T Nation

Who's in the Disc Club?


Okay, so who has herniated or bulging discs? How do you train? And for those who've had bulgers in the past how were you able to get back to deadlifting/squats/Olys etc? Does it affect your running?

My chiro and GP told looked at me like I was insane when I asked about weightlifting after receiving my diagnosis(see below for my diagnosis.) They told me not to do anything strenuous whatsoever. I asked if there was any stretching I could do to help healing. Got the 'don't be insane' look again and a big NO. That was six weeks ago and I've cut out DLs, squats, Olys and overhead press but I'm still doing everything else. Got another 6 weeks to wait to see a neurosurgeon.

I'm wondering what excercises other disc club members are doing. What should I be doing? What shouldn't I be doing?

My diagnosis - Moderate central to right posterolateral disc protrusion at L5 encroaching and compressing right S1 nerve root. Moderate central disc bulge at L4.

MODS: This is not for the rehab and injuries thread. It's about training. I reckon there's a lot of people in the 'disc club' who can give training advice.


there is quite a lot of information in the articles part of this site on the function of the core. i'd suggest that you have a bit of a hunt through those.

basically... the lumbar spine is supposed to be stable rather than mobile (same for knees and cervical spine). the thoracic spine and the hips and the ankles are supposed to be mobile. sometimes injury can result from that which should be stable becoming mobile (sounds like that is what is going wrong with your lumbar spine).

so... i'd suggest that you look into:

  • learning how to hold your lumbar region stable during functional movements (start with unweighted then build up as tolerated being really very strict about form)

  • mobilizing your thoracic region and hips in particular (part of being strict about form since the movement should come from these regions).

hope this helps.


Actually core work makes up a lot of what I do. I use a hyperextension machine, do planks, side planks, leg raises, crunches, supermans etc. I already have good core strength but I know I need to keep working my core to help improve lumbar support. I actually got the bulging discs from my form breaking down after trying to squeeze in a few more DL reps. Don't really get much pain at all. All I care about to be honest is continuing to get strong without becoming a fucking cripple. I'm wondering if other people with disc bulges are doing bench/military/incline press, lunges, step ups etc and whether they ever got back to DLs and squats.

P.S. - I seem to remember you had a lower back problem recently(I think.) Hope it's muscle/ligament as opposed to disc. Good luck. :slightly_smiling:


if you are doing crunches then i'd suggest you revisit the core articles on this site :slightly_smiling:

you should be able to return to deadlifts etc etc etc... once you have learned to hold your core stable during those exercises... and once you learn that when your core starts to fatigue so you can't hold proper form then you can't hold proper form so it is time to call it quits.

one of the articles... said that a surprisingly large number of people have spinal abnormalities on MRI but report no pain. the difference between those who reported pain and those who did not report pain seemed to be whether the person was able to recruit their muscles properly in order to hold their spine in proper alignment during motion.

i have 30% loss in anterior height to the L/T junction. that is kind of an awkward place since the lumbar region is supposed to be stable and the thoracic is supposed to be mobile. i used to get pain there when i tried to hold a tight lumbar curve. working hard on abdominal activation (and lumbar curve) seems to have sorted me out.

improving hip mobility in particular really has made all the difference in the world. moving from the hips rather than from the lumbar spine. i wouldn't even know i have a joint abnormality in my spine anymore.


Yeah I know there's a lot of people who don't believe in doing crunches. There's also a lot of people who DO believe in doing them(Wendler). I do them. Maybe I shouldn't. Meh.


maybe have a think about why people think you should and shouldn't do them... think about your goals... and your personal circumstances (ie injury) and then figure out what seems right for you.


I had a disc protrusion, for the life of me I can't remember the exact location but somewhere in the L1-5 region.

All I do is strengthen my abdominals via Paloff presses, ab-wheels and planks
learn't better form on squatting and deadlifting such as squeezing glutes on every exercise, push out with my abs, moving hips properly and also used the trap bar deadlift for the first 2 months
worked my hamstrings via band goodmornings and pull through's
TONS of prowler work


Good point.


Yeah I use X-band walks to help activate my glutes and squeeze out my abs tight. Pretty sure my form's pretty good.

Question: You did deadlifts with a trapbar for the first two months after bulging a lumbar disc? I mean you felt pain in your back, went to get a scan or something, was told you had a bulging lumber disc then came home and started deadlifting again?


Disc protrusion here... lowest level, right around the waist line. I went to therapy for a while and they had me doing McKenzie Protocol plus some core stablization exercises, Paloff Press, Dying Bug, Superman, different Planks. I also made sure to do Hamstring stretches without rounding my back and that helped me withe muscle tightness I had.

I did the disc protrusion back in March and I'm just down deadlifting again and I started very light at that. I haven't really started squatting again, unless you consider the Hack Squat machine a squat. The Top-Half squat has been okay to me but I'm really just easing back into it.


Thanks, you've given me some hope. I don't have access to a Hack Squat machine or I'd be using one but I'm intending to ease into barbell hack squats.


long history of disc injury going back at least 30 years to a first injury at around 21.

I have at least 3 levels of disc injury : 1 thoracic and 2 lumbar.

Years and years of back pain misery culminating in 1 about 15 years ago when i ended up on the floor and unable to walk for 3 days.

What hasn't helped is my job (nurse) where back injuries from heaving obese patients around was taking a progressive toll.

About 10 years ago i was sorted out by 2 really good people : a great physio who taught me a back recovery regime and a chiropracter who managed to get things mobile and in alignment.

Now : i knew that weights had to be bad for me right !!! and when my trainer suggested me starting on proper weight training in january i all but laughed out loud, however he persisted and i gave it a try.
5 months later i am much stronger, back is shed-loads better and i have very few episodes of severe back pain.

However it does still happen.

This week has been a grumbly back week after a heavy lower body and hard running session back to back.

Strategy :
I have to listen to waht my back is saying 'on the day' and i am deliberately holding back on increasing weight on squats and deadlifts--i think what will happen is that i will get to a range of weight where i am happy with the workload and not go higher until everything ie form and control are really good and i am completely mastering that weight.
So allowing and accepting of slow progress.

Thoughts :
If anything that the lifting is better than lots of running so i have reduced the running to shorter faster sessions.
I have recently introduced rower as well which i was also wary of--seems ok so far.


Well only when I started to train properly again I should of said. The beginning was just doing a lot of core stuff and bodyweight exercises and once I had no full on permanent pain I started doing trap bar deadlifts and various band work and prowler work, been fine so far :slight_smile:


30 years?! Hope fading somewhat. This is helpful though, thanks. I'm also taking the approach of listening to my back and easing up on bad days.


Sounds good. Good luck. Hope my recovery is more akin to yours than Big Nurse's. :slight_smile:


SM..Don't get disheartenned simply because of my story.

If i had been introduced to proper weight training 20 years ago i would probably not have had the problems that have accumulated oevr the years.

As is it is the weights i am convinced that has massively improved my situation, i am only aware that i probably do have a functional limit with weight and will never be a powerlifter /strongmanor whatever--but will be a stronger and fitter old git which i am very happy about .


Glad you're doing well. Thanks for the advice. I've decided my discs are going to do what I tell them to. :slight_smile:


Check out Chad Waterbury's latest spill on core training for mma fighters.

I think i will be looking at doing some core stabilisation work before my 'heavy' lower bod lifting days--specifically before deads and sqauts, makes for a very convincing argument about a solid core needing specific work and not relying on the side effect of the big compound lifts.


Semi-herniated L5. As for exercises, when my back was really bad last year, it was whatever I could do that didn't aggravate it at all, which meant a lot of improvisation. What are your goals


Shit, herniations can suck. My Mum suffered herniated discs and was often bed ridden for weeks.

Goals: Crossfit. Don't want to gain any significant weight. Would like to be able to pull more than 2 x my BW, bench press significantly more than my BW and squat 1.5 x BW. Okay so I'm not that strong but I use a treadmill for more than just a ten minute warmup on leg day. :slight_smile: