Posted December 10, 2012

Back Friendly Leg Training


Today I wanted to share a special guest post from a great friend and a kick-ass trainer from Newfoundland, Canada, Rob King. Enjoy!!

I actually found Dean’s blog when doing homework because of my frustration with most Chiropractors and other back professionals.  Nothing really seemed to help me in the long run.  I couldn’t train and my lack of being able to train was depressing both physically and mentally.  I could train but without being able to squat or train my legs hard training just wasn’t training.

After almost 20 years in the weight room I have had a lot of injuries, I consider every injury as a chance to learn from my mistakes, get better, and pass on what I have learned to others.

Out of all the injuries I have ever had hurting my back was by the worst of them.  Even to this day after hurting myself 10 ears ago with a max deadlift my back is still not 100%.  It may never be perfect so if you have never hurt your back DON’T DO IT.  Avoid it at all costs.

If you have hurt your back (I feel your pain trust me), I have put together 5 of my favorite “Back Friendly” leg exercises.

Please note that I consider every single back injury client that I work with to be unique.  There is no way I can tell you if these exercises will be usable for you in a no to low pain leg training.  I suggest you try the exercises with bodyweight first before adding any loading and increase gradually.

As Bruce Lee said:

I apply this to my training and my life.

Give these exercises a go, if they help you I am happy to share them with you, if they don’t fit or cause you pain ditch em.

As well before you do any leg training (or any training for that matter) be sure to start your workout with some foam rolling, mobility and activation drills and be sure to be well hydrated.

#1 Crusher Kettlebell Squats To A Box

I love the box squat for learning and re-learning how to squat.  It’s much easier to sit back comfortably than to squat freely.  Box squats were a key exercises in learning how to squat properly

Along with the box squat I love the crusher grip because it forces a hard brace and activation throughout the whole upper body.  Once your core and lats are engaged it takes a lot of pressure of the lower back.

With holding the weight in front as well there is a lot less load or compression on the spine as opposed to say a bar box squat.

Another key point with a box squat is to start the box at the absolute highest point you can and work your way down.  You may have to start with a conventional bench and work your way lower with smaller boxes, or taking a small box and adding risers to this box.

At my gym Heavyweights Training Center I ordered Roque Squat Boxes exactly for this reason for my own back issues and also for when I train my clients with back injuries.

Be sure to really squeeze at “The Lock” aka the top portion of the squat.

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#2 Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is a fantastic exercise for anyone with a lower back issue.  Anytime you go from a double leg exercise to a uni lateral exercise it usually makes it more back friendly.

The reverse lung also has a lot less sheering compared to a forward lunge.

I love doing these with a kettlbell with a crusher grip or with a sand bag which adds even more chaos to the lift.

Be sure to easy into this exercise and go very slow, Holding the load in front of your body wll take a lot of pressure of the spine and increase the core stiffness (bracing).  Keep in mind this exercise is great but using too much weight can impact your lower back.  Go slow, take your time and pay attention to how you feel.

Another great version is the Valslide Reverse Lunge

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#3 Box Step Ups

Another great unilateral exercise that causes very little back pain for me is the box step up.  Once again do this with the weight placed in front of you as opposed to on your back.

Be sure to not raise the box too high which will actually make the box step up less effective.

Another key point in Box Step Up is to pay attention to the stepping down.  There is more impact from the step down than the step up.  So take your time, step and land softly and don’t have the box too high.

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#4 Backwards Sled Drags

I know most commercial gyms don’t have a sled but if you have access to one I highly suggest you try the backwards sled drag.

When doing this exercise be sure to go through a full range of motion with your foot starting with your toes and driving all the way back into your feel.  As well be sure to squeeze every rep for max impact on the quadriceps.

This exercise burns like crazy and you wont really feel it until you stop so pay attention to easing your way into it.

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#5 Dip Belt Squats

Another great exercise that has helped my back recovery and getting me to use my hips more and my lower back less is Dip Belt Squats.

Again the same with all squatting exercises pay attention to squat depth and finding the right depth where you can squat and not make your lower back worse.

Dip belt squats will really get you squatting through your hips and will hit your legs in ways they have never been hit before.

Be sure to go slow and if you add on any weight be sure to have a spotter or a anchor for your hands to help pull yourself back up.  Going too heavy and too low in the dip belt squat is putting you in a bad position. Trust me I have gotten stuck at the bottom of this exercise more than once 🙂

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Give these exercises a try, pay attention to how they make you feel both during and after your training.  To keep your back healthy step one is not letting it get worse.

I hope these exercises help you and if you have any questions I am always here to help you.

Rob King


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