T Nation

Suggestions for Lower Back Pain

This is my first post on T-Nation.  I've been reading stuff on here for the past 9 months or so and have found I spend most time reading/respecting the posts in this forum, so I figured best to post here.

Firsts things first, I must confess my sins of being a squat rack curler - I was that guy back in my college days. I was the guy who never missed his Monday "chest and tri" workout but rarely made it in for the scheduled Wednesday "leg day". And if I did, you'd see me on the Smith Machine or leg press.

After college I did manual labor for a couple years and my time in the gym significantly decreased (although I was probably in better shape than when I did go to the gym). Now, I'm 26 and work a desk job. The time I spent working outside made me rethink what I should be doing in the gym, so I bought a power rack, put it in my garage, and work out there. Despite my years of dicking around in the gym, I consider my true starting date of working out to be January '07.

I gleaned tremendous amounts of information the T-Nation articles and forum posts and applied it the best way I could. I want to make my body as strong as it can be. That's my goal.

Now that some personal info is out of the way, here's the situation so maybe I can get some advice.

I'm 6'3 200, short torso, long-limbed. Legs are pathetic (well, everything is pathetic just the legs moreso). Most of my mass is above the waist. Bench 285, Standing Military 170, Power Snatch 135, Power Clean 200, OHS 135 for 5 reps, Deadlift 335 pre injury, Squat 235 ATG pre injury.

Okay, those numbers should give an indicator of how out of whack I am.

Back in early May of this year, I tried to improve my deadlift. I was hammering away and then I felt a pain in my lower back. I've had pain before after doing deads, so I didn't really worry about it, just eased off for a week and though it'd be fine.

That month I read about the Smolov squat cycle on tnation. Enamored with the pain and results it promised, I decided to give it a try. Day 3 of the squat cycle, going ATG with 185 - sad, I know - something went in my back, yet I finished the set figuring the pain would not be a big deal. Boy, was I wrong! For the next 2 months, I couldn't sit for more than 5 minutes without pain. I eventually went to a doctor, but he said I didn't have any sort of herniation after having me do some movements in the office.

He suggested that I kept aggravating it (he was probably right, because I kept trying to work out). Anyway, the pain finally subsided by August and I could resume normal activity - it's still not 100% but I am able to train.

Training schedule
Day 1
Romanian Deads
alternate with OHS - 4 sets of 5 for each
natural GHRs - 3 sets of 7
Barbell Lunges - 2 sets of 7
Calves (if time)


Day 3
Military press
alternate with weighted chins - 4 sets of 5 for each
weighted dips
alternate with incline BB rows - 3 sets of 7 for each


Day 5
Front squats (4 sets of 5)
alternate with cable pull throughs (4 sets of 8)
natural GHRs - 3 sets of 7
DB bulgarian split squats - 2 sets of 7
calves (if time)


Day 7
Face Pulls (4 sets of 8)
alternate with Incline BB Bench (4 sets of 5)
Inverted rows (3 sets of 10)
alternate with pushups (3 sets of 20)


The squats and RDLs I started off very light back in august and have been adding since. All exercises are increased by 5lbs per week until I can't complete 4 sets of 2 reps (for the main exercises) - once that happens, I reduce the weight to a weight I can get 4 sets of 5 reps then repeat.

I haven't back squatted or deadlifted since my injury. Front squats and OHS feel okay and romanian deads feel great on my back. Today I decided to try something different.

My partner I usually train with couldn't come, so I decided to try deadlifts - first time since I hurt my lower back. I kept adding weight and doing a rep or two until I got up to 300 and got a single. But fuck me, my back was hurting again and I felt so damned frustrated. As soon as the weight gets to my knee level it's so easy, but it was nearly impossible getting it off the floor - that's where my pain is.

Is there anyone who has this sort of pain? What were your experiences? What can I do to get my lower back strong enough? Does anyone with a similar build/similar problems have any explanations or exercise suggestions that will help someone with my build get past these limitations?

Thanks. (and sorry for the length of the post)


I've had problems with my lower back was well. It took me ~8 months to recover from a lower back injury.

Important things are:
1)time and patience. impatience will send you backwards!
2)Working with a good rehab professional - I did NOT do this and I think it protracted my recovery so I HIGHLY recommend this instead of trying to reinvent the wheel on your own
3)Postural and biomechanical awareness - both in every day life and in lifting, as well as awareness of core activation.
4)avoiding lifts that aggravate the back, and avoid doing stupid things
5)core work with low spinal loading - see Stuart Mcgill's book
6)VERY gradually reintroducing lifting - with impeccable biomechanics always and slow progression
7)Time. It takes time for an injury to run its course and for healing to take place.


Thanks, Willus.

I probably won't deal with a rehab professional on account of time more than money, but I'll definitely look into Stuart Mcgill's book. It's just so darned frustrating. Guess I was looking more for a magic bullet instead of patience.

How long ago did you hurt your back? Did you have any disc issues? And how are you doing now with it - are you limited at all?


I hurt my back in ~november of last year. the first single traumatic stress on the low back I had was with throwing the 35lb weight. Then I reinjured it multiple times doing squatting variations, shot glide throws, etc. I was too stubborn to stop so I was in a lot of pain for a long time.

I'm going to have to say that the main problem was with the discs and/or the si joints.

Right now I'm fine - I've recovered all my strength and I've been able to do 3 weeks of heavy good mornings with no problem. On the other hand, the bottom end of the squat still gives me some trouble, but I'm by and large pain free and able to lift, sprint, throw, etc.


My back pain has been under control ever since I began focussing on increasing my hamstring flexibility. I don't know what your status is as far as flexibility, but I always make sure my hamstrings are warm and loose before attempting any heavy deads or squats. I made it a daily task to do flexibility work in my hips and hamstrings and have been low back healthy for over year; which I haven't been able to say for over 10 years.
Hope it gets better for you; there's nothing more frustrating then having a injured lower back.


Is the pain more on one side, both sides? Does it radiate down the legs? Are there any other movements besides squats and deadlifts that aggravate the area such as any sit-up variation, overhead presses, etc.?

The best advice I can give is to find a chiropractor, therapist, or trainer who specializes in postural/biomechanical alignment. What I see alot is individuals who have some deviation in normal hip alignment such as anterior pelvice tilt or hip elevation where one hip is higher than the other. Both of which can lead to faulty muscle recruitment patterns and lead to overuse injuries in the lower back.

Things to do in the mean time would be to assess your ankle mobility, hip mobility, hip flexor flexiblity, soft tissue quality to name a few. Also, have someone see if you shift your hips to one side when squatting and deadlifting which is a sure sign you have some degree of muscle imbalance.

Any more questions, feel free to ask.


Thanks for the responses. And I'm glad to hear from people who have been able to recover from lower back problems.

I checked out the interview with Stuart McGill on here and that had some very useful info. I work out first thing in the morning before work, which, according to him, is hazardous because of the extra fluid in the spine. So I'm now trying to wake up earlier, give myself some time of being awake and walking around instead of rolling out of bed and into the gym.

I haven't had any leg pain per se - when it was at it worst during the summer it was localized to my lower back. But as that pain subsided, I did tend to have a bit of a funny feeling on the outside of left calf that felt as if it radiated from my spine.

Fortunately, the pain I thought I aggravated on Friday morning wasn't as bad as I had thought. Granted, I was overly ambitious and am not planning to do any heavy conventional deadlifts until after I know I'm 100% instead of foolishly testing the waters. But at least I'm not going to have to abandon all exercise for a month (which is how I was feeling when I wrote my initial post).

I've been stretching my hams and hip flexors as much as possible - definitely makes my back feel better. I think that's why my back feels good after Romanian deadlifts (I keep it light). But the flexibility is an issue, it's why I injured it in the first place, I think, because when I would go deep squatting I could feel my butt roll under a little - I'd lose my arch slightly. And it's the same with a conventional dead - when that weight is on the floor, I lack the flexibility to maintain a neutral spine when at the bottom.

I'm just going to keep it light and keep stretching. Thanks again. Hearing from those who've come back gives me some hope for the future.