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Lifting Weights post L5-S1 Micro

I'm a 31 year old male. Had my first and only L5-S1 microdiscetomy back in November of 2011, stemming from a car wreck I had years prior. Rehab and recovery went great and doctor told me I progressed very well.

I've not had really any trouble since, but I've tried to stay active walking every day and also losing a lot of the weight I've gained over the past few years. I was a very healthy, active person before surgery. Went through P90X twice and insanity once. Also used to lift weights about 3-4 times a week, jogging/running occasionally.

My question is I'm wanting to get back into working out with weights. I've talked to my PT and also to my neuro doctor and they both gave me the green light to get back into what floats my boat, as long as I stayed off of exercises that targeted the back directly like Rowing, etc. Also to ease into lifting the heavy stuff and listen to my body. But I feel like neither of them wanted to directly tell me what workouts I exactly needed to do...not sure why. It just seems like every answer was "just listen to your body."

I guess i'm just nervous about attempting to pick up the weights this week. I'm afraid i'm going to tear something up and mess up my surgery when I start lifting again. So my questions are what would, based on your personal experiences, you suggest I attempt to do or not do? My goal is I would like to start bench pressing again - building up my chest and upper body strength - as well as work on my arms - biceps and triceps. I'm not so much interested or could care about squatting or leg presses or any of that anymore, but I would like to strengthen my core and my abs if possible.

Need some seasoned advice...I've lost all of this weight and now I look like a wee-little scrawny man. Thanks and look forward to hearing feedback!
L5/S1 MicroD - Nov. 11, 2011
Revision L5/S1 MicroD - Sept. 10, 2014


  • I had my L5S1 sept of last year. I try to go to the gym 2x per week. But of course there have been many slacker weeks throughout the past few months. I am gererally healthy but did not lift any weights pre-surgery. I did 14 weeks of PT post-op. But as for the lifting I continue to add more exercises instead of trying to add any weight to what I do. I pretty much do everything 25lbs per arm. I do bench press machines, sitting. It seems like free weights would be too much strain. 3 different machines reg, incline & wide. I do hip flex & ext at 60 lbs. I just tried rows at 25lbs per arm & it was ok. I also just added dips & chin ups with assist at appx 70lbs. 20lb dumbell curls, sitting. And pull downs 4 ways at appx 60 lbs. Almost all of this I do sitting. The 25 lbs seems very managable on all exercises, real easy at first but once they start adding up its quite a workout. I also play bball, lightly. and some light swimming.Squats, deadlifts, anything like that is never gonna happen. Wayy too much risk there. Im pretty happy I am probably healthier now than I have been since I was 18. I am 33 btw.

    Hope this helps but remember everyone is different so be very careful, start slow 5lbs if you have to & go from there.
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • Thank you for the reply.

    I really don't want to get Schwarzenegger-like results, just need to add a little mass. I may attempt to go to the gym today and start with some light weight. Getting over the initial lift will be a stepping stone I'm hoping. I will heed the advice and start slow and very light. Thanks again!
    L5/S1 MicroD - Nov. 11, 2011
    Revision L5/S1 MicroD - Sept. 10, 2014
  • Danny G.DDanny G. Posts: 20
    edited 07/08/2013 - 5:34 PM
    If you don't want Schwarzenneger like results then you should have no problem at the gym. I would definitely stay away from heavy squats and deadlifts. Forget bentover rows or heavy military presses. Everything else should be ok as long as you're not going super heavy. Since you're not interested in training legs I would at least do body weight squats and believe it or not they help keep muscles on your legs. I haven't had surgery but the above exercises that I mentioned are the reasons that I am having problems now. I DID NOT listen to my body and kept pushing through the pain. Now I can barely walk as a result :(. Just be careful and take it slow. Weight bearing exercises done right will make your body thank you!

    ** Warning **

    Before you start any exercise program, you need to discuss it with your doctor first to get their approval.
    What may sound like a simple and harmless exercise may be very helpful to him, but can be very dangerous to you or someone else
  • JamesDJamesD Posts: 8
    edited 07/10/2013 - 7:59 AM
    Swimming is always a great exercise to do that will get you fit, ripped and build a great body with little risk of injuring yourself.

    I usually prefer staying away from dumbells, for chest exercises, as I don't want to risk straining my back when lifting 100lbs dumbells off the floor.

    Use the machines more, despite them not giving you as good a workout, they will allow you to concentrate more on the actual muscle as opposed to other muscles such as your lower back.

    Seated exercises over standing as your lower back wont be engaged and possibly tweaked as much.

    My current routine consists of 5 mins on treadmill just to losen up. I then spend about 10-15 mins working on abs and core before starting weights. That way my core is engaged and hopefully less chance of injuring my back.

    ** Warning **

    Before you start any exercise program, you need to discuss it with your doctor first to get their approval.
    What may sound like a simple and harmless exercise may be very helpful to him, but can be very dangerous to you or someone else

  • ^^^Been thinking about doing more swimming and less weights because I can't control myself in the gym. I always end up doing some dumb dangerous movement that gives me the meanest flare ups that put me out for a good month. But yeah you make a good point about the dumbells!! Unfortunately for me i had to learn the hard way :(
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    hey cfarris,
    I have to agree with the others here, just use good common sense, good form, and don't go big right away.
    I have both neck and lumbar spine issues so I have to be very careful as not to herniate any more discs by trying to lift too much. Post surgery my therapists always stressed less weight and more reps. You can get just as good results sculpting your body as you can if you go big in weight with less reps. I can relate to Danny G. some days it's easy to push the envelope in the gym, been there, done it, still do it, just an obsession I guess.
    Also consult with your therapist and Dr's to develop a plan that fits your goals.
    Take care & good luck to you,
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