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.
Other exercises you should try include the Seated Leg Press, the Seated Leg Extension and Leg Curls. All of these isolate the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings, will protect your back and help you build the killer legs you want.
TIP OF THE WEEK
PROTEIN PEANUT BUTTER BALLS
¾ cup natural peanut butter
¼ cup honey
1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder
½ cup raw oats
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and shape in 1-inch balls. Chill them in the fridge for a couple hours then enjoy as a healthy, nutritious snack or dessert.
EXERCISE OF THE WEEK: BENT-OVER RAISE
This is a great exercise you can do at home or in the gym to strengthen your shoulders. Sit on a Swiss ball and lean forward, holding a pair of dumbbells just off the floor. Keeping your arms slightly bent, proceed to raise them up and out behind you until you reach shoulder level. Pause. Return to starting position. Perform 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps, increasing the weight of the dumbbells with each set.