Old Backs and Strength Training Exercises

The dead lift injury thread has me thinking – what exercises, and loads, would be sufficient for 1) building bone density and 2) developing muscle recruitment for cycling, other than barbell squats and dead lifts?

I still dead lift and squat at 53 – but I’ve worked on my form with a coach. However, old spines may not be well suited to those exercises, even with good form (and I’ve had a couple of lower back injuries in the past – 20s and 30s).

I’ve done single-leg dead lifts, goblet squats, and single-leg romanian dead lifts from Feb-August, with the barbell lifts in Oct-Jan. I’m wondering if the light loads (less than half of what I do with bilateral, barbell lifts) are enough for bone density and fiber recruitment.

Building bones and keeping muscle without the bar? What say ye?


Am thinking box jumps. My wife enjoys jump rope workouts (there is an app for that…lol).

Found a paper on jumps: Effectiveness of resistance training or jumping-exercise to increase bone mineral density in men with low bone mass: a 12-month randomized, clinical trial - PMC

RT trained twice per week with a minimum of 48 hours between sessions and JUMP three times per week with at least 24 hours between training.

JUMP intervention included different jump exercises that varied in intensity, direction, single- or double-leg: squat jumps, forward hops, split-squat jumps, lateral box push-offs, bounding, bounding with rings (lateral), box drill with rings, lateral hurdle jumps, zigzag hops, single-leg lateral hops, progressive depth jumps (10–100 cm), and jumps off a box.

I used to do some light plyometrics, but then I began to worry about 50-something tendons and hopping on and off of boxes…

I use a lighter kettlebell.

What I’m wondering is if the mass/load is enough to stimulate bone density adaptations, and muscle recruitment adaptations.

Is doing 50-70lbs on a single leg lift enough to get what we’re looking for?

What is the minimum required force to stimulate accelerated bone density adaptations? That’s probably the right question to ask. Then work back from there…


My understanding is that any type of closed-chain type of work is going to stimulate the adaptations your looking for. To continue the stimulation, you would need to increase the load as you adapt. I’m in my 60s so I’m not looking for increasing, just maintaining. That’s why the kettlebell works okay for me.

This is a Chad question. Get the podcast on it.

Minimum mass/load required to stimulate bone density adaptations?

I could live without the muscle recruitment benefits for cycling performance – I’m going to stop racing in two more years, and I have lost every sprint I’ve contested since the Reagan administration. Better bones as I get near 60? That’s what I’m talking about.


It would be a fun Deep Dive.

What I have seen consistently for many years, including 25 years ago when I worked on bone diseases, is simply to walk 30 minutes per day. Walking is enough load to avoid losses due to sedentary life style. To actually build bone mass and what the minimal load is makes for a tougher question.

There is some emerging literature on vibration being a stimulus. The thought being that it’s sort of the aftershocks of a shock from say landing a jump or a footfall in running that propagates the signal to “make bone”. Not particularly useful yet for us 50+ guys but interesting research.

Anyway, good searching but my review of the literature always leads back to Jumping, Running, Lifting Weights.

Looking forward to the podcast :slight_smile:



Personally, (at age 46) I only do Romanians. Most form breakdowns in deadlifts are in the lower position. The bulk of that worry is removed with the RDL. Also, I only rep with about 65% to 70% of max and do higher rep counts. I know that the studies show 8-12 reps over 45-60 seconds provides the best return on your time investment but I’m not 20 anymore and I’m not cycling and strength training for a living.

Also, something you may want to try is more plyometric type work. I’ve found that I get significantly more benefit out of jump squats and dumbbell dead rows than heavy squats and deadlifts.

*I only take the dumbbell down to my shins in the dead rows for the same reason I only do RDLs.

** For a great group of exercises you can do at home with just a set of dumbbells, check out “Best Dumbbell Exercises for ….” series on the Athleanx channel on YouTube. They have 6-8 exercises for each major muscle group and they cover all of the exercise types. Prehab/rehab, concentric, eccentric, plyo, and corrective exercises. It’s good stuff.

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My classroom is on the third floor. That’s three flights of school stairs (which ends up being like 6 flights of stairs at home), three or four times a day to check my box in the mail room, make photocopies, or just get up from my desk. I jog them rather than walk them. I wonder if that’s also a decent stimulus, although the impact is low.


Better than 99% of the other guys taking the elevator!! But we don’t care about the average sedentary person :slight_smile:

FWIW, don’t know how much that behavior pattern matters, but I do the same thing. Am in corporate world but I try to take a decent hallway walk a few times a day and will always use the stairs (also 3 flights in our buildings). I’d estimate 20 min walking around to and from meetings and 12-15 flights on a good day. Between that and weightlifting hopefully enough.

I know we’ve had similar thought patterns hitting 50. Starting to pay more attention to healthy decades ahead as opposed to PRs on the bike or maxing FTP.

Just a +1 on this. HIs videos are solid stuff.

I’ll throw in some other (dumbbell/kettlebell) weighted stuff… step-ups, reverse lunges. At the other end of 5th decade and started lifting around your age, so I skipped the risk of bad form and don’t use barbell on squats/deadlifts and instead use safer alternatives.

Exactly! Send it in to the podcast!

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If your concern is excessive spinal load and your goal is bone density, why not just go running?

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because three operations on my right knee between '81-'83.

running and I have not gotten along since operation #1.

Yeah, but you said you’re fine squatting :wink:

That said… barbell compound lifts and running are some “easy” answers that meet the needs of large segments of the population, but not all. However, for people with injuries or circumstances that render them both inappropriate, you’re starting to veer into very specific circumstances where the right answer is going to be for them specifically. There are answers for those circumstances, but they are going to depend on exactly what’s going on, why squats aren’t appropriate, why running isn’t appropriate, and so on. At some point, the right answer is to talk to a Physio or personal trainer who is looking at you and evaluating your situation.

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Hex bar deadlifts.

You just stand up.


I’m 65, had ruptured disk in the past, and do barbell squats and deadlifts without pain. I sought instruction in proper form, and have built quite a bit of strength with both lifts, which unfortunately is associated with weight gain. I’m going to keep it up, but cap the poundage to try to loose some of this.

As a 53 year old female I am concerned about making sure I signal my body to “make bone”.
I hope mtb gives me an advantage in that as I’m pretty sure the trail buzz and impacts that come with that are enough to trigger that signal ,:crossed_fingers:but it would be good to know for sure.
I have tried plyometrics in the past, but get neck pain from an old whiplash injury.
I can jump on to boxes without this issue. However, I’m waiting for a hysterectomy and can’t do impact work at the moment. I’m doing regular strength work, such as plank, lunges and squats with light weights. I’m building and making progress.
Working with special needs children, I spend a significant amount of time in a soft play room “walking” on my knees and resisting pulls and pushes as I play and interact with the children.
This adds up to frequent proprioceptive signalling - stimulation of the joints.

It would be interesting to know if frequent low level signalling to make bone added up to the same amount of signalling as high impact/ weight lifting. And what is it that creates the signal? Is proprioceptive feedback part of that signalling?