What to Do When You Can’t Do Barbell Squats
Q: I read your article last week about doing barbell squats to build a toned butt. My problem is a herniated disc in my lower back. My chiropractor has advised me not to do squats with a barbell on my shoulders as the weight will compress my spine and aggravate the situation. Can you suggest an alternative exercise?
A: True, barbell squats are very effective but there are many exercises that will recruit the same muscle groups without putting as much stress on the lower back.
Ideally, you want to carry the weight closest to your center of gravity thereby reducing the torque and stress on your entire back.
A simple variation of the barbell squat is a dumbbell squat:
1) Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides.
2) Slowly lower yourself into a seated position by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
3) Pause, then push yourself back to the starting position.
HEX BAR: An essential tool for anyone with back issues is a hex bar - basically, a barbell with a hexagonal center. This bar allows you to squat and perform other exercises from inside the encompassing bar which you hold on either side. The stress on your back is minimized because the weight is evenly distributed at hip level. Many bodybuilders with back issues rely on the hex bar to execute squats and deadlifts as the bar uses plates just like the barbell but reduces the risk of injury.
I strongly recommend the use of a hex bar by anyone with joint or bone density concerns.