T Nation

Training Legs w/out Back Soreness?


I'm getting back into lifting after a long layoff (almost a decade since I was last serious). I've always had super skinny legs and, despite no desires to compete, they absolutely have to be worked on so I don't look like a wheelchair racer.

However, I've always had problems building the legs without making my lower back incredibly sore. I have long femurs and everything seems to stress the lower back. Even moderate low back exercises like superman's and back planks make my lower back have a constnt dull ache the next day.

I've given up squating, but am thinking I will need some alternate exercises to do on leg day if I need to rest up the back.

Please give some input. This is what I tried yesterday: Box jumps, extra sets on leg extension and leg curl. Body weight squats with high reps. I tried lunges with 50lbs of kettle bells, but they made the low back sore.

Any other dieas? Belt? Shorten the length of the reps on the sled and hack squat machine?


front squats take a lot of pressure off of the lower back and some people on this forum say they have gotten more size with them than doing back squats


oh i use to have a problem like this, after i started deadlifting my lower back got stronger and could handle the weight better on deep squats. another big factor in this is form. You are probably leaning forward too much in part of the movement or combining a morning glory with the squat if that makes sense.

like i said you could fix this by fixing your form, making your lower back stronger, front squating, putting plate under your heals(makes it easier to use proper form while going deep and keeping your back straight). look up at the ceiling when you squat too.

also you could regularly stretch your glutes and hamstrings because tightness of these muscles directly influence the lower back muscles.


x2. You can't good morning the weight up on a front squat. And they still allow you to use heavy weights.


Can someone give me tips on the front squat? I've tried them and it is very awkward holding the bar.


This is not an issue to be worked around! You need to start by making your low back stonger, then move on to serious leg training. IMO....anything else is a waste of time.



The problem you are having is that Your low back is "sore" ???

How sore are we talking? Sore to the point of not being able to move around "normally", sore when you move, sore when you sit/stand?

Is this the same type of soreness that you get in your arms/chest after training them?

If so, Some level of soreness is to be EXPECTED if you are lifting weights that are challenging enough to produce results. I know soreness is not the end-all-be-all indicator of growth... But if you aren't sore somewhere on your body pretty much all week I really do question your intensity and effort.

I suggest you find ways to strengthen your lower back instead of avoiding training it. Do some back extensions with weight for starters. Those and dead lifts should have your low back stronger in a matter of months, and squatting wont affect it as much.


Well, I have two problems.

1) Pain around the tail bone. The deeper I go, the more it bothers me. Nothing I can't live with, but something I am a bit concerned about and want to play it cautious. This seems to be coupled with some knots in the very lower back. I expect this issue to clear up pretty easily with massage and rest.

2) A sore lower back. Not joints, not bulging discs, not sharp pain.....just a dull ache. Imagine if you really worked the hell out of your lateral delts and they just burn. Like that, except that imagine you have to use you lateral delts to hold an object out to your side all day long. That seems to be the big problem. My back will get so sore that it just aches all day any time I have to support my torso with my core (like right now as I sit up to type).

10 years ago I built up to a 375 lb squat (which was a huge deal for this skinny distance runner), which was great, except that I'd go out and play basketball and could only get through a single game. I'd then have to go and lay down on the ground for a good 10 to 20 minutes because my back hurt so bad.

Yes, this is the quandary I live with......my back is too weak to work out, but if I don't work it out, it will never get strong.

.........not sure what to do about it. = ^ /


You are saying you get "workout soreness" in your lower back, right? Meaning, its NOT the bad kind of pain, but the pain anyone would expect after an intense workout?

If thats the case, here is where you have decisions to make on your own. Bodybuilding, pursued with intensity, is NOT a sport for everyone. Its NOT a sport for people who like to run marathons, or for people who like to play pick up basketball games or cross country ski. It can at time be quite limiting to "outside" activities.

Believe me when I say I've looked at many of flight of stairs in my day and thought "... Shit. This is going to suck" - There are days where simply SITTING DOWN is quite painful.

So, if pursuing body building at a high level is something you want to do, this may be the "cost of doing business" that you have to live with. I know I do. If you would rather compromise your body building efforts to be more functional outside of the sport, than you need to do that and make the necessary adjustments to your routine.

These are the kinds of sacrifices people talk about making when talk about what it takes to be a body builder.


Thanks, Lonnie. I can appreciat that answer. FWIW, I'm not looking to compete or take this very seriously. If I had heard someone say that to me with regard to running several years ago, I would have thought that person was a slacker, just like my boss thinks I'm a slacker because I don't want to work 50 hour weeks and hope to be as awesome as he thinks he is some day. As I have aged, I don't have such lofty goals anymore.

Having said that, I still push pretty hard and have some reasonable goals. One of my goals is to not look like a wheelchair racer (no offense to wheelchair racers intended), so I have to train my legs. Another goal is not to get seriously hurt, which is where the dilema comes in. Do I work around the low back, or does that just make it worse?


I'm probably going to catch some heat for this, but here goes:

Squats are a fantastic exercise, arguably the best, right up there with the dead lift. All things considered, they are the best leg exercise... BUT, they are obviously NOT necessary for people are just looking to look better and have legs that wont get laughed at.

If they are causing you a level of discomfort that you are not willing to endure, drop them. Switch them out for the Leg Press and go sick. Try front squats, lunges, and other variations. Check out the "Mountain Dog Legs" article for many great leg exercises that don't involve squats.


How did it take this long for someone to recommend leg press? I have never understood the hate for that exercise. Good advice, Lonnie.


Your right, no real reason to hate on it as an option.

This is what I'm seeing though. He is having issues with back soreness from lunges with only 50 lbs. This sorta tells me there is probably a mobility/flexibility issue as I don't really see much reason for his back to be sore after lunges.

Now, throw him onto a traditional 45 degree leg press with a full ROM and he's gonna be rounding the shit outa his back due to this. Definitely not good and he'll be in the same boat he's in now and could wind up hurting himself. I've done it when I was young and dumb.

With that said, if he fixes what I think is the root of the problem, leg press will probably be the best bet for his goals.


maybe you are squatting to wide and/or are going low bar aswel? this would certainly increase the low back involvement.

either way a video would help......


OP can we get a video of you squatting? Outside of direct lower back work (extensions: start with just your body weight) do you do any core work? A sore back is sometimes a sign of a weak core putting stress on your lower back. Your long layup and desk job is a recipe for a weak core. Also going very slow on the eccentric portion of your squats may save your lower back from pain as well.

I use to have to sit in my car for 20 minutes with the seat fully reclined before i could even drive because my lower back hurt so bad. Once I got stronger and did direct work for my core and lower back did low back pain become a non-issue. Sore and Pain are two different things.

Although it might seem obvious on any exercise (leg ext, leg press, lying leg curl, etc.) make a conscious effort to keep your back flat on the back rest. Decrease the weight if you have. Play around with the adjustments as well to suit your structure.


This was my initial thought as well. A weak ab wall.

Second thought was a form isse/tailbone rounding. From tight adductors, glutes, hip flexors or any combination of.


I think doing deadlifts have stopped me from having any lower back problems.


tight adductors? Yep.
tight glutes? Uhuh. Yeah, those too.
tight hip flexors? Absolutely.
Tight or any combination of? What, of every thing else in the legs? Yeah, everything is tight! Always has been. I stretch the shit out of it too. I'm just genetically tight.


I do abs twice a week. Once before my workout (shoulder and bi day) and once after (chest day).