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  1. #1
    Registered User KramerTM's Avatar
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    Herniated Discs -- To Do Squats and Dead Lifts or Not To

    Hi, new to the forums.

    I just started doing a slightly modified version of Starting Strength. My program is as follows:

    Workout A:
    3x5 back squats
    1x5 dead lifts
    3x5 bench press
    3x5 dips

    Workout B:
    3x5 squats
    3x5 standing barbell shoulder press
    2x5 overhand pull ups
    2x5 underhand pull ups

    I do resistance training 3 days per week (alternating Workouts A and B), with 20-25 minute HIIT cardio workouts on off days, and one rest day per week.

    About a year and a half ago, I injured myself playing basketball and found that I had a herniated disc and a protruded disc. The injury kept me out of any strenuous physical activity for about 8 months (no b-ball, no flag football, etc.). I have since been able to play basketball and flag football at full intensity with only lingering soreness for 1-2 days after, but no acute pains during or after.

    As I understand, herniated/protruded discs are most at risk of being re-injured during a high-impact exercise (i.e., one where the force on the vertebrae is excessive, such as during jumping up and down). My question is... should I be able to perform squats and deadlifts with such a condition?

    Currently, I'm at about 115 lbs on squats and 135 lbs on dead lifts.
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  2. #2
    Registered User 2uantuM's Avatar
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    You're probably going to get a lot of replies saying to do them, but I'm going to get in here and say do NOT do them.

    Squats and Deadlifts are great exercises, but you can see progress without them. Spare your back and injured disc, you don't want to be in pain for the rest of your life. I have permanent sciatica from not listening to my doctors and performing deadlifts and squats with my herniation, and I'm definitely regretting it now.
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  3. #3
    Registered User KramerTM's Avatar
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    If I did drop them completely from my workout, what are some compound excercises that can replace them where I can get comporable hormone-release and CNS stimulation, without the risk to my back? My gut tells me that lunges won't quite do the trick.
    Last edited by KramerTM; 05-14-2008 at 10:11 AM.
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  4. #4
    Registered User 2uantuM's Avatar
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    Instead of just squats I'd do Leg Presses, Lunges, Calf Raises, etc.

    I basically switched from a few big compound workout to alot of isolation. There aren't many compounds you can do unfortunately, and you should therefore look at going towards a split rather than something like Starting Strength or other fully body workouts.

    You want to avoid anything that puts direct vertical pressure on the spine such as squats, deads, cleans, and shrugs. Also avoid Pendlay/Bent Over Rows, Good Mornings, etc as they will put alot of torque on your lower back.

    I still do:
    Bench (Incline, Decline, whatever)
    Weighted Dips
    Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press (With alot of caution. Really, you shouldn't do these due to the direct vertical pressure. You generally don't use as nearly as much weight with these though as you would with say shrugs, squats, or deads so its not as bad)
    Bent Over Dumbbell Rows (using a bench, since the weight gets distributed along the bench rather than your lower back)
    Seated Cable Rows
    Pullups
    Leg Presses
    Lunges

    If you choose not to do squats and deadlifts, there aren't any other workouts that are as good as them, otherwise people would be doing them. However, the importance and amount of the CNS and hormone responses from squats and deadlifts (when compared to say something like leg presses and lunges) I feel is greatly exaggerated on this board. I think focusing on your diet is far more important.

    There isn't much more I can say, but good luck.
    Last edited by 2uantuM; 05-14-2008 at 11:32 AM.
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  5. #5
    Registered User KramerTM's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice.

    My last question/comment is about leg presses. I've been reading a lot of things that say that leg presses (I assume you mean the machine where you're kind of on your back and your legs are isolated in pushing a heavy platform away from your body) are way more dangerous for your back than squats.
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    I've read that too, but I think it is bull****. The weight is distributed through almost your entire back with leg presses as opposed to hinging on your lower back/hips with squats.

    Generally, when a movement is bad for my lower back, my leg will start to tingle due to the sciatica and the increased pressure on the disc. I haven't ever had a problem with Leg Presses and my back, but YMMV.

    Edit: Another thing came to mind. It is a good idea to stretch your hamstrings often. I suffer from genetically very tight hamstrings, which is the root of my back problems. The more flexible your hams are the less stress will be placed on the lower back.
    Last edited by 2uantuM; 05-14-2008 at 11:33 AM.
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    I'm just hitting the gym again after being out with back surgery. My PT suggested Leg Presses and Hack Squats instead of doing Squats. He did say deadlifts could be done for the hamstrings but recommended taking the weight to a weight bench height rather than going all the way to the floor.
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    play it safe
    New Log: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?p=192094881#post192094881
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  9. #9
    Physiotherapist Fresch's Avatar
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    Leg presses can cause a lot more lumbar flexion than regular squats.

    Have you done any core strengthening work??
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  10. #10
    Registered User 2uantuM's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Fresch View Post
    Leg presses can cause a lot more lumbar flexion than regular squats.

    Have you done any core strengthening work??
    Not when the squats are done improperly, which they normally are. It even more common to have bad form with herniated discs since the herniations are often caused by improper form to begin with.
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  11. #11
    Physiotherapist Fresch's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by 2uantuM View Post
    Not when the squats are done improperly, which they normally are. It even more common to have bad form with herniated discs since the herniations are often caused by improper form to begin with.
    I was assuming proper form for both
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    Registered User 2uantuM's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Fresch View Post
    I was assuming proper form for both
    Yeah, of course. I was just making a point.
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    You should not squat and deadlift until you are cleared to exercise. In fact, you are going to have to eliminate many exercises. I've worked with many clients who have had a variety of spinal problems ranging from compression fractures, to herniated discs, to Paraplegia. Spinal problems always take a while to heal, and when you are cleared to exercise, you should ease back into lifting VERY VERY slowly. What I do with clients with back problems are as follows:

    1. Upright Spin Bikes: Will promote good posture and strength your lower back. Do not touch the handle bars and sit up straight for as long as possible.

    2. Swimming: The pool is great place to stretch and get a good workout. Make sure you kick in order to help stretch your hips and glutes.

    3. Reverse Hyperextensions: By far, the best exercise one can perform! It is the only piece of equipment patented to decompress the spine. This allows fluid to enter and rehydrate your discs. Not only that, it works the posterior chain like no other and it is extremely safe.

    4. PNF Stretching - Too long to explain. Look it up.
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  14. #14
    Physiotherapist Fresch's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by D1-FS-19 View Post

    3. Reverse Hyperextensions: By far, the best exercise one can perform! It is the only piece of equipment patented to decompress the spine. This allows fluid to enter and rehydrate your discs. Not only that, it works the posterior chain like no other and it is extremely safe.
    I think this point needs some elaboration and substantiation.
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    had fusion done at L5-S1 in feb 07, was told to stay away from squats and deadlifts completely. after the pain i went through leading up to surgery, and aftersurgery so i wont even attempt them.
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    I have had two herniated discs in my lower back for many years now. Do NOT go heavy on squats or deadlifts routinely or you WILL re-injure/aggravate your back further. One days you're feeling good you can go a little heavy but the days of going real heavy are over I'm afraid to say. Stick to lunges, bodyweight squats, front squats (less pressure on back but more on knees), and leg extensions.

    It sux but it's not worth seriously injuring yourself. Remember one day you're gonna get old and all these injuries will be magnified.
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    Originally Posted by D1-FS-19 View Post
    You should not squat and deadlift until you are cleared to exercise. In fact, you are going to have to eliminate many exercises. I've worked with many clients who have had a variety of spinal problems ranging from compression fractures, to herniated discs, to Paraplegia. Spinal problems always take a while to heal, and when you are cleared to exercise, you should ease back into lifting VERY VERY slowly. What I do with clients with back problems are as follows:

    1. Upright Spin Bikes: Will promote good posture and strength your lower back. Do not touch the handle bars and sit up straight for as long as possible.

    2. Swimming: The pool is great place to stretch and get a good workout. Make sure you kick in order to help stretch your hips and glutes.

    3. Reverse Hyperextensions: By far, the best exercise one can perform! It is the only piece of equipment patented to decompress the spine. This allows fluid to enter and rehydrate your discs. Not only that, it works the posterior chain like no other and it is extremely safe.

    4. PNF Stretching - Too long to explain. Look it up.
    totally agree on swimming it's great for the back. What are reverse hyperextensions exactly?
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    Registered User KramerTM's Avatar
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    I would like to hear more about these "reverse hyperextensions" also -- they sound too good to be true.

    There is a pool in the hotel I stay at every week (I work on the road 4 days per week), so I think I'm going to start swimming there 2 times a week. I need to mix up my cardio anyway.

    The point about tight ham strings really rings true for me. During my physical therapy, that was my biggest weak point. I?m going to try to make it a habit to stretch my ham strings for 5 minutes or so every morning when I wake up (and maybe the same before I go to bed too). I bet that would do wonders for me.

    As for the squats and dead lifts, I'm going to continue them at a reasonable weight (I'm not doing anything too heavy right now -- about 135 lbs on both) until I feel like it is affecting me negatively (as of now, I've only been feeling better and better each time I go). I will consider switching to front squats instead of back squats though, as it sounds like that will put less stress on my back (though I'll need to learn proper form for that).

    And not to make it seem like I'm completely just ignoring everyone's advice to quit the squats and dead lifts and do other exercises, I will plan to go see my doctor in the next 2 weeks so I can more accurately understand my own injury, where it stands now, and what he recommends.

    Will report back after the doctor visit.

    Thanks for advice everyone!
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  19. #19
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    I think you should avoid them..Your back could be fu.. really bad and then you would really regret it.
    No back and hard to do a lot in life..it holds us up.
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    Just keep them light, use good form & go from there. Just don't let your ego get involved & try too much weight. Better to lift light than to be laid up for a few days or worse.

    everyone's herniation is different & you'll be able to do things others can't & vice versa. for example I can no longer play softball, but for some reason I can do muay thai & jiu-jitsu. my herniation is L5-S1. And....since its soft tissue it CAN heal. now will there always be a slight bulge there afterwards? likely so. but then again most people have bulging discs & don't even know it. traction is your friend. keep the pressure off the surrounding nerves as best you can.
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    Originally Posted by Team Enzyte View Post
    Just keep them light, use good form & go from there. Just don't let your ego get involved & try too much weight. Better to lift light than to be laid up for a few days or worse.

    everyone's herniation is different & you'll be able to do things others can't & vice versa. for example I can no longer play softball, but for some reason I can do muay thai & jiu-jitsu. my herniation is L5-S1. And....since its soft tissue it CAN heal. now will there always be a slight bulge there afterwards? likely so. but then again most people have bulging discs & don't even know it. traction is your friend. keep the pressure off the surrounding nerves as best you can.
    An injured disc is always an injured disc. The protrusion may recede or even break off, but the disc will forever be damaged.
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    Originally Posted by Fresch View Post
    I think this point needs some elaboration and substantiation.
    check out this video


    http://www.expertvillage.com/video/7...extensions.htm
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