Gaspari Nutrition

Ron Harris

It’s not the end of the world, and neither is a back injury for leg training

So the world was supposed to end yesterday, yet here we all are still. Frankly, I was getting pretty annoyed over the last couple years with all the nonsense about the world ending in 2012. For me to really take any of it seriously and be worried, I would have needed something like a giant asteroid on a collision course with earth, with no sign of Bruce Willis and his team to intercept and destroy it in space. The last time I recall being truly terrified about an impending Armageddon was when I was about 8 or 9 years old and watching a show called 'In Search Of' hosted by Leonard Nimoy, aka Spock from the old Star Trek show. The episode was about Nostradamus having predicted something about the planets lining up in 1982 and this being the end of the world as we know it. Apparently that was as faulty as the Mayan calendar.

Anyway, I am glad we are all here. The world is far from perfect, but it sure beats no world at all! And now for today's question.


Hello. I’d like to gain a good muscle mass for legs. But, I have lower

back problems due to a car accident I was in last year. Which exercises should I do? Thank you very much.

Adriano Prioto,



Adriano, I can certainly sympathize with your situation. I hurt my lower back for the first time shortly after turning 18 in the fall of 1987, and have suffered literally dozens more injuries to the area since then. First of all, I hope you are seeking treatment. Chiropractors can work wonders with lower back injuries through spinal adjustments as well as treatments like EMS (electric muscle stimulation) and ultrasound. I would also look into deep-tissue massage as a means of alleviating pain and breaking up scar tissue that often forms and limits range of motion. It's not cheap, but if training and getting results is important to you, it's well worth the expense to have it done at least once a month. I go every other week. If your injury is more severe, an orthopedic surgeon may be your best bet. But generally speaking, surgery should always be a last resort as I rarely hear back from any trainers who are satisfied with the results.

With that out of the way, let’s talk training. We all know that the very best way to build huge legs fast is to squat. But with a lower back injury, heavy barbell squats are out. Don’t worry – as we say here in the USA, there is more than one way to skin a cat, or get the job done. The leg press is a perfect piece of equipment for someone in your situation, as it allows you to work the legs heavy yet with the back fully supported and braced. The worst thing you can do with an injured lower back is to allow your spine to become either extremely arched (concave) or rounded (convex) with a heavy load on your back, or across the shoulders, as in the case of a squat. The leg press permits the lower back to remain in the optimum state of a very slight arch throughout the duration of your sets. The only thing you need to be wary of is to not lower the weight so far down that your tailbone lifts up off the seat, which would mean that your lower back is rounding. This is seldom an issue, as most guys I have ever seen don’t even use a full range of motion because they stubbornly insist on using too much weight (a subject for another day). Another technique that works very well for legs in a case like yours is pre-exhaust. Leg extensions isolate the quadriceps, while leg presses, hack squats, and squats also bring the glutes and hamstrings into play. Therefore, by either supersetting leg extensions and any of these compound movements; or doing several sets of extensions prior to a pressing exercise, the quads are forced to work much harder to ‘keep up.’ For example, maybe you can normally use 600 pounds for 12 reps on the leg press. If you were to do a set of leg extensions to failure for 15 reps immediately before that, you would find that 600 pounds suddenly felt much heavier. Another piece of good news is that you can indeed squat. True, you can’t squat very heavy, but you can squat in a way that still feels heavy and works the quads just as well. I have also found in recent years that front squats are an excellent alternative to back squats, as they force you to maintain a more upright torso and you never have to go as heavy as with back squats. In either case, I would do your squats after leg extensions and presses, and use a very slow rep speed with a slight pause at the bottom of each rep and maintaining constant tension on the quads by never locking out your knees. 185 pounds can feel like 315 if you do your squats this way and after the other two exercises. Forget about going heavy for lower reps, and find a weight you can safely handle for three sets of 12-15. If the barbell still feels risky to your back, go ahead and use a Smith machine. Trust me, your quads will burn and get plenty sore. Here is a routine you can follow for legs that will allow you to build plenty of size without compromising the health of your injured lower back:

Leg extensions 4 x 15-20

Leg press 4 x 20, 15, 12, 10

Squat or front squat 3 x 12-15

Lying or seated leg curl 4 x 10-12

Talk to you all later!

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