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How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Welcome to the third part of the how to heal a herniated disc guide, click here for part one and part two, and in this article I’m going to explain how you can strengthen your body to eliminate the pains caused by your herniated disc and help prevent any further incidence of symptoms occurring again. This article is accompanied by a video on my YouTube channel which can be found here

 

Intro

If you have watched the YouTube videos or read the articles you should be in a position where your symptoms are not as severe and the pain is at a manageable level. On top of this you should now have increased mobility due to the stretches, myofascial release work and adjustment exercises you have been performing. Some of these exercises are not suitable until you have a sufficient level of pain free mobility so until you do it would be unwise to perform them. I indicate the prerequisite you will require for each move.

Our goal in this phase of recovery is to strengthen our core muscles, the muscles that all movement or exercises or ANYTHING we do is related to. If you’ve ever done bicep curls you have engaged your core muscles. If you’re performed calf raises you’ve engaged your core muscles. If you’ve stood up, sat down, stood still or lifted anything you’ve engaged your core muscles. This is why it’s crucial we must focus on strengthening them as much as possible to provide a greater base for anything we do.

 

abs 1024x585 How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

When referring to core muscles people often think of the rectus abdominis also known as your abs but in actual fact the:

Levator Ani
Coccygeus
Transversus Abdominis
Multifidus
Internal & External Obliques
Rectus Abdominis,
Erector Spinae
sacrospinalis
Longissimus Thoracis
Diaphragm

…and even minor connections to the…

Latissimus Dorsi
Gluteus Maximus
Trapezius

Now that’s a lot of muscles. Don’t fret! You won’t need to remember any of them just remember as a rule of thumb any muscle running from your hips to your ribs we need to focus on.

The structure we are going to be using to progressively recover is as follows.

Group 1
Isometric core exercises focusing on general stability, maintaining neutral posture and under minimal load

Group 2
Core movements focusing on isolating key musculature to strengthen the core especially muscles that run along the lumbar

Group 3
Movements that focus on strengthening the supporting musculature of the lower back when at an mechanical disadvantage

Group 4
Weighted compound exercises focusing on general strength

If you’re ever wondering why are doing a group of exercises you can refer back to this part of the guide. While doing these exercises you will still be expected to stretch and do soft tissue/myofascial release work and I would suggest doing that twice a day, once when you wake and one after you perform these exercises or before bed. When performing these exercises make you perform a general warm up.

 

Group 1

These exercises are focusing on providing a basic foundation of strength for the following groups focusing on keeping and supporting a neutral spine during day to day tasks such as standing, walking and sitting. You should only progress to Group 2 after you have performed these exercises 3 times a week for at least 4 weeks or until they become easy.

Plank

0903p52a plank l How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Keeping a neutral spine throughout place your forearms on the floor while remaining on your toes and bracing your core.

Hold this position for a minimum of a minute. If you can not hold this position for that long aim to cumulatively reach that time in as few sets as possible.

3 minutes total work per side in the plank per session is required before considering progressing to group 2

Side Plank

single leg side plank 470x360 How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Keeping a neutral spine throughout place your right forearm on the floor while keeping your body elevated and balancing on your feet.

Your humerus should be in line with your body and your hips elevated, not dipping.

To add increased difficulty raise your other arm, leg or both towards the sky.

Hold this position for a minimum of a minute then switch sides. If you can not hold this position for that long aim to cumulatively reach that time in as few sets as possible.

3 minutes total work per side in the side plank per session is required before considering progressing to group 2

Stomach Vacuums

ms fit5pos How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Standing or sitting keeping a neutral spine and without contracting your abs (rectus abdominis), inhale deeply into your stomach without breathing into your chest and exhale sucking in your stomach.

Inhale just like before except this time keep the stomach contracted so it remains sucked in then exhale again further sucking in your stomach.

Repeat this process until you can no longer suck your stomach in further and repeat 3 more times trying to suck in your stomach as much as possible.

Perform this once more this time laying prone (on your front)

Doing this is one set. Perform a minimum of 3 sets.

This is contracting your transverse abdominis, muscles that support your lumbar vertebrae. If you are unable to stop a contraction of your rectus abdominis relax your core and poke or pinch your self in the stomach and then tense your “Abs”. Relax and poke or pinch your stomach once more and this time suck in your stomach and make a mental note of the difference in muscular feeling in your core.

Half Quadrupeds or Bird Dogs

14 3 How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Start on your hands and knees. Keep a right angle between the floor and your arms and legs, and in your hips and shoulders.

Keeping a neutral spine and without moving your torso raise your opposite arm and leg keeping them as straight as possible.

Plantar flex (point) your foot and externally rotate your shoulder but keep your thumb pointing to the sky.

Switch sides after a minute.

There should be minimal or no movement when holding this position. Strive to do so.

If you can not hold this position for that long aim to cumulatively reach that time in as few sets as possible.

3 minutes total work in per side the half quadruped per session is required before considering progressing to group 2

Glute Bridge

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Laying on your back placing your arms at a 45 degree angle away from your body with your palms face up, bring your feet towards your body and place them flat on the ground roughly a foot away from your glutes.

Lift your hips towards the sky as far as possible keeping a neutral spine maintaining a conscious effort on contracting the glutes (buttocks) as hard as you can.

Do not overextend the lower back at the end range of motion, keep a neutral spine.

Do not use your arms to assist you in this movement.

To make this more challenging do these with one leg by bringing a knee to your chest.

Hold this position for a minimum of a minute. If you can not hold this position for that long aim to cumulatively reach that time in as few sets as possible.

 

Group 2

These exercises are mainly focusing on strengthening the lower back. It’s been shown that in study that in all cases of lower back pain, the stronger the muscles are in the lower back the faster the road to recovery is or the perceived pain experienced after trauma was lower. What this means is the stronger your lower back the better. These exercises strengthen the lower back to the safest greatest extent before the exercises in Group 3 may be performed. Do not advance to Group 3 until you have performed these exercises for a minimum of 8 weeks or they become easy.

Hyper Extensions

hextensions How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Starting with your legs secured by a partner, machine or creative instrument you have chosen, hang over an edge at the hips and completely relax the muscles in your lower back so your head and torso are upside down.

You may feel a stretch, this is normal and is also a form of spinal decompression. It is a safe position if you have been stretching and have the ability to bend over and touch the floor with your fingers keeping your legs straight without any pain.

With your arms on your chest squeeze your glutes and raise your torso so it is parallel to your legs. This should take your 3 seconds to perform.

Hold this position for a 2 count and then lower yourself down to the starting position taking 3 seconds once more.

This is one rep.

Perform sets of 10 to 20 reps with a minimum of 3 sets per session.

Reverse Hyper Extension

reversehyper How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Starting with your torso secured by a partner, yourself holding on to something, machine or creative instrument you have again chosen, hang your legs over an edge at the hips and completely relax the muscles in your lower back.

Keeping your legs together squeeze your glutes and raise your legs so they are parallel to to your torso. This should take 3 seconds to perform.

hold this position fora 2 count and then lower your legs down to the starting position taking 3 seconds once more.

This is one rep.

Perform sets of 10 to 20 reps with minimum of 3 sets per session.

Bother the hyper extension and reverse and great for recovery as they stimulate bloodflow to your lower back also.

Back Levers

blever How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Starting hanging from a pull up bar bring your legs and body through your arms until you are upside down behind the bar

Extend your body in this upside down so your body is completely straight and point your toes

Maintaining this position slowly keep bringing your through until you are parallel with the floor

Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times

If you are unable to perform this exercise you can scale it down by increasing the leverage and bringing your knees towards your chest.

This exercise is difficult but once a full back lever is achieved you will be performing THE isometric exercise for strengthening your back. Half quadrupeds don’t even compare to the level of muscular strength this requires.

Front Levers

FrontLever1962 How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Staring hanging from a pull up bar bring your knees to your chest and extend your hips so you are upside down but this time in front of the bar.

In this position engage your core so there is a slight curve and point your toes

Maintaining this position slowly lower your body towards the floor stopping when you are parallel with the floor

Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times

If you are unable to perform this exercise you can scale it down by increasing the leverage and bringing your knees towards your chest.

This exercise is also difficult but once a full front lever is achieve you will be performing THE isometric exercise for strengthening your anterior core and can forget the plank. This exercise is only rivaled by one and that is the Dragon Flag which is very similar.

Dragon Flags

Bruce Lee Dragon Flag How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Starting supine (on your back) with your hands holding onto a counter weight or bench by your head, bring your knees to your chest.

Raise your hips the the sky so your back is at a 90 degree angle to the floor and extend your legs pointing your toes and bracing your anterior core so there is a slight curve

Maintaining this position lower your body to the floor so you are just above the floor but not touching it.

Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times

If you are unable to perform this exercise you can scale it down by increasing the leverage and bringing your knees towards your chest.

 

Group 3

 

The following exercises will provide the greatest potential for lumbar muscular activation. The previous exercises are great but not the most effective. They do however provide the foundation necessary for performing the following exercises by focusing on strengthening the back when it’s NOT in a neutral position. These should be perform with some caution and any non muscular pain you experience I would suggest stop or decrease the resistance.

Back raises

hyperextensions How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Starting in the finish position of the hyper extension keeping your body parallel to the floor, slowly uncurl your spine starting with your head and finishing with your lower most vertebrae in the lower back.

You should now be in the starting position for the hyper extension. From here begin to reverse this movement by curling your body back up to parallel starting with your lower back and finishing with the head.

This is one rep. Use a 5 second count when going up and down and hold the top position for 1 second

Perform sets of 10 to 20 reps with a minimum of 3 sets per session.

Back Pulls

Start standing or kneeling with a neutral spine in front of an object which is hip height and attach a resistance band in front of you

Place the resistance band under your shoulders and wrap your arms around it.

Begin by uncurling your back starting with your head and finishing with your lower back.

Maintain tension in the bottom position, do not relax.

From here begin to curl up back to neutral position starting with the lower back and finishing with the head.

This is one rep. Use a 5 second count when going up and down and hold the top position for 1 second

Perform sets of 10 to 20 reps with a minimum of 3 sets per session.

Head stand leg raises

sharmila setsquare How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

This exercise should only be performed with significant hamstring flexibility. A good measure of this would be to bend over and touch the floor with both hands flat keeping the legs straight. If this is difficult or uncomfortable do not perform this exercise. You should be able to hang with no assistance from you muscles and be able to reach this position.

Start in press up position facing a wall.

Lean over dragging your feet until the top of your head is touching the floor and arms are bent. You should treat your legs as dead weight

Pull your hips towards the wall even further keeping your legs straight and toes pointed until your feet slightly come off the floor.

This is the starting position. If this causes you any discomfort stop immediately.

Keeping your legs straight slowly lift your legs towards the sky until your are doing are head stand, if you over balance you will kick into the wall.

Slowly bring your legs back down so your toes just lightly touch the floor.

This is one rep. Use a 3 second count when going up and down and hold the top position for 1 second to secure your balance.

Perform sets of 10 to 20 reps with a minimum of 3 sets per session.

Medx Lumbar Extension Machine

medx pelvic restraint How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

This machine has been shown to increase the posterior core muscles activation compared to any other exercise on this list but unfortunately  availability is usually limited to physiotherapists or special gyms.
If you google search this machine you will be able to find locations of this machine. I hope there’s one near you!

 

Group 4

These exercises constitute the typical weightlifting exercises you see or weighted variations of exercises I’ve previously listed. They under no circumstances should be performed if you experience any pain during the exercise after, or the next day. You should be well aware of the symptoms you have experienced when dealing with your back pain so if they arise again immediately stop.

If you do pursue this route I would avoid any exercise that put’s excessive load on the spine as they are more than likely to compress your disks further. For these exercises I would also get someone to coach you on correct form. Not a friend. A trusted PT, Power/Olymptic Lifter with experience and preferably experience dealing with herniated discs. Your form needs to be perfect every rep. Here are the exercises I would suggest if you wish to start weight training again.

Only perform these if you performed the exercises from Group 3 for 3 months

Trap Bar Deadlift

trapbar deadlifts How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

I love deadlifting and the trap bar deadlift allows a more upright position putting less load on the lumbar vertebrae.

Regular Deadlift

deadlift posture How To Heal a Herniated Disc Guide (Part 3) – Strength Exercises

Slightly more risk performing these but with good coaching, slow and stead progress and continuous mobility work should not be a problem

 

Conclusion

All these exercises should be performed in order. You can continue performing exercises from previous groups as you advance and should try to strengthen your core as much as you can even if you have stopped experiencing pain for a month or a year. There is no limit to the progress you should aim to make in your strength development.

I hope you found this information useful and if you have read this far and the other parts to my guides thank you for reading and I hope you become pain free and have an back that would rival superman’s.

Please facebook like, tweet or +1 if you can and feel free to add any comments or ask any questions if you have any. If you would like me to write a post on any other topics post it in the comments or send me a message on the contact page.

 

 

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  • Robert Tuzes

    Very good videos James, I wached all 3 of them. I have a bulging disc myself and I d never thought I’d learn so much from a kid.

  • icebud

    Hyperextensions?? I heard this is the worst possible thing to do for someone who has a herniated disc.

  • solarstorm99

    Just wanted to thank you for these tips. I play ice hockey and the motions of the sport can be very out of balance to what humans do naturally and it puts A LOT of strain on the lower and middle back. I have 2 herniated discs and even though i went through various rehab with the physio, it has really been these tips that have helped the most, especially the ball massage, it really does release a lot of stress in the muscles. Thanks again!

  • Big d

    also is it okay to do normal front squats? and in which group if so? cause I am a basketball player and I need the squats

  • Big d

    can u put a link on how to do back pulls?

  • masterpatricZeta3

    I will start Ozone therapy. forget this stupid exercises that’s why i got injured, doing p90 xherniated disk, can be cured with ozone.loprozone.

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