View Full Version : Overcoming injury to train legs

09-05-2014, 09:02 AM
I need some help working through this problem, but I don't expect an answer in one post. Shit, I'll be surprised if anybody reads through this entire post! (yeah, it's long!).:yep:

But if there was a trainer nearby that I was confident in, I'd be working with him/her. My physical therapist(s) were good, but they'd have a cow if they saw how i was working out now.

The problem is that I've had two surgeries on ruptured L5-S1 vertebrae. Once in Oct '07, then again in September '12. The '12 rupture was worse. Both incidents were the most incredible pain I can imagine. (other injuries i've had were laughable in comparison).

The '12 incident was from my butt pealing up off the leg-sled on a final heavy rep and I felt something pop. What felt like a pulled glute/pulled back got worse day-by-day and the Rx's progressed from ibuprofen to controlled substances along with nerve blockers but i was still in excruciating pain because the disc was almost completely crushing my sciatic nerve. Surgery was about 6 LONG WEEKS of HELL later.

I couldn't believe how much atrophy had occurred in just over a month's time from the glute-foot chain of muscles being almost completely inactivated (I was dragging the leg around by the beginning of September).

I can press, stiff-leg, lunge... weights are decent, range of motion is limited on the press though, but some of this is probably psychological. I've been told more than once to not push the ROM on this.

Day-to-day, I'm pain-free and back function is somewhere around 95%. It would be closer to 98%, but there's a PTSD effect here that's also affecting my workouts. I do have permanent sciatic nerve damage on the right side. The sensation on the bottom of my right foot is altered, but strength is ok.

If my form suffers--even the slightest--the back is the weak link and it will hurt the next day, the disc will flare up, and the sciatic nerve will get a little irritated (either left or right side). I also have measurable disc degeneration at L5-S1 now.

I'm confident i'm busting ass training legs. But I know I'm also holding back and not doing the "1 more rep" that probably counts. I move fast, throw on decent weight, get an awesome pump, but am always afraid of pushing to failure on the set because, frankly, I'm scared SHITLESS of this happening again.

First big question: Am I legs doomed to mediocrity? We used to train with the mentality that if you didn't brutalize your legs, they wouldn't grow. That's what I'm thinking now.

SECOND: I'm reintroducing squats. Should I bother? The weight is terrible. I know my legs can handle way more, but the back and the mind can't. If I'm going to be afraid to push hard on these, what's the point?

I appreciate any help that anyone is willing to offer on this.

09-05-2014, 09:12 AM
I read it all. Sorry to hear of your problems.

You can build big legs without a shit-ton of weight that may end up injuring you.

Try 8-10 sets of squats for 15 reps. If your legs don't grow, something else is wrong.

I am sure they're are many others with much more experience than myself. But forget about your ego with the weights and go by how they feel when your'e done.

09-05-2014, 09:33 AM
There are others on here that have had back issues. I haven't, but I agree with Mac here. I would think it's baby steps. Don't get caught up in the numbers just do what feels right on leg day. Sorry to hear about your injury, but try and stay positive.

I like widow maker sets of 25 at the end of a squat session.

09-05-2014, 11:59 AM
Thanks for the input so far. This is what i was hoping for.

I'm hearing from you guys that low-weight squats aren't a waste of time.

But... are these reps, if they're short of failure, worth it? It's one thing to do a 20 rep set of leg press/squat/whatever to absolute failure; its another thing to stop short of failure. I've been in the set where I knew I could probably bust it and get one more, but racked it.
Or worse, recently was on the sled, had a shitload on there, was struggling on the last rep, and instead of grunting and yelling and pushing threw it, I dumped it. I walked away crushed (mentally, not physically lol). "you're not gonna grow like that".

Is it worth it to do a 12-15 rep squat set (and stop short of failure to avoid re-injury), and then jump right into a set of either leg extensions or body-weight sissy-squats to wipe out the rest of the way? Or is this missing the point of doing the squat?

It may also help to provide a couple more details:

I've been training for about 22 years.
Ran a few cycles in the 90's, a couple early in the decade, and a few in the last few years. Currently on dr. prescribed TRT.

Current leg workout consists of some variation of the below. it's fairly consistent but i might throw something different in place of something, or maybe the order of things (do hams first).

15 min warmup & stretch
legpress: 2-3 progressive warmup sets @ 15-25 reps (increasing by 100-200 lbs per set), 2-3 heavy sets @ 6-8 reps (sometimes increase by 50 - 100lb per set; go by feel), 2-3 drop sets (dropping by about 100-200 lb per set). ** Last couple of heavy sets produce a shit load of anxiety.**

(recently)squats: 3-4 sets, deep, no-lockout, 15-20 reps, no failure. The no lockouts and steady reps produce a burn; that's about it.

seated or lying leg curls: 4-5 progressive sets x 10-12 reps
Stiff leg dead in a smith: 5-6 sets, 15-20 reps, no failure
seated or lying leg curls: 2-3 sets, even weight, pump only (12-15 reps)

Occasionally i'll finish off with a couple sets of leg extensions. I'm usually tanked.

I'd love to split quads and hams but... but I just don't see how i can squeeze it into any other w/o!!

09-05-2014, 02:33 PM
Oh yeah and... A belt...

I've been avoiding it like the plague. Years ago wouldn't squat, dl, or row without one. Then some wise man said that if your weak point is your back, then you're not doing yourself any favors by wearing a belt while training.

Drop the belt, drop the weight, strengthen the back and then get the weights up. Ya?

or should the belt be used on leg day so the legs can get pushed. Don't use the belt on back day, and push the lower back to work on that weak point then.

I realize these are a lot of questions, but I'm sick of being stagnant with these wheels. I need to get them growing again.

Mentally, i'll be screwed up indefinitely. But physically I feel like i've recuperated as much as possible at this point, and it's time to start pushing it. But i need to do it the right way. I can't afford to mess this up again.

09-05-2014, 09:38 PM
I would say the first thing you have to sink into your head is it is not that important to have big legs and no one else cares either. this is a hobby not your a due or die making money thing.

With that said i understand trying your best and being OCD about training trust me lol. Still keep that in the back of your head. If you get hurt as you know you cannot train. What is worse getting hurt, not training at all for who knows how long, loose all gains and have a life altering issue the rest of your life becuase of one heavy set of squats? Or taining smart with less weight and not having issues for slow steady growth. Up to you.

As far as the training warming up is key as well as doing things in a certain order to keep the heavy movements toward the end when you are feeling the muscle already, its warm and you will be forced to use less weight.
Go quicker between sets, keeps your legs more pumped and you cannot use as much weight as long rest periods.
Go slow on all movements, negative and positive, FEEL the muscle.
Change foot positioning, you may find a certain better feel just doing this on say a leg press.
You can do calves first, then hams then go into squat or leg press or hack, lunges are great too.
One leg leg press forces less weight also.
Most of all if it hurst DONT continue just becuase. Stop and do something else.
If a bigger ROM hurts then shortn it up.
Do whats comfortable where you can still feel the working muscle.
YOu dont HAVE to go to failure with heavy weight like squats or legg press, most dont anyway due to more risk of injury and your breath will proabably give out before your legs will.
Go to failure with say leg extensions or ham curls not the compounds, not worth it.
Im not saying go super light Im saying do what feels comfortable, where you feel the legs working not back and everything else.
If squats are not comfrtable dont do them not needed.

The belt is optional for HOW YOU FEEL dont listen to bullshit makes your back weak or whatever. unless your a top tier powerlifter you will not tell the difference unless YOU like it or not. If youi feel better then use it. I use it on all heavier sets of legs and back even on chest. Why because I feel better supported and more comfortable on the lifts with the weight I use without fearing.

hope this helps

09-08-2014, 02:20 PM
Thanks everybody for responding!

I trained legs over the weekend and it went better than usual. I managed to killl myself as good as usual w/o going as heavy.

I kept my warmup/stretch, but started the w/o with hams. 4 sets of seated, then 4 sets of lying. Much lighter than typical, but definitely concentrated on feeling my hamstrings. Also changed my position on the lying to shorten the muscle. Still used pyramid sets, and went as low as 8 reps with hams. Lower back injury is not a concern with these particular ham ex's. Hams were sore as hell the next day.

After hams, moved on to quads. No quad sets were less than 12 reps. Burned on every set though.
started with squats. Did 1 w/up, then 6 sets, even weight, but light. Definitely had to drop the ego. Below parallel, bottom pause, no lockout, slow.. squeeze. I dont know. It felt good anyway. I'm sure there'd be a lot of knuckle heads laughing their asses off... whatever.

I followed that with a shortened range of leg presses, varying foot stance. 5 sets. about 50% of 1rpm.

I finished off with a couple sets of leg extensions to failure w/ forced reps.

Legs were sore for a day or so.

Positive points:
There was no anxiety during the workout; wasn't afraid of re-injury.
The workout felt productive.

The psychological aspect of using crap weight is hard to swallow on legs. I've gotten used to it for other body parts, but legs is going to take more time.

Don't know how I'll respond. Will i need more volume to make up for the reduced weight? Superset more? More volume may mean i'll have to break hams and quads into different days.