T Nation

Working Around a Back Injury

Tired, lacking focus, slightly overtrained + heavy squat + being a dumbass = lower back injury.

The doctor confirmed it’s not a muscle spasm, but it’s an actual issue with the spine. We will know more after the inflammation subsides and I’ll do an MRI. Apparently it’s not a case that requires surgery, but we shall see.
It hurt the first couple of weeks or so, but now there’s no pain at all.

It’s been a while since last time I went to the gym and I’m starting to get antsy. The doctor said it’s OK to exercise, but it’s forbidden to lift weights when the spine is not horizontal (makes sense); also any shearing force applied to the spine (such as seated cable rows) is forbidden. She specifically told me it’s OK to bench press - any exercise involving weights is fine if I’m lying down.

Well, fine, I’m not gonna let this thing stop me from lifting weights. I’m gonna take the “tonight we dine in hell” approach and continue to exercise, while working around the injury, as it were. I’m gonna make big changes to my program, in order to protect the spine.

I will do an upper body / lower body split, training 4 times a week, Wednesday and week-ends off.

I need some feed-back and advice regarding the actual exercises. Please let me know what you think. The goal is to keep adding lean mass and to keep adding plates to the bench press and such.

I’m ectomorph, fast metabolism, fast-twitch fibers, I get bored very quickly. I need a lot of variety.

Upper body:

I’ve been specifically told by the doctor to stretch my spine every day - it’s easy, I just need to grab the chin-up bar and relax and hang for a while.

So, I am already doing that, but I take it that chin-ups and pull-ups are perfectly fine as well.
Bench press - fine.
Pec flys I take it are just fine, and so are lying triceps and dumbbell extensions and the dips - I can do these till the cows come home.

I am not sure about cable pressdowns, I don’t know if all the force on the spine is really just straight upward (which would be good, just like the chin-ups). If anybody can clarify this, I would appreciate.

I need more exercises for the lats. There’s only so many ways to do a pull-up, and one-arm cable pulldowns (which was one of my favorite exercises) are probably not good because there’s lateral force on the spine. I’ll see if I can do bent-arm pullovers with the barbell without arching my back too much.

The delts need to suck it up and take a break, I can’t do much for them. I guess the bench press will exercise at least the front delts, so it’s not that bad. Maybe I’ll try some lateral raises, the weight isn’t that much.

I need to clarify with the doctor what exactly is the maximum weight that I’m allowed to lift. I assume I can lift at least a couple dozen pounds or so, especially since the back doesn’t hurt anymore.

Lower body:

Barbell squats are forbidden. Deadlifts are forbidden. Standing machine calf raises are forbidden. Lunges are forbidden. This is awful.

I can do one-leg squats. I like that exercise anyway.
One-leg calf raises are fine, I’ll see if I can hold some 20lb in one arm for this exercise, it should be fine, after all it’s not like I cannot lift anything.

Seated calf raises are clearly OK. Maybe I can add some variety by doing the one-leg version as well.
Sissy squats are probably fine, provided I’m not arching the back too much.

I guess I will use the machines a whole lot more. Leg extensions and leg curls till my legs fall off. Hey, it could be worse.
Leg presses are probably not OK, but I’ll see if I can do one-leg presses - that should be fine, what do you think?

I’m not gonna let this issue stop me. I fully expect to make progress, provided that I will put together a good set of exercises.

Any comments and observations are welcome. Thanks…

i personally had 4 herniated discs and 2 bulged after a car accident 3 years ago and it took me 2 full years to be able to lift to the best of my ability.now after therapy and slow pain in the ass b.s. work outs.

i lift the heaviest i have ever done. so it’s a person to person problem but i wish the best of luck with it i can relate to the pain.

Sorry to hear about your injury. I had a back injury a couple of years ago and it’s recurred a few times since then…when I squat or deadlift (w/a barbell). I try to be conscious of my back injury all of the time, in and out of the gym.

I’ve given up barbell squats and deads. Actually, I gave up working on my legs at all. Everything seemed to bother my back.

But just recently, with the help of several articles here on T-Nation, I’ve incorporated lower body training again. One-leg deads, lunges, split squats, seated calf raises. I’ve even been sprinting for the last month with minimal pain.

Inflexible, tight hips is was what caused my back issues to start. I’ve incorporated stretching and mobility work for my hips and my back has felt good.

Injuries suck. Rest and being smart in and out of the gym by listening to your body is key to helping conquer your current enemy.

Close grip presses are so money for triceps, I would do them over pushdowns any day. Dips do the trick too and should be alright for you to do if chins are OK.

You can try doing chest-supported rows for your back, it will take some experimenting, and probably a little help from a friend to get set up, but it should work. I really dont know what to tell you to do for your legs except for extensions/curls. You can do lateral raises while lying on an incline bench. This will keep pressure off your spine also.

You can do flat dumbell presses with a neutral grip and your elbows tucked, this will place the majority of the emphasis on your anterior deltoids rather than your chest.

Sorry to hear about your injury, hope it gets sorted out as quickly as possible. I admire your efforts to stay in the gym. Just dont do anything stupid and fuck yourself up even worse. Be careful and dont re-injure yourself.

[quote]florin wrote:
Tired, lacking focus, slightly overtrained + heavy squat + being a dumbass = lower back injury.

[/quote]

Just to let you know your not alone. I did the same thing almost 12 days ago. Strained a disc. I’m taking Alieve 2 in the morning 2 at night, icing twice a day, along with some EMS treatment from the chiropractor. Tuesday I’m going to try front squats then some leg press.