Leg Training With A Hurt Low Back

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So you have a injured low back but still want to train legs? Pretty common issue actually as I just got this question on Twitter the other day.

Question: Best leg workout if there are low back issues?

Very good and common question that needs a little JST answering…

I responded by telling the individual that anyone with low back pain who wants to continue training their legs should never back squat again. The spinal compression and torque on the low back discs are greatly increased when the weight is shifted directly on top of the spinal column versus when the weight is in front for a front squat. While I know some people get mad at me for having smart issues with common sense, the back squat is terrible for your low back even when it’s not injured.

Get rid of the back squat…

I also told him to front squat from time to time. I know people still like to feel like they can train heavy and I’ll allow that with excellent form on a front squat from time to time.

You’ll really have to evolve your leg training to more single leg work such as split squats, walking lunges, single leg reaches and step ups. Not only does single leg work spare your spine but you get a good amount of glute recruitment as well to rehab their spine.

What about deadlifts when you have a bad back?

If you have access to a trap bar I think their fine but the traditional straight bar needs to be minimized until proper hip recruitment is thoroughly trained and restored. Even strict form should be limited since the weight being in front of your body does allow you to compromise your spine.

The reader responded with ” Leg extensions. seated leg curls? Extensions are tough on the knees but those 2 are my focus now. (L5-S1 disc issue) right?”

Leg extensions and seated leg curls can actually be worse for your low back.  Just because they are seated doesn’t mean that they are safe. When extending on the machine or curling your leg back you shift into a slight hyperextension of your lumbar spine. This is also hazardous to the spine.

I can’t drill the importance of single leg split squats enough. In addition, the TRX can be very helpful for performing full range of motion leg training and conditioning drills involving the sled can also provide an alternative to explosive training.



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