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

I got a e-mail from Ben Coffman of Oklahoma City.  I thought you all would be interested in my reply.


Could use your advice.

I am working with a women who has a severe herniated disk in her lower back.

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


Ben Coffman
Oklahoma City Weight Loss Expert


Thanks for thinking of me and asking.

Here are my tips.

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 times what clients will say is laying down is the best followed by standing and then sitting. This is all based on the level of load that is placed on the spine. With laying, there is the least amount of load. With standing, your legs act like shock absorbers and take up a fair bit of load. 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 fuctional 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 squating.

4)  Limit Trunk Flexion

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 times with pain, the stabilizers of the back are inhibited due to pain.  It is important to re-activate them.  I go into great details in this in 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 would like to learn how to design exercise programs for clients with low back injuries, I would recommend attending Exericse Rehabilitation of the Lower Back course.  You can get more information at www.FitnessRehabEducation.com .

– Rick Kaselj