Easy does it 

A herniated disc, often called a slipped or bulging disc, is the rupture of an intervertebral disc in your spine. Once it bulges, it presses on your spinal nerves, causing great pain in your back, neck, arms, and/or legs. So, lifting weights on a herniated disc could be a challenge. Rehabilitating your This is a great core exercise to incorporate into your routine because it challenges your obliques without harshly compressing the spine. body slowly is the best way to get back to good back health, but be sure to check with your Physical Therapist before beginning or resuming an exercise program. 

What is a herniated disc and how do I know if I have it? 

A herniated disc occurs when some of the soft jelly in the center of the disc slips out past the tough exterior. It can be very painful and may cause:

In children and young adults, discs have high water content. As we age, the water content in the discs decreases, making the discs less flexible. They then begin to shrink and the spaces between the vertebrae get narrower. Conditions that can weaken the disc include:

  • Improper lifting
  • Excessive body weight
  • Sudden pressure on the discs
  • Repeated strenuous activities
  • Smoking

Any disc in the spine can become herniated, but it most commonly occurs in the lower back. Different exercises can help be able to helped depending on where the herniated disc is and how you respond to these exercises. People with a herniated disc do not usually need surgery, and doctors often recommend physiotherapy to treat symptoms. 

Is it safe to lift weights with a herniated disc? 

The short answer is yes. Exercise is not only recommended – it’s required to help retrain the muscles in your back. After local back pain is controlled and minimized, you should focus on reloading your spine with light activity in order to relearn how to move properly. As you heal, you’ll want to increase the challenge to the diagonally-oriented muscles in your spine and start to add repetitions and resistance to improve your stability. The exercises you should perform depend on your symptoms and how long it has been since your injury. 

Exercises to try

  1. Transverse abdominis exercises
  2. Side Planks – This is a great core exercise to incorporate into your routine because it challenges your obliques without harshly compressing the spine.
  3. Push-Pull Exercise (Pallof Press) Using a cable for resistance, this exercise helps challenge the rotational stability of the spine. Start with holding the cable at your stomach as you stand tall with your core tight. As you push your arms straight out in front of you, you may feel resistance pulling you sideways.
  4. Unilateral Press and Unilateral Row – Incorporate these two common exercises, but perform them on one hand at a time. Doing these exercises unilaterally will engage your core and spinal stabilizers differently than if you do them with both arms simultaneously.
  5. Chops and Lifts – When you’re ready, make these spine rotation exercises more full-body by rotating your feet and hips as well. Be sure not to flex your spine.

Important tips

  1. Proper stretching before and after exercise can reduce pain and prevent further injury
  2. Avoid bending forward and lifting
  3. Use slow, controlled movements while lifting weights
  4. Be sure to practice proper form at all times

Exercises to avoid initially 

Twisting exercises

Instead, try band anti-rotations. This exercise places rotational forces on your core. Start off with a thin band then work your way up to a thicker one. 

Squats and deadlifts

Instead, try bridges and nordic hamstring curls. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes as you get your hips as high as possible. As you feel stronger, tie a theraband around your knees for extra resistance.  As you lift your hips off the table bring your knees out against the band, keeping your knees shoulder width apart.  

Overhead weightlifting

Instead, try DB bench rows. While bent over with your left knee on one end of a bench, pick up a dumbbell with your right hand and pull it in a straight line up towards the ceiling. DB Rows keep your spine in a neutral position with little stress while allowing you to work your shoulders and arms. Be sure to keep your back flat, shoulders down, and elbows close to your body. 


Dealing with a herniated disc can be a painful experience no one should have to go through.  Pro Staff’s Physical Therapists have the knowledge and expertise in reducing that pain and ensuring you are safe. The at-home solutions in this article are meant to remedy mild cases. For persistent or recurring pain, make an appointment with one of our experienced PTs at a location near you.  

Pro Staff Institute, LLC, has a network of outpatient physical rehabilitation centers in New Jersey. Pro Staff was founded in 2010 by Frank Pavlisko and Michael Maffucci. Through Frank’s 25 plus years experience in Physical Therapy and Michael’s experience in Management Services, our goal is to exceed customer expectations by providing the highest quality of service in a fun, family, friendly, and encouraging environment.


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