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Substitute for Deadlifts, Squats, Rows; Best App to Track Macros?

Howdy, I just found these forums, hope to get some advice!

I started lifting in July 2017 after a lumbar fusion and subsequent total knee replacement - I’m tired of being skinny especially after 5 months of recovery. I’ve been a hardcore skier, mountain biker and mountaineer the last 30 years and the wear and tear has added up. Multiple medical professionals have recommended avoiding loading my upper body to avoid further damage to my lumbar spine due to significant disc degeneration.

Question 1 - - all of the workout guides recommend “heavy complex” lifts to build the posterior chain and the larger muscles - but I cannot do any of the exercises including squats, deadlifts, standing or bent rows. I shrug about 160lb for traps but that’s about max I can handle, standing upright. I lie on an incline bench for rows. What alternatives would you recommend, especially for legs?

Question 2 - yep I’m a cardio athlete - I can sustain 160bpm while skiing uphill. Great cardio, but tough to gain and hold muscle. I’ve always eaten healthy and have worked hard to really clean up my diet - sweet coffee and microbrews are my only vices. No I don’t track macros - got a good suggestion for an app? At 165 lb, 5’8", age 55 I’m getting stronger in the gym, some noticeable size increases but no change in BF% (currently 20%) or weight gain. Suggestions how I can gain weight, drop the BF% and still get in hardcore mountain bike rides now that ski season is almost over?

Heavy Prowler work. Like heavy enough to where you can only push it 15 yards for 6 sets.
Don’t underestimate what it can do.

Maybe if you can do 160lb shrugs, you can work towards a 160lb OHP or do 60-70 lb dumbbell squats/deads?


I have a SPUD hip belt. It works ok once you have a stable way to set it up. I work out alone but with a spotter it would be fine.

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Search up Ben Brunos description of skater squats, or as he calls his article “Un-named single leg gem of an exercise” here on T-Nation. Less awkward than Bulgarian split squats, and harder work too. You can send twice your body weight through one leg, with just one times bodyweight on your back. To send the same load through both legs in a “normal” squat, you’d need three times your body weight on your back. That is a heavy squat!

I skater squat a pair of 110lbs DBs for six or seven reps and I’ve never hurt myself. Once you’ve done them for a few months, balance is not an issue at all; to me now it’s second nature to stand on one leg under load.

I haven’t loaded up with both legs at once in ten years and I’m happy enough with my leg development too. You’re a cyclist, so you’ll get this.

Also, if you ever need to stand up under load, you usually do it one leg at a time.

(I’m a totally biased unilateral squatter and proud of it, so you might bear that in mind LOL)

For Rows, search up Meadows Rows, using one hand to lift the end of a barbell. You can then rest your other side on a bench or hold your knee to take load off you back. If you like bi-lateral rows, try chest supported Dumbbell rows using a bench at a slight angle, face down.

I’m no doctor but I cringe when doctors tell people not to do things due to a repaired injury. Loading your spine will stimulate blood flow to your discs. This will shuttle nutrients and other stuff to them and keep them healthy. Doing nothing will do just that - - nothing.

I suggest you read up on Stuart McGill. He’s a spinal guru who actually believes in working out injured body parts.

Your docs may have reasons for giving you a list of things to never do again but many medical professionals still don’t understand weight training.

I too am no Doctor. But I agree 100%. If you have a hurt back or want to avoid one, read Stuart McGill. All of him. Twice.

Thanks everyone- I have some reading to do!

Damn… I’m pretty certain I’d fall straight on my face attempting those haha

I actually started cycling BB/DB single leg SLDL/RDL (I rotate through the combinations) and my balance improved significantly over the first 4 weeks.

Back issues seemed to clear up as well but initially it got worse (2-3 weeks)

Yeah, initially your back gets a shock having to stop your hips from rotating, loaded side up other side down, but once you get the right muscles firing in there, I think this is a very useful form of strength.