I have some clients who have back problems. Despite them on the verge of almost having surgeries I can think of two particular clients i have managed to work with. Still growing them both in fitness, strength, muscle and shape.


In this case they are both men so this article may be more focused on a strong muscular upper body and how to approach training for that. They train despite major spine issues because it helps them.

No person will have exactly the same issues and abilities. So although this article has ideas for people with or without back pain.

These programmes were customised to the individual client.

Eg one client of the two can do overhead dB shoulder pressing whilst the other can’t.

Meaning one guy will have pain doing this movement and the other won’t.

In reverse my other client can’t do big core and glute movements while the other client can.

So If you don’t have an outstanding personal trainer or customised programme you will have to test your body doing light weights and warm ups.

If the pain isn’t muscular and Is foreign eg you don’t comprehend it.

Or if its a sharp tearing pain or shocking one don’t do that movement.

Today you will have learnt that that movement simply doesn’t suit you at this point in time.

Pain is a teacher and doesn’t have to be your enemy. But know when to back off and how to train lightly warming up with light weights and precise movements and proper form.


So today’s article is about one of my clients lets call him Chris. I’ve been training him for about a year. He’s constantly getting stronger more muscular and better at knowing how to treat his back.

He can do more activities and sports that he couldn’t do and he figures out how to resolve sleeping problems and daily activities to help his spine.

Sleeping seems to actually be a damaging factor. A lot of you may not realise problems back problems come from daily activities you spend hours and Hours doing on a daily basis such as sleeping, sitting, bad walking habits and a poor conditioning programme.

He uses a ball for his back and has recently realised a pregnancy pillow has done wonders for his sleep and his spine upon waking up.

Lets build some context for Chris’s year of training so you can understand how we got to the programme we did this week.

We started off doing months of cycling to warm up his spine and get his legs going. Also he had been doing spin classes so we knew this is and was a safe go to cardio movement he could do for warming up.

We spent months simply doing dumbbell and barbell chest press movements followed by dumbell and barbell and machine rowing movements.

We then progressed to doing months of back squats and hex bar deadlifts and then glute barbell bridges or hip thrusts.

Sometimes we would have to back off of these despite proper form. Simply put the core tension of the movement would require us backing off.

A few months down the line the rowing movements didn’t suit so we replaced them with lat pull downs.

Recently we have backed off of squats deadlifts and barbell hip thrusts.

His major muscle groups are very strong now from a lot of squatting, bench pressing, rowing and deadlifting. Probably 4 of the most essential exercise that belong to the gym for muscle, strength and functional training and fitness.

You could train almost any person with these 4 movements year round and get fantstic results even with pregnant women using a row machine that pads you on the chest.

Chris felt like due to doing these big lifts his arms weren’t as big and as impressive as his back, chest and legs and so we started to rewrite his programme to focus on building his arms healthily.

So here’s a 3 day workout programme for someone with a tender spine slowly getting stronger and more active to build bigger arms and a strong upper body.



Cycle 5 minutes

Hold a reverse flye with your arms straight and pinched upwards as High as you can for as long as you can squeeze with arms in line with the shoulders and perfectly straight. No elbow bends. Then lift your thumbs upwards and directed towards the ceiling. I then added little 1.25 and 2.5 kg weight discs putting the hole on top of his thumb.

We then did seated dumbell curls with no back support so he does slow reps and keeps his back neutral. Definitely no swinging. You do this by controlling the reps and doing slow negative reps eg lowering the rate slowly and with control with your back straight and your shoulders pulled back and the stomach pulled in to protect the spine.


After that we did some tricep press downs which didn’t really work for him so instead we replaced them with skullcrushers and close grip dumbbell presses.



We had a successful workout on Monday so simply added more exercises to the template of what’s already working.

So 1 the bike for 5 mins.

2 the incline dumbbell press

3 the low row

4 the reverse flye

5 the face pulls

6 the dB military press with back support

The three above exercises work the shoulder and girdle effectively and then wr really hit the triceps hard with

7 triceps extensions with close grip presses


That was all very effective so what we did was then look at hitting the Biceps harder and doing all the safe and postural enhancing exercises.


1 bike for 5 minutes

2 incline dumbell press (heavy) so 6 to 10 reps

3 low row 10 -12 reps

4 reverse flye holds with discs

5 facepulls

6 dumbbell shoulder presses with back support

So the same shoulder routine as on Wednesday but heavier in weights rep ranges of 3 to 10 reps

7 adding bicep emphasis. Seated dumbbell curls with no back support.

8 incline curls. So head and shoulders laid back and pinched back against the bench and allowing the arm to fully lengthen and then contact the Biceps squeezing the dumbbell towards the shoulder.

These routines are done in a cycle format except the cycling which is only done for the warm up.

It means all the resistance exercises are Done in that order and sequence for 2 to 3 rounds. The spine and core is always neutral and engaged. The reps are always posturally correct and slow both on the positive way upwards and the negative way downwards.

A note to mention is that although my clients spine goes in and out of pain. He gets systematically and consistently stronger, fitter and in better shape. He also is able to do more and more activity and sports.

Just so you can understand here. When I say back issues. I don’t mean someone with lower back pain. In this case my client has dessicated and flattened discs in the lumbar region.


So if you are looking for something customised to work for you whether online or in person I would love to do so.  This had always been a passion of mine to help someone ultimately feel and be healthy. As well as helpinh men and women feel and look and be stronger, fitter and healthier no matter what his or her situation is.