factor. When doing any leg exercise, it feels like I'm not getting proper leverage and extra stress is going to my back and knees.

I just want to have fun and train long term without pain. Here is my routine:

Workout A
-Overhead Press (usually like 8,6,6,6,4)
-Pull ups (steel beam grip) 5x7ish
-Barbell yoke walk (in front, back squat style hurts) 20-30second holds
-Ab Wheel (idk 12-20 reps, from knees, w/e bring me to failure that day)
-V ups 4xfailure
-Calf raises 4-5xfailure

Workout B
-Dips 5x6-8
-Chin ups (5x8-10, steel beam grip)
-Farmer walks (usually 20 seconds sometimes longer with less weight.)
-Front lever leg raises
-V ups
-Calf raises

I alternate these every other day. Lately I haven't been yoking because its been hurting my back and I've lowered farmers weight and increased distance. So I obviously need to be training my legs more :p. Things I've been considering lately:
  1. Start sprint training

  2. Get a gym membership and go try out machines.

  3. Get a sled and do some heavy pushes and pulls. I got really excited when learning about these. I just really hope my back can withstand them. Here is a video (Forward Sled Drag & Sled Push Heavy - YouTube). I like this one because its dual sided, has 2 slots for weight and the handles aren’t too wide (I’m smaller and don’t want shoulders crippling the overall movement). I would however need one that also has padded feet options as I would use it in my apartment complexes basement (smooth concrete floor). If anyone knows of one with this criteria I would be grateful.

    So what do you guys think? Any wisdom would be appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Sled is a great idea.

Can you do front squats? What about heavy partial squats and deadlifts?

I have to ask - have you gone to a good coach to get them to check you out? Depending on the doctor or therapist they may not know jack about whether or not you can squat and deadlift with your bone structure/situation. It isn’t that they don’t know what they’re doing, they just might not know enough about squats and DL to really be abe to say whether they’re not an option for you. A good coach may well be able to put you on a progression to build towards one or both exercises in the long term. Just as an example, it could be something along the lines of very high box squat, gradually lowering the box height with specific back work to shore up weaknesses as well as mobility drills and soft tissue work.

I’m not saying you absolutely have to do either, but if there is some way you could get to do at least one of them without pain it’d be a massive help. If it turns out you really can’t, then the farmer’s walks, yoke walks, overhead presses, dips and chin ups are a great place to start. A sled is a great idea too. Machines less so, because you’ll generally get more size than strength from them. They’re useful, just more as assistance stuff IMO.

If you do have back issues I think you need to get them sorted as much as possible before doing anything, because my understanding is that even sprints can put a significant strain on your back (not to mention your ankles).

If you’re already doing yoke walks and farmer’s walks, the sled is perfect. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can drag some weight plates on an old piece of carpet, with some rope. Attach the rope to your lifting belt, or even just loop the rope around your hips, just under your waist. No load on your spine. You can walk forward, or lunge-step forward for glutes and hamstrings. Drag backwards for quads, and sideways for your hips.

Checking out the gym might be cool too. See what sort of equipment and different lifts are out there. You might learn something that helps you.

Hey, thanks for replying. Unfortunately I can’t front squat either. I’ve tried deadlifting from higher off the ground but it still produces pain.

I’ve seen a few highly respected doctors. The first was a sports medicine one that was a doctor for the usa olympic team one year. His response was squats are bad for your knees. He wouldn’t indulge me at all on the subject. I also saw an orthopedic surgeon that is the primary doctor for a pro nfl team. In his office I had 4 residents baffled while rotating my legs, trying to figure out what was with my hip rotation. I felt like a medical anomaly. He prescribed physical therapy that mostly consisted of stretching. For two months straight I stretched my quads, hams, calves, ankles and hip flexors for 3 minutes a day each. I didn’t get anywhere. A therapist hypothesized that I could have abnormal hip sockets that limit my range of motion.

I’ve seen two personal trainers but I wasn’t convinced in their knowledge of strength training at all. One actually had me box squatting, but it was really painful for me. Sitting felt like some of my back muscles were ceasing to tense and brought on a lot of back pain. Didn’t get too far with this. As for the other one, I wanted him to critique my squat form but all he wanted to do was show me some unorthodox ab exercises he shows to all his clients. Waste of my time. I would like to see a good strength coach but am unsure where to find one.

I haven’t yoked in a few weeks now. I was doing more of an endurance/hypertrophic weight for a while and as soon as I upped it to strength my back started really hurting.

To be honest I’m afraid to try squatting again. Every single time I try something bad happens. Last was a bit over a year ago, I did a wider stance with plates under my heels and only with the bar. I had pain in my inner quad close to my knees and every rep I would hear this clicking noise in my legs. I stupidly did a whole workout through the pain and even now I still have pain in my left quad.

I attached an x-ray of my hips. I’ve always felt like I have wide iliac crests and narrow hips. Maybe that plays a role in my lack of range of motion. You can also see here the misfigured vertebrae I was talking about. Apparently it’s somewhat common but I do think it’s presenting a problem in my training. I’m seeing a sports medicine doctor in a few weeks to hopefully get some insight on my issues.

Lately I’ve been feeling that maybe my bones just can’t handle heavy lifting. T_T
Anyways thanks again.

Can you sit it a chair?

Can you hold onto something and squat?

Well, you’ve definitely done your homework. Put up a post in the powerlifting forum and say where you are and ask for a good gym.

For the moment, keep going with the yoke walks, farmers carry and sled, and live in hope. Hell, doing those exercises you’ll get stronger and if you find a coach who can find a way for you to squat or deadlift you’ll be strong enough to do it pretty well.

Where are you located?

So you mean to tell me that you have never been able to sot down on the couch or bend over to pick up groceries off the floor?

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:
Where are you located?[/quote]
Metro Detroit

If I sit in a chair, either my heels are raising, my back is over rounding or I’m essentially controlled falling into it. If I hold onto something I can go further down, but if I let go I would fall backwards. I can’t derive power from that position.
I can physically do a deadlift, but my back can’t take it.

I’m not avoiding the two best strength exercises for the hell of it.

Keep training your abs and back with moves that you can do. Don’t neglect your obliques.

Continue to experiment and look for exercises you can use to train your legs without hurting yourself.

I think the sled would be good, you can take the load off your shoulders and shift it directly to your hips. This will take your lower back out of the move, and should let you focus on your legs and hips/glutes.

You might also try lifts like step ups with dumbbells hanging at your sides. Keep the weight low, near your hip level, instead of up high on your shoulders.

A couple Flex Bands(EliteFTS) might be useful for your home setup too. You could do pull thru’s, “Stallions” (like a standing hip thrust with the band around your waist for resistance) different banded walking moves to build your hips without squatting down. All kinds of stuff.

If you get a little stronger and build some muscle, your mobility may improve.

Maybe avoid the yoke walk.

I would still try holding on to something and squatting down.

then hold that position as long as you can.

Try doing this a few times a day.

This has nothing to do with leg training, but I would suggest slotting some horizontal pulling into that program somewhere. If you have a dodgy lower back then dumbbell or barbell rows may not be a good idea, but you could try bodyweight rows/ inverted rows/ Aussie rows/ fat man pull ups - they go by many different names, but the point is they work. Keeping your upper back strong and mobile is not, in itself, going to solve your problem but if the t-spine area is weak and locked up then your body is more likely to seek compensation from the lumbar area when carrying out certain movements. Adding this to an already irritated lower back is asking for trouble.

Regarding lower body training, there are some good suggestions above. How much single leg work have you tried? Lunges, split squats, step ups etc. might all be options. For the posterior chain I recommend hip thrusts - although they might bother your back. Single leg hip thrusts would force you to use less weight so they might help with that. Also, glute-ham raises. Very little spinal stress, bulletproof hamstrings.

Check out some of Ben Bruno’s stuff. He has a history of lower back issues so he’s been forced to find some good ways to train around it and still hit the legs hard.

I might get slated for this, but have you tried yoga?

what’s that big square thing up your ass?

Thanks for all the input guys. I think I’m going to search for a gym so I can do some therapeutic lower body exercises like the ones mentioned. Step ups, glute ham raises, maybe hyperextensions and whatever else. Start there and try to move up to sled pushes, all while looking for a coach. Lunges usually feel pretty sketchy on my quads/knees btw. Haven’t tried yoga maybe I’ll check it out, and the square is censorship.