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Back Pain Center

What Exercises Should You Not Do When You Have an Annular Tear?

author image Brian Willett
Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for and He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.
What Exercises Should You Not Do When You Have an Annular Tear?
A man deadlifts a kettleball in the backyard. Photo Credit: marekuliasz/iStock/Getty Images

An annular tear is a serious medical condition in which the annulus, a ring-shaped ligament surrounding your spinal discs, is subjected to too much pressure and rips. If you have a physical job or engage in activities that put stress on your back, you may be at more risk for an annular tear than a more sedentary individual, as the annular tissue acts as a shock absorber for your spine. Because of the grave nature of annular tears, modifying your workout is necessary for safety reasons. Consult a doctor before performing any exercises with an annular tear.

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Barbell Squats

The Laser Spine Institute recommends working out your muscles, particularly your legs, while you're recovering from an annular tear, as this will prevent stiff joints, a compromised immune system and muscle weakness. However, barbell squats are a bad choice because this exercise involves holding a lot of weight above your shoulders. This can put undue pressure on your back, possibly aggravating your annular tear. Instead, try dumbbell lunges, which target your quadriceps and glutes, the prime movers in barbell squats.

Clean and Press

The clean and press may be the worst exercise for an annular tear, as this lift engages your back to lift a barbell in an explosive manner. The second part of the lift involves pressing the barbell above your head, meaning you'll be holding a lot of weight above your head, which puts pressure on your back. Work your back through a less-explosive exercise such as seated rows. Clean and presses also work your triceps, so a better option may be triceps cable pushdowns, which work your triceps without putting any weight above your head.


According to the Laser Spine Institute, impact is one of the primary risk factors for annular tears. So high-impact activities are inappropriate because they may worsen the condition. Running, which involves recurring impact with the ground, is not recommended for those with annular tears. Instead, go swimming or biking, which are low-impact activities that, like running, can improve your cardiovascular conditioning.


As with squats, deadlifts help improve the strength of your quadriceps and build core strength. Unfortunately, your back helps lift a heavy weight, and it is a lift that requires recurring bending -- both of which are risk factors for annular tears. Leg extensions can replace the quadriceps aspect of this exercise, while planks can help enhance your core strength.

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