T Nation

Training Partner

My lifting partner has just been diagnosed with a bulging disc. Lifting has been a huge part of his life for 20 years–and it shows. (My friends think I am big; next to this guy I feel like I’m made of popsicle sticks.)

I know that this is a life-changing health problem for someone who is physically very active. I believe, however, that it will be possible to continue to train with a bulging disc IF we are prepared to make some radical changes. (Squat Days are out for him, alas.)

He hobbled in Friday at 5:00am (our usual time) and limited himself to slow pullups and triceps pushdowns. I had him switch to dips for triceps so he wasn’t bracing his lower back. It seems to me that we might turn to machines instead of free weights and find ways to work out that spare pressure on his lower back.

(This post is feeling very “stream of consciousness” for me.) I guess what I’m getting at is: any input from the crowd?–especially, of course, anyone who has dealt with this health issue and has found ways to continue to train without exacerbating the situation.

If anyone with experience (first-hand or second-hand) wants to toss me opinions/ideas/feedback on treatment, whether they think surgery is the best option, training “around” the core (yeah, right!), or anything that might help me come up with a game plan for workouts that won’t cripple him further, I’d be very grateful.

Thanks,
Tim

P.S. After proofreading this, I feel the “I had him switch” line looks odd. To explain: This guy has built a huge and proportioned physique on M&F magazines, chicken breasts, and 20 years of absolute devotion to routine–even setting his alarm for the middle of the night to have a protein shake.

He’s the only other person I know at our gym who has a PWO shake and eats every few hours. BUT he listens to me–whose physique is FAR inferior–because I have shared with him info and ideas and routines from T-Nation, and they work.

His brother was telling me the other night that I might be the one person in the world he’ll actually listen to re: working out and this condition. Also, his dedication and intensity in the gym have made me push myself more than I ever would on my own. I don’t want to lose the best training partner I’ve ever seen because our goals have to go in different directions. I want to figure out a way to keep him heading in the same direction, even if it’s by a different path.

Where is the bulge at?

I’d steer clear of any type of trunk flexion exericse (sit-ups and the like), as this could worsen it.
Instead, focus on trunk extension which could help.

I wouldn’t totally revamp the whole exercise program, unless the doctor has given such recommendations.
Would be a good idea to not load the spine (squats with barbell), but he could still probably do squats with DBs in his hands by the side, or even at shoulder level.

Lunges with DBs would be another possibility along with step-ups.

Variations of the plank would be a good idea to include.

Of course without knowing all the specifics of his injury, take what is written above with a grain of salt, and work within his limitations.

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
Where is the bulge at?

I’d steer clear of any type of trunk flexion exericse (sit-ups and the like), as this could worsen it.
Instead, focus on trunk extension which could help.

I wouldn’t totally revamp the whole exercise program, unless the doctor has given such recommendations.
Would be a good idea to not load the spine (squats with barbell), but he could still probably do squats with DBs in his hands by the side, or even at shoulder level.

Lunges with DBs would be another possibility along with step-ups.

Variations of the plank would be a good idea to include.

Of course without knowing all the specifics of his injury, take what is written above with a grain of salt, and work within his limitations.[/quote]

It’s in the L4, L5 area.

I’m taking everything with a grain of salt, actually. I don’t want to wreck his back any further by saying “Here are some ideas I got from T-Nation that should be good for you.” I’m casting my net wide on this one for advice.

Thanks for the feedback.

Fortunately, this happened just before his girlfriend dragged him off to the Dominican Republic for a vacation, so he’s away for this week. I hope he’s taking a break from working out…but I doubt it. I’d like to be able to present him with some sort of game plan when he returns so that he can at least do some training.

TShaw

I would see what he wants to do about it…

It’s clear that Squats and the like are out, and you would want to prevent as much pressure as possible from being put on the small of the back…

Just so that you are aware…I have never had this injury nor trained someone with it…but I have had injuries due to my sport (Rugby) that have rendered me unable to train and unable to perform certain exercise.

Last year I tore my Anterior Cruciate Ligament on my left knee and have since been unable to squat…I however was very VERY fortunate in the fact that my training partner played rugby for a semi-pro club and was able to get me into the club he was at where I have had extensive treatment to able me to squat again…

It’s worked but I still can’t go as heavy as I used to (120kg for 12 reps…I weigh 78kg)…

I would (and I never say this because I like to think that we are able to correct our bodies ourselves) but if he truly wants to continue training for the same goals…then surgery has to thought of…

It’s not a matter of principle here, it’s about a persons lifestyle and health…

As I said it all depends on him, and what he wants to do…

I hope it works out for him…let me know how he gets on.

Did some searching and couldn’t really find anything:

What causes bulging discs?

I think a big part of leading this lifestyle we choose to pursue is the inevitable need to train around injuries. I know I’ve mentioned it several places on here, but I suffered a couple of lower back injuries myself, and the past year has been an exercise in seeing just how ingenius I can be at dealing with a bad back.

He definitely will benefit from a little time off (LITTLE!), but he will not be able to train the same way anymore. I’ve accepted the fact that I will not be pulling 5 plates a side anymore. It’s okay, I’ve put my time in, hit some respectable ‘bragging’ weights, and now I just do a lighter, dumbell variation focusing on TUT. Do I miss banging the huge numbers? SOmetimes, but I’ve learned to feel better about what I’m doing because it’s all about applying knowlegde to what you’re doing.

All the best to your buddy, it’s never easy being reminded that you’re human.

S

My training partner has just been diagnosed with a herniated disc between the C6 and C7 vertebrae. Which was effecting the C7 nerve route and causing him alot of pain and gave him an inability to fire his left tricept and numbness in his fingers. He went from a raw bench of 425lbs @ 250lbs to not being able to push open a door, that was 10 months ago. He also lost 3/4" off his left arm. Now he is getting better and his strength is returning slowly. His mindset to training has changed and he swears he will not longer be pushing the boundires with heavy weights.

It has also made me re-asses my training attitude, at what cost your health? It worries him and his surgeon suggests he may require surgery in the future to rectify the damage. The operation choices for such injuries are very unplesant.

I would recommend you buddy does his own research, gets his scan home with him and gets a couple of opinions on them just to make sure the ‘experts’ opinioins are aligned.

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:

All the best to your buddy, it’s never easy being reminded that you’re human.

S
[/quote]

So true.

All the best to your training bud.

[quote]TShaw wrote:
My lifting partner has just been diagnosed with a bulging disc. Lifting has been a huge part of his life for 20 years–and it shows. (My friends think I am big; next to this guy I feel like I’m made of popsicle sticks.)

I know that this is a life-changing health problem for someone who is physically very active. I believe, however, that it will be possible to continue to train with a bulging disc IF we are prepared to make some radical changes. (Squat Days are out for him, alas.)

He hobbled in Friday at 5:00am (our usual time) and limited himself to slow pullups and triceps pushdowns. I had him switch to dips for triceps so he wasn’t bracing his lower back. It seems to me that we might turn to machines instead of free weights and find ways to work out that spare pressure on his lower back.

(This post is feeling very “stream of consciousness” for me.) I guess what I’m getting at is: any input from the crowd?–especially, of course, anyone who has dealt with this health issue and has found ways to continue to train without exacerbating the situation.

If anyone with experience (first-hand or second-hand) wants to toss me opinions/ideas/feedback on treatment, whether they think surgery is the best option, training “around” the core (yeah, right!), or anything that might help me come up with a game plan for workouts that won’t cripple him further, I’d be very grateful.

Thanks,
Tim

P.S. After proofreading this, I feel the “I had him switch” line looks odd. To explain: This guy has built a huge and proportioned physique on M&F magazines, chicken breasts, and 20 years of absolute devotion to routine–even setting his alarm for the middle of the night to have a protein shake.

He’s the only other person I know at our gym who has a PWO shake and eats every few hours. BUT he listens to me–whose physique is FAR inferior–because I have shared with him info and ideas and routines from T-Nation, and they work.

His brother was telling me the other night that I might be the one person in the world he’ll actually listen to re: working out and this condition. Also, his dedication and intensity in the gym have made me push myself more than I ever would on my own.

I don’t want to lose the best training partner I’ve ever seen because our goals have to go in different directions. I want to figure out a way to keep him heading in the same direction, even if it’s by a different path.[/quote]

I have bulging discs in my L3,L4, and L5. I also have the beginning symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Did I mention my facet in my lower back goes in and out of place and makes squats and DL’s a fucking nightmare? Oh…and I’m only 22. I was diagnosed with this about a year ago.

First and foremost I am not a doctor. I will just tell you my opinion on this all and what I am doing to work with it. This doesn’t mean your friend should do the same thing.

My physical therapist told me to never do squats, deadlifts, or any overhead press again. I have not listened to my therapist.

I still do squats. Albeit I’m sure your friend can do more than me but I rep about 300-325lbs. I wear a belt because it takes a good amount of the pressure of my spine and helps stabilize everything. I use slow and controlled form on the negative and burst with control still on the positive.

I’m still doing DL’s as well. Just today I did 6sets of 3x375 with no pain in my back.

I also still do clings, push press, and any and all overhead presses.

I know I’m probably just screwing myself over in the long run for when I get older by not listening to my therapist, but we all have set goals for ourselves. I’m not about to let something like bulging discs screw me over.

Eventually I will have to ditch squats when the weight becomes too much and switch to leg press, but I won’t mind that. I work in several variations of leg presses in my workouts already and they get the job done just as well.

Also, when DL’s become too much I’ll drop them for T-bar rows/T-bar DL’s because you can get back thickness with those as well.

Your friend has to decide if he’s going to let this get in his way of his goals and training. If he’s hurting, he should take a break from those exercises. I recently stopped doing DLs for about a month because my facet was out of place and was irritating my back. I kept doing Squats, but at a lighter weight but with more reps and higher frequency.

After the break, my back feels great.

When I first heard this I was pretty upset. I mean shit, I’m only 22 and never had a back injury in my life and I’ve got bulging discs in my lower back and degenerative disc disease? Unfortunately it’s the price you pay when your mother has a horrible back herself and you’re the lucky one out of 3 sons to get what she’s got.

Basically it boils down to what does your friend value more. His health in the long run when he’s an old man or the goals he has set for himself?

In my opinion my goals are more important to me. I refuse to let this get in my way. Hell, my therapist admitted to me that there was no certainty that I would screw myself for life if I continued doing squats,dls, and over head presses, but that it was possible.

I’m willing to take that risk.

Your friend has a lot to think about and I feel for him.

I feel the pain of many mentioned above, bulging disks, C6, C7 & bone spurs that pinch the nerves going to my arms, and some nastiness in my lower back (L4, L5) that keeps my hips in fits if I do not keep them stretched and really watch my form. I have degenerative disk disease as well. At 22 my doctor’s best prognosis is that I would be able to feed myself without too much pain. I have been banned from squats and deadlifts.

That said, I PR’d on deadlifts last week without any (additional) soreness. It took many (many) years of smart lifting, listening to my body, and pursuing several different avenues of exercise, to get to that point (at 34).

I encourage your partner to experiment with different variations on lifts (I found single limb exercises–pistols, SLDLs, 1 arm floor press–very useful) and with a judicious use of machines (I am not sure a full reliance on them is always the right move). This is a big bump in the road but only a bump. There is plenty of road left to travel. I feel that had I not kept with my pursuit to weightlift I would feel far worse now. I actually feel pretty good.

Best of luck to your training partner on his recovery.

[quote]Sir wrote:

I have bulging discs in my L3,L4, and L5. I also have the beginning symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Did I mention my facet in my lower back goes in and out of place and makes squats and DL’s a fucking nightmare? Oh…and I’m only 22. I was diagnosed with this about a year ago.

First and foremost I am not a doctor. I will just tell you my opinion on this all and what I am doing to work with it. This doesn’t mean your friend should do the same thing.

My physical therapist told me to never do squats, deadlifts, or any overhead press again. I have not listened to my therapist.

I still do squats. Albeit I’m sure your friend can do more than me but I rep about 300-325lbs. I wear a belt because it takes a good amount of the pressure of my spine and helps stabilize everything. I use slow and controlled form on the negative and burst with control still on the positive.

I’m still doing DL’s as well. Just today I did 6sets of 3x375 with no pain in my back.

I also still do clings, push press, and any and all overhead presses.

I know I’m probably just screwing myself over in the long run for when I get older by not listening to my therapist, but we all have set goals for ourselves. I’m not about to let something like bulging discs screw me over.

Eventually I will have to ditch squats when the weight becomes too much and switch to leg press, but I won’t mind that. I work in several variations of leg presses in my workouts already and they get the job done just as well.

Also, when DL’s become too much I’ll drop them for T-bar rows/T-bar DL’s because you can get back thickness with those as well.

Your friend has to decide if he’s going to let this get in his way of his goals and training. If he’s hurting, he should take a break from those exercises. I recently stopped doing DLs for about a month because my facet was out of place and was irritating my back. I kept doing Squats, but at a lighter weight but with more reps and higher frequency.

After the break, my back feels great.

When I first heard this I was pretty upset. I mean shit, I’m only 22 and never had a back injury in my life and I’ve got bulging discs in my lower back and degenerative disc disease? Unfortunately it’s the price you pay when your mother has a horrible back herself and you’re the lucky one out of 3 sons to get what she’s got.

Basically it boils down to what does your friend value more. His health in the long run when he’s an old man or the goals he has set for himself?

In my opinion my goals are more important to me. I refuse to let this get in my way. Hell, my therapist admitted to me that there was no certainty that I would screw myself for life if I continued doing squats,dls, and over head presses, but that it was possible.

I’m willing to take that risk.

Your friend has a lot to think about and I feel for him.[/quote]

It’s not tough to figure out why at 22 you have the spine of a 70 year old. Just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean it isn’t damaging. Sometimes the doctor can be right.

Thanks to all the responses and encouragement.

My wife has two herniated discs in the same region, and she knows that she must do certain stretches several times a day to remain relatively pain free. Her doc said “no exercise” and she dropped resistance training, but she goes to the gym 4 days/week at 5:00am with me to do cardio machines. She may actually become his “template” for controlling the effects of this.

The training partner has been lucky up until now, and is accustomed to just being able to recover from his workouts. He’s 34 now, however, and slowing down (and hating it; I’ll be 49 in a few days, so I learned that I’m human long ago!). He won’t stop–though he might even be outwardly glad to have an excuse not to squat anymore!–but I’m sure we can start using more machines and doing things that don’t put pressure or excessive loading or torque on the back.

Thanks for the input, guys!