T Nation

Training With Bad Back

i have a bulging disc and muscle spasm that i’m currently getting physical herapy for. i’ve been ok’d to workout but not any power lifts like deads or cleans. what would be a good strength program for me to do to getback in shape?

was thinking about something like an upper/lower split for 3 days a week. any advice would be greatly appreciated.

What about leg press or hack squats for lower body, maybe bodyweight squats. I’d be scared to go very heavy on any lifts though. I’d avoid vertical pressing movements like military press. Bench press may not bother you, if it does then what about push ups? I’d also be scared to do any rowing, due to the bent over position.

If you have a bulging disc, you should stay away from any motion that would put you into a lumbar flexion (assuming a posterio-lateral bulge-which is the most commong direction). This would include any leg press or hack squat (machine based). Those devices take you out of a proprioceptive rich environment and place you at greater risk of reproducing the movement patterns that exacerbate your condition, namely spinal flexion.

You’d want to first learn how to find, hold and maintain neutral spine and work on specific lumbar spine stabilization exercises (planks, birddogs etc) which activate the necessary musculature but decrease the spinal loading component. bodyweight movements are a good start (consider single leg) which would also work on hip range of motion. Many times, lumbar compensation takes place due to lack of hip mobility (e.g. lumbar spine “hitching”).

Start slow and progress slowly. Nothing should be painful. Think of it as retraining your body how to move by NOT using your back.

Once again, I would stay away from leg press, hack squat or other spinal loading machines. As well, stay away from any abdominal work that puts you in to a flexion position (curl ups, crunches, twists, rotations). Not worth the loading that takes place through the discs and vertebrae.


i’ve got one more week of physical therapy and i’ll be ready to go. i’d say i’m almost 95% recovered. i’ve been doing some bodyweight exercises with no pain so i think i’m ready to hit the weights. any advice on a program would be greatly appreciated.

please help!

[quote]bart wrote:
please help![/quote]

Do the single leg movements. The single leg squats, pistols, and Bulgarian split squats can give you awesome leg workouts with virtually no spinal loading so they are safe for the back. They are hard as shit to do to.

Bulgarian Splits are on here:

Single Leg squats:


There I did the leg work for you. Please read and enjoy. The articles likely overlap, so yes they may repeat each other.