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Building Leg Mass Without Squats and/or Overhead Weights

dieselbuilder

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Hey fellas, I was recently diagnosed with mild congenital lumbar spinal stenosis. It never showed up in my entire life, as I am under 30, but this is after countless jui jitsu classes, squatting nearly 500 lbs, running 10 miles with a weighted vest for years. I hurt it doing a crossfit workout with heavy kettlebell swings...it seems my form must have broken and I didnt realize this. It was several months ago. I also understand it is congenital and some people can have it for their whole life and never know it. I guess I was just lucky all those years and now I figure it is a good thing I am aware of it.

So, there is inflammation around a nerve in a vertebrae in the lower area of my spine. I feel a slight ting in my left buttock that can go down to teh back of my leg, but never below the knee. Its not too bad, but it seems like I wont be doing much squatting, maybe ever. Putting weight overhead isnt the best idea anymore and I want to take care of this condition. It sucks since squats are my favorite exercise, but here I am.

Maybe one day I can return to squats, the doc said eventually the inflammation will subside and I can go back to doing everything I did before, with some limits like doing throws in jui jitsu class too often, etc.

So I was wondering what are some good exercises to build solid leg mass that will keep my spine safe and/or neutralized? I know the leg press, extension and curl will be helpful, but if they are not available what should be done...

here are some ideas that I have...

lunges, holding the weights at my side and squatting, bulgarian squats..... just keep in mind that having weights pressing down on my spine is what I want to avoid entirely, so anything without that is fair game

thanks for the help guys and next time you squat, do a couple for me :)
 

viveutvivas

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Avoid lunges if you have spine problems unless you are sure you can do them with absolutely perfect form. The slightest bit of wobbling or uneven hips while lunging can really mess up your spine big time. It just takes one wobble.

If you do do lunges, a weight belt is definitely the way to go.
 

dieselbuilder

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Avoid lunges if you have spine problems unless you are sure you can do them with absolutely perfect form. The slightest bit of wobbling or uneven hips while lunging can really mess up your spine big time. It just takes one wobble.

If you do do lunges, a weight belt is definitely the way to go.
Interesting and it is true. I just looked that up. You are a smart man, I didnt realize that.

I think this little tidbit really sums up what you are saying

"Part of the reason we lunge is to train movement patterns for our daily activities and when we climb stairs, the knee and torso naturally translate forward in parallel with each other (the torso does not remain vertical) for balance and to propel our body forward and upward. In some instances we’ve seen trainers recommend keeping the back as vertical as possible which is problematic. Our concern is that this vertical technique fails to train the neural pathways and muscles correctly, in the manner it should when you actually climb stairs or step up. Additionally, if you lack adequate flexibility in your hips (considered a mobile joint) when lunging with your torso vertical, then the lumbar spine has to contribute to achieving the mobility you need and in doing so, it will compromise its ability to stabilize the lumbar spine. This could, in fact, increase the loading on your low back."
-http://www.acefitness.org/article/2589/
 

greenpatch

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come on

weight belt hv been proven useless,n ilmo everytime i see someone in th gym with em on alway to tight n alway in th mirrow more thn ther work out.go light build up slowly if u cant do it in gd form back off thn redo without weight nice n slow build up gd form,r use light weight n go down n hold ur muscle tight until u can do no more b smart b safe just a ideal look at ur obtion alway
 

dieselbuilder

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weight belt hv been proven useless,n ilmo everytime i see someone in th gym with em on alway to tight n alway in th mirrow more thn ther work out.go light build up slowly if u cant do it in gd form back off thn redo without weight nice n slow build up gd form,r use light weight n go down n hold ur muscle tight until u can do no more b smart b safe just a ideal look at ur obtion alway
what do you mean by 'come on?' Are you a doctor?

Its not the 'weight belt' you are thinking of. Click the link that BigSwole provided and you will see that it is designed SPECIFICALLY for someone like me who has a spinal problem and cannot put headweights overhead, nonetheless on the spine.

I got this advice from a well-known and well-respected sports medicine doctor who works for many pro teams that you watch on your TV and he told me to lay off heavy squats for a long time, maybe forever as to not re-injure my spine.

So next time you give out advice regarding injuries, look up the condition and dont come out with some BS like that.
 

myosin

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Good point, and...

Avoid lunges if you have spine problems unless you are sure you can do them with absolutely perfect form. The slightest bit of wobbling or uneven hips while lunging can really mess up your spine big time. It just takes one wobble.

If you do do lunges, a weight belt is definitely the way to go.
Nice point... lunges are great, BUT, yes, watch someone when they lunge... the left and right hip and lower spine can "tilt" up and down (from a rear view) like a see-saw, even if everything is held "tight".

Leg press: ONLY if you can keep your lower back arched and are disciplined enough to stop when it does so... I know it feels really "good" to have that weight/sled push your legs all the way down and into your face, but the rounding of the lower spine can cause a lot disc damage.

What about front squats on a smith machine? The load is in front and you can adjust your feet accordingly to take any strain off your spine. I recently slipped a lower disc to the point that the pain literally dropped me to the floor and I could not move any part of me... the most helpless (physically) I have ever felt.

Now, with a very tight powerlifting belt, I can get a very good workout with the front squat. My legs weren't exactly tree trunks before but I can say that in the past few weeks they haven't suffered any loss of size.
 

dieselbuilder

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Nice point... lunges are great, BUT, yes, watch someone when they lunge... the left and right hip and lower spine can "tilt" up and down (from a rear view) like a see-saw, even if everything is held "tight".

Leg press: ONLY if you can keep your lower back arched and are disciplined enough to stop when it does so... I know it feels really "good" to have that weight/sled push your legs all the way down and into your face, but the rounding of the lower spine can cause a lot disc damage.

What about front squats on a smith machine? The load is in front and you can adjust your feet accordingly to take any strain off your spine. I recently slipped a lower disc to the point that the pain literally dropped me to the floor and I could not move any part of me... the most helpless (physically) I have ever felt.

Now, with a very tight powerlifting belt, I can get a very good workout with the front squat. My legs weren't exactly tree trunks before but I can say that in the past few weeks they haven't suffered any loss of size.
Interesting. I was hoping someone would chime in who has dealt with some spinal injuries (not saying anyone else who responded didnt have them, they just didnt say). I will try the smith machine idea.

Also, the front squat.....it will not affect my spine?

Thanks,
DB
 

myosin

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Less load...

Interesting. I was hoping someone would chime in who has dealt with some spinal injuries (not saying anyone else who responded didnt have them, they just didnt say). I will try the smith machine idea.

Also, the front squat.....it will not affect my spine?

Thanks,
DB
Well, it would be wrong to say the front squat "won't affect your spine"... but what I can say is that it will largely decrease the load on your spine.
 

dieselbuilder

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Well, it would be wrong to say the front squat "won't affect your spine"... but what I can say is that it will largely decrease the load on your spine.
Agreed. But as the inflammation wears down around my nerve I can return to light squats. Perhaps I will begin my return to squats by using the smith machine with light weight, hip belt squats and light front squats. not too shabby of a plan i must say. Thanks for all the advice and help.
 

majsi98

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Haven't read the whole thread would dumbbell squats hurt you?
 

Diesel City

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There are many ways to skin a cat. Why don't you try a variety of things and see what works. Different things work for different people. I'm not certain that back squat is the end all be all anyways? But I'm not certain of much these days...
 

taslajrisi

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Interesting. I was hoping someone would chime in who has dealt with some spinal injuries (not saying anyone else who responded didnt have them, they just didnt say). I will try the smith machine idea.

Also, the front squat.....it will not affect my spine?

Thanks,
DB
I have DDD (degenerative disc) in lowest disc (its flat) for years. I do leg presses but that aggrevates sometimes because my lower back curls up sometimes. Extensions are easy but not really great for mass. I now do hack squats on a machine and keep my back straight and pressed against the back pad and it works pretty good.

I like that belt squat thing.....never tried but it looks great!
 

dieselbuilder

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Haven't read the whole thread would dumbbell squats hurt you?
Probably not, but hoisting weight overhead currently bothers the inflammation.

There are many ways to skin a cat. Why don't you try a variety of things and see what works. Different things work for different people. I'm not certain that back squat is the end all be all anyways? But I'm not certain of much these days...
Yea I agree and thats the path I am on. I am just bummed, the squat was my favorite exercise. To me, there is nothing better than blasting hatebreed, jumping in the power rack and banging out some heavy ass squats.

I have DDD (degenerative disc) in lowest disc (its flat) for years. I do leg presses but that aggrevates sometimes because my lower back curls up sometimes. Extensions are easy but not really great for mass. I now do hack squats on a machine and keep my back straight and pressed against the back pad and it works pretty good.

I like that belt squat thing.....never tried but it looks great!
Damn, yea I am familiar with what you have as it is similar to what I go have, although yours is certainly more of an issue. I will def try that hack squat.

and yes on the belt squat. I was glad it was brought up early on in the thread. I have alwyas been a fan of ironmind's products and I am willing to bet I will be a fan of this belt when it comes in the next several days. I will PM you and let you know if it bothers my back. the write up on it says no pressure on the back or spine, so it could be a savior for the both of us :headbang:
 

isoc

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I am right there with you guys, I am not sure of what I have wrong, I dont pay enough attention at the chiropractor I guess, but I have some type of degeneration in discs of my lower back and doing almost anything that places a load on it causes me to be in some pain, and eventually it causes spasms, pinched nerve, and I am spending a couple days unable to walk. After going through this a couple of times in the past year or two, I only use machines. My gym has a machine leg press that is ok, at least a little variety over just leg extensions. It is funny, now instead of waiting on the younger guys to finish with free weights, I am waiting on the 70 year old women to finish their set on the machine I want to use. Funny, but sad and humbling at the same time
 

leegee38

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The best I have come up with is Bulgarian split squats using a DB in one hand and using the other on a bench or something to steady myself and prevent tilting. I do the reps slowly enough to make sure my form is correct and keep the reps rather high. Fortunately my legs seem to respond well to high reps anyway. It is far from an optimum way to train quads, but you gotta work with what you have. Good luck!
 

dieselbuilder

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I am right there with you guys, I am not sure of what I have wrong, I dont pay enough attention at the chiropractor I guess, but I have some type of degeneration in discs of my lower back and doing almost anything that places a load on it causes me to be in some pain, and eventually it causes spasms, pinched nerve, and I am spending a couple days unable to walk. After going through this a couple of times in the past year or two, I only use machines. My gym has a machine leg press that is ok, at least a little variety over just leg extensions. It is funny, now instead of waiting on the younger guys to finish with free weights, I am waiting on the 70 year old women to finish their set on the machine I want to use. Funny, but sad and humbling at the same time
You might be a candidate for surgery, i would check back with the doctors. the surgery is supposed to be tough but i cant imagine having a back problem that bad. hopefully I never get there
 

dieselbuilder

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The best I have come up with is Bulgarian split squats using a DB in one hand and using the other on a bench or something to steady myself and prevent tilting. I do the reps slowly enough to make sure my form is correct and keep the reps rather high. Fortunately my legs seem to respond well to high reps anyway. It is far from an optimum way to train quads, but you gotta work with what you have. Good luck!
I like that idea a lot. I will have to try that for sure. The arm for stability is perfect.
 

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