5 Keys Fitness Professionals Must Remember When Training a Client with a Herniated Disc

5 Keys Fitness Professionals Must Remember When Training a Client with a Herniated Disc copy

Herniated disc, also known as a slipped or slipped disc – is when there’s an injury to one of the discs in your spine. This can lead to nerve pain and weakness worsening as you continue to pressure the area. When working with a client with a herniated disc or slipped disc, the key is to remain calm, have a plan, and keep your cool.

I got an e-mail from Ben Coffman of Oklahoma City. I know you are all interested in my reply.


I could use your advice.

I am working with a woman with a severe herniated disk in her lower back.

Could you give me a few tips on what would be best for her regarding back strengthening?


Ben Coffman
Oklahoma City Weight Loss Expert

Thanks for thinking of me and asking.

Here are my tips to Clients with a Herniated Disc 

1.  Communicate with the Team

Make sure she is cleared to start an exercise program by her healthcare team and if the Team has any recommendations on what she should do or not do.

2.  Find out what Positions Her Back Likes

Often, clients will say that laying down is the best, followed by standing and sitting. This is all based on the level of load on the spine. With laying, there is the least amount of gear. With standing, your legs act like shock absorbers and take up a fair bit of load. And with sitting, the load moves into the spine more. Even if she likes laying down the best, there is a lot you can do with bands and pullies to strengthen her back in that position.

3.  Leg Strength

Work on leg strength. If you can improve her leg strength, then her leg muscles will take on more load and less will be put onto the spine when she stands.  You may have to start with a ball squat which keeps the back upright.  This may not be a natural or functional position but it puts the least amount of stress on the spine.  In time you progress her to more of a normal squat movement.  Click here is you want to read my blog post on knee pain with squatting.

4.  Limit Trunk Flexion

The movement that involves trunk flexion will increase the load of the back. At the start, you avoid it, but with time, you want to train different ranges of motion in trunk flexion. As I mentioned in the last point, start with a ball squat. Progress to a front ball squat and then a standing squat.

5.  Core Activation

I would work on a rehab level of core stability. Often with pain, the stabilizers of the back are inhibited due to pain. It is essential to re-activate them. I go into great detail in the Core Stability for the Lower Back book.

Ben, I hope this helps.

I know I got rambling, but I hope this helps.

Thanks so much for asking and thinking of me.

Take care, bud.

P.S. – If you are a fitness or rehabilitation professional and want to learn how to design exercise programs for clients with low back injuries, I recommend attending the Exercise Rehabilitation of the Lower Back course. 

Lumbar Spinal Fusion Recovery Program

– Rick Kaselj