I got a herniated disc which impinged on a spinal nerve; it was repaired surgically. After that I did physical therapy exercises, and I modified my regular exercise program, adding exercises when my back was strong enough to handle them.
Listed in performance order. Done daily; on most, hold the pose 5sec and repeat 10x. For hypertrophy, you bulk up more and quicker if you do strength exercises every 2-3 days (references at the end). But endurance is important for me and I feel without proof that daily workouts are better for that.
Chin-ups: I do it with a towel around the bar, for more cushioning, and this exercises my digit flexors more, which I need. Palms away from you (pronate). Stretch the shoulder joint for a few seconds by hanging from the bar. Then lift up so the chin is above the bar. Progression: start with isometric lifts (going up as much as your strength allows, not all the way). Then individual chinups with a brief rest (3-5sec) between. Gradually shorten the rests to zero. I do 2 sets, at the start and the end of the workout. How many reps? The Navy Seals entrance exam requires 11 chinups (and 42 pushups). I feel without objective justification that 20 chinups is right, but it's almost impossible for me to accomplish.
Ankle stretch: Standing with the feet parallel, rotate both ankle joints so you're standing on the outer edges of the feet. Begin with partial rotation; as the ligaments get stronger, rotate more. When fully stretched you can rotate 45 degrees and put your whole weight on it, but be careful at the beginning because you would injure the ligaments. Repeat 10x.
Seiza: Sit seiza for a minute or two; while sitting do wrist stretches and/or misogi breathing (inhale to max; stretches the rib muscless). This is a traditional Japanese position seen in samurai movies and martial arts. Knees on the mat, sit on your heels, and your feet stick out together to the rear or are turned a bit inward. It's a challenge for your ankles when starting out.
Wrist stretches: It's kind of hard to describe this well without photos
or preferably an instructor. (A) Nikkyo: Turn the
student hand palm
down. Use the
instructor hand to flex the
downward and around to the outside (pronation of the forearm). At the
beginning be very cautious and don't over-stretch the wrist ligaments; a
big benefit of wrist stretch exercises is avoiding sprained wrists. Repeat
4x on one side, then do the other. (B) Kotegaeshi: Turn the
hand palm up. Hook the
instructor hand with its fingers around the
student's thumb base and its thumb on the fifth knuckle, and twist,
flexing the wrist (like nikkyo) and twisting the hand around the wrist with
the fifth knuckle circling from the inside outward and around downward.
Repeat 4x on each side. (C) Buddhist greeting: put the palms of the hands
together, fingers up, close to the body. Lower the hands to stretch the
digit flexors. Hold for 5 sec.
Rocking: Start on hands and knees, fold your legs (like seiza), and your hands being at the correct distance from your knees, this will make your body bend forward going down flat, head on the mat. Then invert the motion back to the start. Many people need to stretch their shoulders (abduction) and this exercise is good for that.
Bird dog: Start on hands and knees. Raise your left leg and right arm so they're straight, lined up with your body. Hold the pose 10 sec. Repeat 10x alternating sides. This strengthens the spine muscle group.
Pushups: Begin leaning against the wall, and push yourself away from the wall with a small range of motion: arms straight (avoid locking your elbows), then down about half way, then back up. 10x per set, 1-2 sets. Progression: increase the angle from the wall. Girl's pushups: support on hands and knees; the further back your knees are, the more force you use. Finally, men's pushups: support on hands and toes. Bend the foot to stretch your calf; gives better support. Keep your body straight; a sagging tummy is hard on your back and reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. When you have built up your strength, increase the reps to get endurance.
Samurai sit and stand (by jimc): Step back the length of your lower leg. Bend the back leg and put your knee on the mat (gently) so your knee and two feet make an equilateral triangle. From here you could do a martial arts move, e.g. roll in any direction, but for the exercise sit in seiza, then invert the movement: equilateral triangle, then stand up again. Make your glutes and quads do their job.
Hamstring stretch (variant 1): Sit with legs straight, hold your legs
between the knee and ankle, keep the back straight, and pull forward to
flex the hip joints (which puts tension on the hamstrings across the knee).
Pull for 10sec, repeat 10x. (Variant 2): On back, fold one femur to your
chest, extend the lower leg. If you use your hand and elbow joint you get
more stretch than if you just rely on your quads. Stretch 10 secs,
alternate sides, total 10x. (Variant 3): Sit with your knees not straight,
so your chest can rest on them. Wrap your arms around them; hold knees to
Walk with your heels to put tension on your hamstrings
across the knee joints. Hold each angle 10sec, repeat 10x.
More hip stretches (A): Sit up straight, fold knees and put the soles of your feet together. Press your kness down sideways toward the mat, for 10sec. Repeat 5x.
More hip stretches (B): Same position but lean forward (back straight) to flex the hip joints. 10sec 5x.
Leg lifts: This is basically isometric. Lay flat on your back. I find it helps to support my head with my hands. Lift your legs a little off the mat. Hold for 10sec; 10x. I find it helps me keep count to move my legs a little apart, then back together. Depending on your mass distribution, particularly for kids, your head end may rise instead, or both ends may rise. Don't worry about it. An alternative is situps, but you pretty much have to hook your feet under something heavy, which is why I don't like doing situps.
Clams: Lie on your side, hips 45deg, knees 90deg. Interlock your feet so you don't need to use your quads to hold the upper knee at 90deg. A pillow for your head will help. Avoid the common mistake of letting your hips roll toward the rear; it helps to put your hands together straight in front. Use the side section of your upper glute to raise the upper leg about 45deg to the side. Keep your quads relaxed. It looks like a clam opening. Hold 5sec, 10x, repeat on the other side.
Psoas stretch (hip abduction) plus groin lift: Lie on your side. Lift and abduct the upper leg to the rear. You can get about a 20deg angle. This stretches the psoas muscle, which runs from the front of the thigh to the spine. At the same time, lift the lower leg off the mat. It helps balance to move the lower leg slightly forward. If you roll sightly to the front, it relieves pressure on the lower hip trochanter. Hold 5sec, 10x, repeat on the other side. You can interleave with clams since you're in almost the same position. This is almost the only exercise that strengthens your groin muscle — another one is to isometrically squeeze a ball or pillow between your knees, but on that one it's hard to keep the force consistent.
Balance, 2 variants: Standing, eyes closed, (A) stand on one foot, or (B) go up on the toes of one foot. Staying up for 3 sec is a success. I (try to) do 10sec plantigrade or 5sec digitigrade. Alternate sides, do 10x total of each variant. Jimc's suggestion: cheat by standing in a doorway or near a pole and, when needed, push yourself back to vertical. This way you get more balancing, less fall recovery, and better safety.
(Here's where I do the second set of chinups.)
ATY: Face down on an exercise ball (and knees on the floor), arms out at 45deg, 90deg, 135deg. Progression: hold 1lb hand weights. Move hands up and down; emphasize your scapular muscles to lift them. Except in the Y position you can't raise your arms so just move the hands radially. Do 10 reps at each angle, cycle through the angles, total 3 cycles. If you roll forward on the ball, you put more force on your back, which may be good or bad depending on how flaky your back is.
Crab walking: Standing, tie your knees together with a resistance band. Walk sideways across the room to the left, then return to the right. Repeat for 2 minutes.
From 2015-08-19. I did these to build up my strength, but
graduated, so I rely on the more vigorous exercises now.
Core and stretch (daily) -- on most, hold the pose 5sec and repeat 10x.
March with leg press: on back, legs folded, lift leg, extend at 45deg Jimc combines with a hamstring stretch: elevate the leg more than 45deg.
Hip adduction, squeeze a pillow between the legs.
Calf stretch: Stand near a wall, resting leg forward for balance, and lean against the wall as if standing on an incline. Tilt your body as a unit, i.e. straight. Alternate sides. Stretch 10sec, 10x total reps.
Lower Body (2x/week) -- on most, hold the pose 5sec and repeat 10x.
Hip abduction: On your back, legs folded, feet on the mat. Tie your legs together with a resistance band and pull them apart.
Half bridge: On your back, legs folded, feet on the mat. Use your glutes to pull your legs down, lifting your butt off the mat just a little. (45deg would be a full bridge.)
Squat / Sitting: Sit on a chair, then stand up. 2 sets of 10 each. Keep your back straight through the whole movement; if you do so you'll need to lean forward to get your center of gravity over your feet, to stand up.
Heel raise: For balance, stand in a doorway or in front of a table. Quickly go up on the toes of one foot, then take 5 secs to slowly go down. 5 raises in a set, then do the other side; repeat the pair 4 times. If you're not strong enough to go all the way up, e.g. due to nerve damage from a spinal injury, go up with both feet, then remove one foot for the down phase.
Lunge: Standing, put one leg quite far back, bend the front knee so your quads support you, bend the back knee to go near the mat. Use your glutes as much as possible. Try to get your hips to go up and down in a near vertical line, not a fencer's lunge.
Driving simulation: Sit, step and press down on a ball or pillow to simulate the accelerator or brake, for 15 mins.
Upper body (2x/week)
Rowing (A): Loop a resistance band around a doorknob, get in a lunge position, use scapular muscles to stabilize the shoulder, and pull your hands near your hips.
Rowing (B): Similar but hands to armpits.
Plank: Face down, body horizontal and low, support on knees and elbows (on a towel or pillow). Hold the pose 10 secs then rest 5 secs, repeat 10x. Progression to support on toes. Variants: front support on hands (like pushup); adjust arm angle forward or backward to emphasize shoulders or core.
A Strength Training Program For Your Home
by Stephen Ball, PhD (2012-02-02).
Here is the exercise program from the first reference below.
In the comments, Jeanie is my physical therapist.
Jimc says: if you adjust the resistance so you're tired out after 10 reps,
that builds your strength quickest, according to the references. But endurance
(less force, more reps) is valuable to do your work.
Squats: sit in chair, stand up again. Jeanie says: OK, keep your back straight through the whole movement. 1 to 2 sets of 10x.
Chest press: Lie on the back, knees folded (feet on mat). Extend hand weights vertically and return. (Don't lock elbows.) Alternative, sit on exercise ball (??) and do the same movement. (Jimc says: Probably he means lie face up on the ball.) Alternative, pushups. This may have to wait until jimc's back is stronger. Jeanie's alternative: Put a resistance band behind your back, hold the ends and push forward. Can be done in any position, e.g. standing.
Back extension: Lie face down in Flying Superman position. Raise diagonally opposite arm and leg off the mat, hold 1-2 secs. Jeanie says: don't do this one if your back is flaky. Alternative: do on 4 legs (bird dog) (Jeanie says this is good). Or belly on an exercise ball.
Standing lunge: Step back until the forward thigh is horizontal (or as close as you can manage). Back knee should be close to the mat but not touching. Use the quads of the front leg to lift yourself back up. Alternative: step up onto a standard chair, both feet on the seat, and back down. Jeanie's alternative: use your glutes to let yourself down and lift yourself up, and rather than lunging forward, make your hips move in a vertical straight line.
DB Shoulder press: (DB = dumbbell?) Stand, or sit on a chair or ball. Hold hand weights, and start with humeri sideways horizontal and forearms vertical. Raise so humeri become vertical, and return to start. Jeanie thinks this doesn't do much for you and is hard on the shoulders. Alternative for people with flaky shoulders: Start with the arms vertical downward, and raise to horizontal, straight out to the sides.
Pelvic tilt (half bridge): Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the mat. Hands palm down. Use your glutes to pull down your legs, lifting your butt off the mat, not very far, and go down again. Exercising the abs and the butt. Jeanie: OK. Alternative: Reverse curl, same position including hands, use your abs to roll up with your knees close to your chest and your butt off the mat. Alternative: Do a crunch: ab rollup with shoulders off the mat.
Leg curl: Stand behind a chair and flex your knee so your heel comes close to your butt. Use ankle weights or a resistance band to increase resistance. Alternative: Lie on your back with your heels on an exercise ball. Lift your butt off the mat and roll the ball away from you until your legs are straight. Return to start position. (Jimc says: this is a full bridge.) Jeanie says: Do this later when jimc has a little more strength.
Dumbbell Row: Standing with feet shoulder width apart. Bend forward at the waist. Hold dumbbells with the arms vertical downward. Raise dumbbells near your shoulders until the forearms are horizontal, and return. Alternative: Similar position but step on a resistance band in the middle, and stretch it with your hands. (Jimc and Jeanie say: not good if your back is flaky.) Jeanie's alternative: put an exercise band around a doorknob. Get in a forward lunge position and pull the band ends toward you. Two variants: arms straight and going down to your hips; arms bent and moving back to your ribs. Concentrate on strengthening your scapular muscles. Jimc's alternative: Lie on your back under a bar or chair and lift yourself up by pulling down on the bar.
Biceps curl: Stand holding dumbbells with arms vertical downward and palms facing the thighs. Bend your elbow forward to raise the weights and rotate them so your palms face your shoulders. Alternative, stand on a resistance band to substitute for the dumbbells.
Side plank: Lie on your side with one leg on top of the other. Raise your upper body and support yourself on your elbow. Hold the pose for up to 60 secs. Jeanie says: do a standard plank instead: Turn face down supported by both elbows on a towel or pillow, palms down flat. Go up on your toes, make your body straight. Hold the pose for 10 secs, then rest 5 secs (jimc says sit seiza) and repeat, total of 10 reps.
How often should I do strength exercises? Every second day? (Typical recommendation.) Every day? (Jimc's usual.) These references shed light:
A Strength Training Program For Your Home
by Stephen Ball, PhD (2012-02-02).
He gives a basic exercise program which actually includes a lot of what
I already do. Good to review this later. He says to allow time for
recovery between sets (30-120 secs) and workouts (1-2 days). So he doesn't
really answer my main question. See above for the exercise program.
The Basics of Starting and Progressing a Strength Training Program
by Courtenay Dunn-Lewis and William Kraemer (2012-01-13).
Beginners should allow a day of rest between resistance training workouts.
Do lower body exercises first (e.g. squats) because it elicits more hormones.
Bridge pose (non-moving pushup plank) or bird-dog are excellent.
In this issue (2012-04-xx),
How Often Should Clients
Perform Strength Training? by Wayne L.Wescott, PhD.
The standard recommendation is every 2nd day or 2-3 days per week.
Doing it every day is counterproductive due to insufficient time to remodel
muscle tissue that experienced micro-trauma. There is essentially complete
consensus on this.
In one study, 1725 previously sedentary subjects (M+F) did 20 mins aerobic and 20 mins strength 1-3 days/week for 10 weeks. Strength exercises were standard, and resistance (weights) was scaled so they could do one set of 8-12 reps. Objective function was lean mass. 1 day/week gained 0.7lb, 2,3 day/week added 3.1lb. Other investigators with previously sedentary subjects and different exercises got similar results.
Fit young men did 8 exercises, maximum effort, 3 sets of 10 reps. Objective function was weight to tire them out at 10 reps. With 24hr inter workout period, result was significantly below baseline. 48hr slightly below baseline. 72hr and 96hr similar and significantly above baseline.
Conclusion: if the objective function is muscle mass (hypertrophy) or maximum force, you really do need to let your muscles grow undisturbed for at least one day if not two. Endurance is not limited by the muscles, though, so results may or may not be different with that objective function.