T Nation


Boy do I wish that I had found T-Nation years ago! I am looking for some strength and mass building moves to work around a couple problem areas.

In July, I had surgery on my neck to remove a herniated disk (C6-C7) and fuse the surrounding vertebrae. This is the second time I had to have this surgery; the first was 5 years ago (C5-C6). Both times surgery was the only option as I was losing motor function in one or both arms.

In early October my neurosurgeon released me to return to the gym with the agreement that I would no longer lift anything overhead. This eliminates my favorite triceps movement - overhead EZ bar extensions, and all shoulder presses.

In addition to the girly-neck problem:) I also experience recurrent lumbar strains. The source of this is a right hamstring that is tighter/stronger than the left. It pulls on my lower back muscles and several times a year, I hit the floor. As a result, I have avoided bent over rows, squats, deadlifts, and anything else that will put my lower back at risk for many years.

Even before the second fusion, the doctor said that I should avoid overhead lifts as they put too much strain on my lower back. Since I have now healed and do not wish to undergo any more surgical procedures this will be my mantra “No overhead lifts”.

I do a lot of lower back & ab work, as well as hamstring stretches but have been unable to avoid the occasional strain.

One good thing to come out of the neck problem is that it is forcing me out of a rut that has lasted for years. I am doing moves now that I had never done in the past, and seeing real progress. I want more progress!

First off, I want to increase my upper back width, and build up my traps. With all of the lower back work that I do, my lower back is in way better condition than upper.

I suspect that pull/chin ups are about my only option given the lower back problems, and would appreciate some input (ZEB?) in this respect. I did a search yesterday, and from that I gathered that I should increase my grip strength. Arms are pretty strong but not huge. I have been doing Ian King’s 12 week arm program to regain strength lost due to the neck thing.

I also want to bulk up my shoulders, which I suspect will be a challenge given the overhead lifting prohibition.

As for background, I am 40 years old, and have been working out for 20+ years. I’m either an ectomorph or an “easy-hard gainer”. Never been big - 5’-9" tall, and usually around 160 lbs. I’ve been told that I look like a college level wrestler, to give you an indication of my overall build.

Your suggestions will be greatly appreciated gents!


eric do not fret the overhead press issue. I think they are overrated for putting on shoulder mass or at least you can easily work around them (especially since you have no choice). Most powerlifters that I know do NO overhead pressing and all have LOTS of shoulder mass.

Side raises with DB’s, bars, cables and plates will be fine replacements for overhead stuff. Be sure to do as much rear delt work as you do for side and ABSOLUTELY do as many sets of external rotation with DB’s bars and cables as you do for side delts.

The hamstring problem is not something you should live with. You may have to doulble or triple the amount of stretching you do. It’s funny when guys (myself included in the past) train with weights for 4-6 HOURS per week but stretch for less that 15 actual minutes or not at all per week and expect to stay flexible. Really, one should stretch for the same amount of time per week that you spend under the bar!

Stretch hip flexors, hamstrings and glutes every day for 20 minutes and I bet you feel better in a week. If you need some stretching ideas for these bodyparts let me know.

I have a client of mine who is a Police Officer. He was rear ended in his cruiser by a drunk at an estimated 65 mph! He couldn’t even play with his newborn twins until a year and a half after the accident due to his back injuries. He’s 6’-6" but only stood about 6 feet tall 'cause he could not stand erect! Now he deadlifts and box squats his bodyweight or more and can toss around his twins when he gets home from work! Before I got a hold of him, he could barely gat out of his cruiser. Now he looks forward to someone resisting arrest.

There is a lot of hope even with the injuries and operations you’ve undergone. Samrt training will get you what you’re looking for. Good luck and PM me or reply here if you need help

Thanks for the input Derek.

I am doing lateral, forward and rear delt moves, but what is an external rotation move? I could already be doing it, but calling it something else. Is it for rotator cuffs?

I will definitely increase the amount of time spent stretching. This backache is starting to piss me off to be quite honest.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply.


It’s my pleasure. Yes external rotation is what the rotator cuff does for a living. As you may know, your INTERNAL rotators (pecs & lats) are huge in comparison to the EXTERNAL rotators (Teres Minor, Infraspinatus). The internal rotators usually win the tug-o-war between them and the external rotators. Think of the volume of work we do for chest and back and imagine how unfair it is how we neglect the external rotators. I think www.defrancostraining.com has a picture of a kid doing “scarecrows” for external rotators. John Davies article on T-Nation “Man of Steel” has a pic of a kid doing the Cuban Press. Two very good exercises. Search the site for others. I believe Charles Poliquins’ article on shoulders has another few.

Try to find someone smart that can perform Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation on your hamstrings. It’s truly amazing what that can do for you… too bad you need someone that knows how to do it for you and you cannot do it on your own hamstrings.