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Ab Exercises for Bad Back PDF: The Correct Sit-Up

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Ab Exercises for Bad Back PDF: The Correct Sit-Up

Sit-Ups with the Power Cushion

Download our FREE “Ab Exercises for Bad Back PDF Guide” to learn how to do a proper sit-up that will NOT hurt your spine!

The sit-up can be performed over a specifically designed exercise support fulcrum called the Power Cushion.

Power Cushion

This product comes in two densities: 1) Blue: the medium density; best for all-around conditioning and 2) Black: the firmest density; ideal for athletes.

You can begin the sit-up over a sleeping bag rolled and secured with duct tape.

Sleeping Bag

How to do the Sit-Up with Power Cushion:

1. Put the Power Cushion on a flat surface and sit down and comfortably place your lower back against the flat side of the Power Cushion. Begin with your hands in front of your chest as if holding small weights.

Sit-Up With Power Cushion

2. Concentrate on your breathing. Breathe in, and you will notice your upper trunk pulls itself naturally over the cushion.

3. Open up your arms when you breathe in. Lean back to keep a slight tension in the abdominal musculature.

4. Take a deep breath and lie your upper trunk over the cushion. Try looking backward with your eyes to tilt back your head for the best possible range of motion.

How To Do The Sit-Up With The Power Cushion

5. Breathe out to reverse the sit-up. Exhaling will naturally work with your abdominal musculature to restore your body to the starting position.

Sitting Up Over the Power Cushion

6. Keep the trunk of your body pressed slightly against the cushion to maintain control of concise eccentric-concentric contractions, keeping constant tension in the musculature.

Trunk of Body Over Power Cushion

As explained in Dr. John Scherger’s “Spinal Core Stability Training & Treatment: The Restoration & Preservation of Proper Structure and Function, December 2002, Volume #2c”, the vertebrae groove in the Power Cushion is for “seating the spinous processes which help straighten out any lateral curvatures (scoliosis) when exercising so the bilateral muscle groups (rectus abdominals, psoas, and external oblique muscles) can provide proper direction of pull.”

We recommend beginning with 5-10 repetitions per set of this exercise. Then, you can complete the same set the next day.

You may increase repetitions once the current repetition is no longer challenging, meaning you do not feel muscle strain or that your back was stretched. You may increase sets by 5-10 repetitions at a time to keep control of progress. After the initial week or two, the average person can perform 25- 50 repetitions, while athletes perform 50-100.

You can also substitute a rolled-up sleeping bag for the Power Cushion to use as a fixed fulcrum. Perform the sit-up over the rolled-up sleeping bag with duct tape versus an exercise ball because the sleeping bag shape can be adapted to work as a fulcrum.

Rolled-Up Sleeping Bag and Power Cushion

People who start Spinal Fitness for the first time may have backs that are too stiff to bend. It is best to start with a soft cushion or pillow that does not make the spine uncomfortable by bending too much. Once flexibility improves, you can move on to using a firmer cushion.

Try passively lying over the cushion a couple of times a day, for several days, to promote curvature into the spine. This should be done for several minutes or whatever is comfortable without any pain or strain.

As you move forward and increase the intensity, see how many sit-ups you can comfortably perform. Then, keep your repetitions at that number until you feel ready to increase them.

The following are excerpts from the Mathematical Analysis of Proper vs. Improper Spinal Posture: Producing Strength and/or injury in Contact Sports manual by Dr. John. Scherger, D.C.

The Physics of The Sit-Up Fulcrum Explained

The purpose of the sit-up fulcrum is to guard the body against any possible tissue straining shear forces that may come up when the body moves into its ideal position against gravity. A back with poor posture displays such a poor mechanical advantage that the fulcrum must set it up to function from a better posture.

Training on the Power Cushion “develops, globally, the proper abdominal, musculoskeletal complex, and it segmentally puts the individual joint into the proper position.”

The spinal column shown sitting up below is braced by the fulcrum. There are two reasons for this:

1. To enable the spine to work as if it already has the ideal posture and allow the proper spinal physiology to function in a safe manner.

2. The fulcrum works as a fixed method to prevent 3rd class shear stabilization that could strain anatomical parts without the fulcrum.

Deeply inhale to synchronize the abdominal musculature to relax and for the posterior back musculature to contract and naturally help pull you over the fulcrum. The primary force of this movement is generated by the external oblique muscles.

Gravity and Sit-Up


When returning to an upright position, deeply exhale while sitting up from a reclined position to synchronize the abdominal musculature to expel air to expire while also contracting to lift the trunk. As you end the sit-up, the primary force of this movement generated switches from the external obliques to the psoas major.

Gravity and Sit-Up

The posterior shear will be stabilized by the fixed durable cushion while in movement, which reduces the need for the body to implement shear stabilization mechanisms.

Posterior Shear Is Fixed by the Fulcrum

As you end your sit-up, your spine should reach a position where all the lumbar vertebrae line up into several 1st class lever systems.

No Downward Or Upward Shear

All our How to Guides are free and written based on Dr. John S. Scherger’s Manuals and Physics Demonstrations:

Core Stability Exercises PDF & Exercises to Avoid
Home Exercise Program for Low Back Pain PDF: Spinal Twist
How to Improve Athlete Performance PDF: Spinal Curve
Lower Back Strengthening Exercises PDF: Power Cushion or Sleeping Bag
Neck Strengthening Exercises PDF Guide: Neck Flexion

Now you can train to improve, restore, and maintain the ideal S-shape spinal posture instead of accentuating or creating the incorrect neutral spine.