Back pain and injuries happen when you’ve trained hard and long enough. While I will be the FIRST medical professional to tell you that he,avy training should not be avoided and that long term back strength is great for your health, there are times where athletes need to alter training to decrease loading on their low back. But what if we want to continue to, improve strength & performance while unloading the back? Enter my favorite BACK FRIENDLY LEG STRENGTH EXERCISES.
Sometimes we just need to give the back a break from heavy loading even though we are injury-free. And some athletes need to increase their leg strength relative to their back. Enter BACK FRIENDLY LEG STRENGTH exercises.
For those with back pain, please don’t consider this medical advice. Instead, use these exercises as conversation starters with your medical provider. (thanks internet fools for making me add disclaimers)
Without a doubt, this is my favorite exercise to prescribe for those needing to unload the back. The belt squat is a leg CRUSHER with little stress on the back. There are several machine versions of belt squats that allow for a variety of strength & conditioning movements, but these can easily be performed with a few boxes and a dip belt.
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Sled Push / Pull
Sleds don’t get enough credit in the strength world. Due to the concentric nature of muscle contractions with sled work, they don’t produce much muscular soreness. And while they do load, the spine, most athletes needing decreased back strength still tolerate sled work greatly
Glute Ham Raises
A killer for the hamstrings and glutes, this machine allows for seriously strengthening without significant stress on the spine.
Also, see GHD Hip Extensions
Hip thrusts are a great glute strengthener with the benefit of having low compressive forces through the spine. Give these a try, whether injured or healthy to bring your backside up.
Reverse Lunge Variations
By altering how much assistance the back leg can give (by keeping the foot flat or not allowing that foot to touch the ground at all), you can turn the reverse lunge into an absolute monster of an exercise. One you get really strong, adding very little dumbbells or kettlebells will keep this exercise ridiculously tough.
You can find multiple variations of the reverse lunge in THIS ARTICLE.
Band Hip Hinge
By using a band to resist the lockout of the hip hinge, you can keep lower body tension high without having to add more compressive and shear forces through the spine. Banded hinge movements are highly underutilized, especially in those with back pain.
Glute Band Marches
Don’t say I didn’t warn you before trying these….band glute marches will light your butt on fire. Try to stay as upright as possible and grab a med ball to hold during the marches if you want to kick it up a notch.
Nordic curls should be a staple in the programs of most athletes since numerous studies have shown it to lower the incidence of hamstring strains. It also happens to be an killer hamstring strength exercise.
This squat variation will light up your quads without needing much weight, making it great for those with back pain. Don’t let looks deceive you, this exercise SUCKS.