Looking for advice on my routine (coming back from sciatica injury)

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST)' started by sayw0rd, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. sayw0rd

    sayw0rd Member

    Hello, after many months of recuperating from sciatica, I am looking to do an HST routine again but with modifications to certain exercises. I can walk with minimal pain but bending over with a stiff leg is out of the question. I cannot do it nor does my PT advise me to "tough it out" and stretch.

    My Physical Therapist also advised to me to avoid
    • barbell squats
    • dead lifts
    • standing military presses
    • barbell rows.
    I tried to do some Romanian dead lifts recently with very low weights and it caused more pain afterwards. The form was correct as I asked people to critique my form. I understand I am excluding the main, big workouts of any exercise routine and trust me, I am very depressed about that too.

    I am copying the HST eBook routine but with these modifications to the routine stated below. The idea is that I will still try to apply HST principles to the modified program but on certain exercises, when it comes time to do the 5s and negatives block, I will just keep them at 2 sets of 10 (2x10) for general health and strength.

    My goal is to gain some size and progress on what I can and slowly and carefully strengthen my lower back and abs. I completely understand I cannot replace dead lifts and barbell squats so I will have to probably sacrifice some strength and size gains.

    I would GREATLY appreciate any advice or critique. Then I will go back to my physical therapist and we will review the program together. I am a big fan of HST. My hopes are to continue working out with its principles.

    Routine A
    Cable Squat 2 sets + warmup
    Weighted Hypers 1 set
    Standing Calf Raises 2 sets + warmup
    Flat Bench 2 sets + warmup
    Seated Rows 2 set + warmup
    Incline Bench 2 sets + warmup
    BB Curl 1 set
    Close grip Bench 2 sets

    Routine B
    Weighted Hypers 2 sets + warmup
    Glute Kickback Machine 2 sets + warmup
    Leg Curl 1 set
    Seated Calf Raise 2 sets + warmup
    Weighted Dips 2 sets + warmup
    Weighted Chins 2 set + warmup
    Incline Bench 2 sets + warmup
    DB Curls 1 set
    Tricep Extensions 2 sets

    Thank you so much for reading and any advice.
    Hope to hear from you guys soon.
  2. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    If you're cable of doing leg press, I think that might be better than cable-squat for you.

    I would probably prioritise weighted chins and dips, as they're largely spine-neutral - although not an expert on sciatica in any way, shape or form.

    For such limitations as you have, the program looks solid to me.
  3. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    How was your sciatica caused? Did you herniate a disc?
    If you have access to a Chest-supported row, I'd use that rather than seated rows. Seated rows are going to allow more chance for lumbar spinal flexion and could aggravate nerve impingement.
    Can you do leg extensions? If so, might as well try those. Better than nada.
    All the best to you on your healing road.
  4. sayw0rd

    sayw0rd Member

    Thank you very much Jester and Lol.

    I was moving a refrigerator out of the house and while moving it down the stairs, I felt something very weird going on my lower back. I found out that I have sciatica from L4 nerve root.

    I do not think Leg presses or leg extensions would be safe for me but I will consult my PT.

    In regards to seated rows, the gym I use has a seated chest-supported row machine.
    Would those be optimal or would incline bench dumbbell rows be better?

    My only concern is which routine set should I put leg extension and how many sets should I perform if I got the O.K. from my PT.

    Thanks again for your advice and help. Much appreciated.
  5. aulb89

    aulb89 New Member

    I am also recovering from sciatica. I strained the muscle in my right lower back doing squats while extending the 5s on May 13th. My back has healed, but the sciatic nerve on the right side is still irritated. Walking is generally pain free, but bending over and getting in and out of sitting positions (especially in and out of the car) can still be quite painful at times.

    I took a month off from the gym and just started the 15s this week. So far, so good. The worst part is getting on and off the incline bench. :)
    For quads, I am sticking with extensions for now and they are pain free. I obviously will not be performing any leg pressing movements or deadlifts until I am totally healed. As LOL said, I would give extensions a try. Replace cable squats with those in routine A and see how it feels. The rest of your routine looks good.

    After this injury and the hernia I got 4 years ago, I am officially retiring from the 5s and ending my cycle with 8's. Enough is enough. Plus, I don't enjoy getting "that look" from the wife as I hobble around. :)
  6. leegee38

    leegee38 Member

    The best quad exercise I've found to work around back issues are Bulgarian split squats with a dumbell.

    Here is a video example:

    Good luck!
  7. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    I have had two back surgeries; the last being a fusion with rods due, primarily, to injuries from being bucked off horses. I do not know what your specific problem is but I can tell you unequivocally to NOT do hyper extensions. They are the singular worst exercise for spinal problems in the lower back. If your therapist tells you differently, fire him before he permanently damages your spine.

    I find that hanging upside down from a mechanism such as a Teeter Hang-Ups helps decompress my spine. However, not knowing your specifics I am hesitant to recommend anything other than what not to do.

    BTW, despite all the negative press and rumors about spinal surgery, I was walking up and down stairs in 3 days, riding a horse in 6 weeks and back weight training in 3 months. It all depends on the type of injury and the doctors involved.

    Good luck and don't do anything stupid.
  8. sayw0rd

    sayw0rd Member

    Thank you Aulb89, Leegee38, and O&G for your suggestions and comments. The Bulgarian split squats looks very promising. I will show the video to my PT for approval. I still have not showed him the exercise program yet, I just wanted to get a feel for what might be acceptable and what's not.

    As for hyper extensions, I will follow your advice and leave them out.
    How do you feel about Good Mornings? I did some recently with a barbell and 5lbs on each side and felt very good doing them. But I believe hyper extensions and Good Mornings have the same movements so I am assuming they are dangerous as well?

    Again, sincere thanks to you all.
  9. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    With GM's you do not over or hyper extend the spine so in that regard they are safer. However, I would keep the weights low and the reps high for several months. Stop immediately with any sign of discomfort in the spine or nerves. The real key to a stable back is improving flexibility, especially in the hamstrings which tend to shorten in men quite a bit as we age.
  10. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    Good call, O&G. I will call your hamstrings and raise you adductors. :)
    Anytime you need to go into a squat, you need to be able to keep your lumbar spine in extension, so it stays correctly aligned with your sacrum. Spinal flexion in the region of L5 is going to potentially lead to problems if your spine is under a heavy load at the time. Short adductors and hams will pull on your pelvis and rotate it posteriorly when you're descending to the bottom of a squat. This leads to the well-known "butt-wink."
    It's definitely worth doing some adductor and hamstring mobility work once you feel up to it.
    Good Mornings are a great exercise but you'll still have to be careful not to allow your pelvis to rotate posteriorly. Wearing a lifting belt (not tight) can give you some extra feedback to help you sense when your lumbar spine is losing extension. Start light and build up slowly.
  11. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    100% belt up for Good Mornings.
  12. sayw0rd

    sayw0rd Member

    Hello everyone! Thank you for suggesting I wear a lifting belt, it really helped keep my form!!
    I have been consistent with the workout but as time went on, I have been switching or experimenting with some exercises to give me stronger legs and a stronger lower back.
    If you would for a moment, critique my new exercise; I would be grateful and indebted to you all. It is not very different from the A/B routine from the original post.

    For your convenience, I will bold the exercises I have changed and will give an explanation at the end.

    Routine A
    Zercher Squats 2 sets + warmup
    Zercher Good Mornings 1 set
    Seated Calf Raises 2 sets + warmup
    Flat Bench 2 sets + warmup
    Incline Bench DB Rows 2 set + warmup
    Incline Bench 2 sets + warmup
    Hammer Curls 2 sets
    Close grip Bench 2 sets

    Routine B
    Zercher Good Mornings 2 sets + warmup
    Glute Kickback Machine 2 sets + warmup
    Lying Leg Curl Machine 2 sets
    Seated Calf Raise 2 sets + warmup
    Weighted Dips 2 sets + warmup
    Weighted Chins 2 set + warmup
    Incline Bench 2 sets + warmup
    Hammer Curls 2 sets
    Tricep Extensions 2 sets

    • I've switched to Zercher Squats and Zercher Good Mornings because my PT advised me not to put heavy weights onto the back to prevent further aggravating my sciatica. The Zercher Squats and Zercher GM's feels really good on my lower back. I feel as if my lower back is having a comfortable stretch (if that makes any sense). At the end of the workout (both Zercher Squats and GMs), my lower back feels good and so do my abs.
    • I decided to do incline db bench rows. It is when I lie down on my chest on an incline bench and pull the dumbbells up with palms facing each other and squeeze my shoulder blades at the top of the movement. Reason why I switched to this was because I felt like I was cheating and using my torso more when doing one hand dumbbell rows.
    • I also decided to do hammer curls just for the sake of consistency. I doubt it will affect my workout and if anything, I'll switch up the bicep exercises to another one next cycle.

    Two Questions:

    1. Could I take out the Glute KickBack exercise from Routine B? I feel like Routine B is bloated with a 9th exercise.
    2. Where can I read up more on switching sets + reps in regards to HST? For example, I have seen some people do 1set of 15 reps for one week, 3x10 for 3 weeks, 2x5 for 3 weeks. I just want to fully understand the reasoning and versatility of the HST principles. I'm considering doing the following:
    • 1x15 for one week
    • 2x10 for 3 weeks
    • 2x5 for 2 weeks
    • continue 2x5 for two weeks with the constant weights.

    I know this is a lot to read but any input would be much appreciated. Thank you for your guidance and help.
    As usual, I hope to hear from you guys soon.
    Thanks and have a happy and healthy summer!
  13. gbglifter

    gbglifter Member

    I would probably make a few changes. Im aware youve a problem with your back(I believe) but here's what Id do:

    Do weighted chins both workouts. Do supinated one workout then standard pullups next. Im stronger on chins(supinated grip) so these can have their own progression. Skip the hammer curls completely as weighted chins will do more for your biceps IMO. Do squats each session if they're the only compound you can do for legs then alternate curls one session and extensions the next, if possible. Do the calves ar the end of the session so you're not using valuable energy there, apply that energy to chins. Drop the tricep extensions as your tris should get hit properly while doing dips.
  14. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    With your back issues, I would do two weeks of 15's and skip the last two weeks of 5's for now. And leave the glute kick back machine to the ladies unless you are getting some stretching benefit from it.
  15. sayw0rd

    sayw0rd Member

    Thanks for your swift replies, gbglifter and O&G. I'll be lurking around quietly just in case if anyone wants to chime in on my routines as well and perhaps Question #2.

    Again, many thanks!

    EDIT: Oops, I meant that I just want to read more about question 2; not necessarily change my sets and reps scheme. I will definitely do two weeks of 2x15 for healthy joints and rehabilitation.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
  16. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    There is an infinite number of combinations. You just need the one that works for you today. Right now my best routine consists of 12's on Monday, 8's on Tuesdays, 12's on Thursday and 8's on Fridays using Myo sets. Progressing weight each week instead of each workout. Each workout is full body, hence, 4 times per week. 5's were compromising form which leads to injuries so I went back to basics. Next cycle may be different.
  17. sayw0rd

    sayw0rd Member

    I see. I suppose that makes the most sense. I'll stick to this for a year and see how I feel. Thanks and cheers!
  18. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    I don't see why 5s should necessarily compromise form any more than 8s or 10s? Surely it's about how close to a RM you actually are? The closer you get, the more likely your form will drop off.
    It's possible to do multiple doubles or triples with good form with a 5RM load. It's by no means easy doing triples with that load but there's no need to get injured through form breakdown. It takes a good amount of focus and concentration though. If you can manage that then you are ok.
    Heavier loads handled with good form do produce a powerful hypertrophy effect but also take their toll on joints and tendons. So, you can't use heavy loads indefinitely—not as a natty lifter anyway.
    Cycling loads is the smart way to train. There's no need to avoid heavier loads, as long as you can maintain good form while you're using them. This is particularly important if you've been injured in the past.

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