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Worst Squat Day Ever


Ok, so here's the deal. Two and a half months ago I fractured my L4-L5 vertebra in my football game. I went to the gym today for a squat day. Worst feeling I've had while lifting in a long time. Last May, I maxed out at 365 (Had a 1 month layoff because of injuries and never squat over 300 again that summer). Today, I barely was able to squat 225. I know this is a hard injury to come back from. My doctor cleared me to do everything I did before I got hurt on December 9th after 4 weeks of physical therapy. So now, I'm stuck. I'm weak as horse shit.

Ok, I'll cut to the chase. I need to know how to get back into squatting. I don't even want to know how bad my deadlift is right now. I was thinking about just starting with 5x5 with 135 lbs and add 10 lbs a week until progress stalls (for squat and deadlift). I would still do all my accessory work the same. Suggestions? Tips? Advice?



That actually sounds like a decent plan. Start way lighter than you think you need to. Work back slowly over a long-period of time. Make sure your technique is perfect for every rep of every set. Remember you not only have to re-build your strength, but also your work capacity. You also have to allow time for ligaments, bone, and other connective tissue to adapt, which usually takes longer than muscle adaptation. That's why you should work back very slowly. You are very young and have many years of lifting ahead, so be patient and work back correctly so you don't end up with a permanent injury. Also make sure to do plenty of assistance work for the entire mid-section (all aspects of the abs and lower back) so you are able to keep your back stable and in good position once the loads get heavier.


x2. I got a similar injury when a bathtub fell on me from a 2nd story that was weakened by water. When I got finally got back to training, all of my lifts suffered greatly. I started on Madcow's 5x5 and am back at like a 340 squat. I think its a great plan. Like what SRS said, make sure you do plenty of assistance for abs. Its a long process back to where you probably were but you can do it. Best of luck to you man


Its not the worst squat day ever unless you reinjured your back and can't ever train again...so stop whining!!!

That being said, I know it sucks to come back from an injury and be weak as fuck...

My advice is to do 5-3-1, estimate your max using a 3RM and dividing by .8 (representing 80% of your 1RM) if you don't have a good idea of your 1RM, and start slow. I'd just go for the minimum reps on squat and deadlift until you feel like pushing it a bit. I was able to push squats about the 3rd session back in the gym, and got back to pushing DLs after 1 cycle.

Good luck man...you're young and have plenty of time to improve. Train smart and stay healthy and be strong...


You can still walk. And squat. I'd say that's pretty good. Do your hip and abdominal work, get them strong enough to take over for your back!


You're young. You could pretty much walk into a weightroom and fart on a dumbell and it will make you stronger. You got 225 on your first heavy squat day, thats more than I got my first workout returning from a fractured L3.

Just make a plan, stick with it, and be patient. Oh yea, and dont break your back again.


You see, this is where experience shows, I wouldn't have thought about this. Great advice!

Oh, and the part out getting a plan and sticking with it aain't bad either.


I would do like 4 sets of 10 with light weight to practice good form, then do the 5x5


Yep, to me 5x5 still means heavy which is what you want to avoid at the moment with the injury. Personally I probably would have started back with 95lbs for sets of 20.


I injured my back towards the end of the summer and I had to take about six weeks off from any squatting. I don't think 5/3/1 is the best choice for a situation like this because at this point, your weights should be moving back up at a rate of 10 to 20 lbs a week. Doing 5/3/1 at this point would probably just slow down your progression.

I came back with a higher level of strength than you did, but I basically followed this template and you should be able to do the same:

Squat once a week
1 non-barbell lower body accessory lift
Ab work
Low back work

Week 1 - 3 X 10
Week 2 - 3 X 8
Week 3/4/5/6/7 - 3 X 6
Week 8/9/10/11/12/13/14/15/16/17 - 4 X 4

Over the first three weeks I added 20-30 lbs a session, but I eventually cut it down to 10 lbs each week. The amount of weight I added was based on how easy I felt I'd gotten the lift. I didn't need a real deload until I'd squatted for about 14 weeks, but feel free to work it in where you feel it's necessary. You can also stick with the 3 X 6 as long as you feel you can, but I would put more importance on adding 10 lbs a week rather than sticking to that rep range. Once you feel you no longer can hit the required reps at that weight, drop the reps down, bump up the sets and keep the same weight.

This is basically progressive overload and I feel like it's very useful in a situation where you're detrained. Hope this was useful.


I herniated a disk and lost about 100 pounds on my working sets when I came back...so I will just reinforce what everyone is saying. Keep it light initially and focus on technique, it will come back.


I lost a shitload on my 1RM lifts when I injured my back in 2007. But slowly worked it back up, and got some all time high 1RM lifts after this.

So I agree with everyone else here, take it step by step, and try not to reinjury yourself. Provided you are patient and stay away from injuries, you will surpass previous best levels, no doubt.

If you're serious about squatting, try this program: http://programs.squatfanatic.com/smolovSalpha.xls


Smolov is the devil!
Yet it works, but you must feel that you can heal 100% from squats and not be worried with injury, because it can cause injuries if you're not careful. Speaking from personal experience.