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What Is a Sit and Reach Test?

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  • Written By: B. Koch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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The sit and reach test, also known as the V-fold test, is a way of measuring flexibility in the back and legs. It was introduced in 1952 by Wills and Dillon and today, is part of the President's Challenge physical fitness test, an awards program for school-aged children. The sit and reach test is conducted by sitting with legs outstretched, feet against a box, and reaching towards the toes.

The test is conducted by having an individual sit on the floor with his legs together and outstretched in front of him. He should not be wearing shoes. Next, the individual reaches forward as far as he can, bending at the hips and waist. The distance the tips of the fingers reach beyond the toes is measured.

Although many gyms have specially-made sit and reach boxes, this test can easily be completed at home without any specialized equipment. A bottom step can be used instead of a box. A ruler should be placed on top of the step, and the reach can be measured from there.

This type of test is designed to measure flexibility, especially the flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings. Tightness in this area can result in an exaggerated lumbar curve of the spine. This condition is called lordosis, hyperlordosis, or lumbar lordosis and can result in back pain.

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There are a number of different ways to measure the distance reached in the sit and reach test. Measurements can start at zero at the toes, and any amount reached beyond that is measured. This does not provide accurate information for statistical analysis as anyone who cannot reach their toes will reach a negative number. Instead, some tests place the scale so that the toes are at 9 inches (23 centimeters), resulting in positive measurements that are useful for analysis.

Another version of the test is the modified sit and reach test. This is used for individuals with very short or very long limbs. In this test, the zero mark is adjusted to each individual's sitting reach, which results in the most accurate measurements.

There is a general scale used to measure sit and reach abilities, ranging from very poor to superior. When the zero mark is at the toes, a -7.5 inch (-20 centimeters) reach for men and a -6.0 inch (-15 centimeters) reach for women is considered very poor. Over 10 inches (27 centimeters) for men and 11.5 inches (30 centimeters) for women is considered superior. Measurements of 0 to 2 inches (0 to 5 centimeters) for men and 5 to 4 inches (1-10 centimeters) for women are average.

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