PT on the Net Research

Sit and Reach Flexibility Test


Question:

Can you please inform me of the correct procedures and/equipment usage and their measurements used when doing the sit and reach flexibility test? I need to settle a dispute with colleagues in the work place.

Answer:

At first glance, this would seem like a simple question to answer. However, there are a number of sit and reach protocols out there. The “standard” sit and reach test is the one described by the ACSM in 2006 and CSEP in 2003, which in fact is the modified Wells and Dillon protocol from 1952. This test involves the following procedure:

Standard Sit and Reach Test

Equipment: A sit and reach box with a zero point at 26 cm (10.4 in) (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Warm up: The client should warm up for this test by performing slow stretching moments such as the modified hurdlers stretch (see Figure 2) held for 20 seconds and repeated twice on each leg.

Figure 2

Procedure: Have the client sit on the floor with knees extended and the soles of the feet against the edge of the box. The inner edges of the soles of the feet must be 15.2 cm (6 in) apart. The client keeps the knees full extended, arms evenly stretched and hands parallel with the palms down (fingertips may overlap) as the client slowly reaches forward as far as possible along the top of the box. The client holds this end position for approximately two seconds. Advise the client that lowering the head maximizes the distance reached. The client’s score is the most distant point along the top to the box that the fingertips contact (see Figure 3). Administer two trials and record the maximum score to the nearest 0.5 cm.

Figure 3

A version of the standard sit and reach test is the “modified” sit and reach test as described by Hoeger. The purpose for modifying the standard test was to account for potential differences in limb length. Figure 4 below demonstrates this concept very clearly. Interestingly, research by Minkler and Patterson has shown that the modified and standard sit and reach tests are equally valid assessments of low back and hamstring flexibility.

Figure 4

Figure 4 above shows the modified sit and reach test. The top panel shows the effect of someone with long legs and short arms. The bottom panel shows how the modified sit and reach test accounts for the short arms. “B” equals the total distance. FBD is the distance from the fingertips at the zero point to the soles of the feet.

Modified Sit and Reach Test

Equipment: This test uses a 30.5 cm (12 in) sit and reach box.

Warm up: The client should warm up for this test by performing slow stretching moments such as the modified hurdlers stretch (see Figure 2)held for 20 seconds and repeated twice on each leg.

Procedure: The client sits on the floor with the buttocks, shoulders and head in contact with the wall, knees extended with soles of the feet against the box. Keeping the head and shoulders in contact with the wall, the client reaches forward with one hand on top of the other. The top of the box is extended until it touches the fingertips (see Figure 5). The client then reaches forward slowly, sliding the fingers along the top of the box. The most distant point contacted by the fingertips is measured to the nearest 0.63 cm (0.25 inch).

Figure 5

In conclusion, it is fairly easy to determine what the correct protocol for a particular test is when it is clearly defined which test is being examined.

References:

  1. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). 2006. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (7th edition). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams &Wilkins.
  2. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP). 2003. The Canadian Physical Activity, Fitness and Lifestyle Approach: CSEP-Health & Fitness Program’s Health-Related Appraisal and Counseling Strategy (3rd edition). Ottawa, On: CSEP.
  3. Hoeger, W.W.K. (1989). Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Morton.
  4. Hoeger, W.W.K.  and Hopkins, D.R. (1992). A comparison of the sit and reach and the modified sit and reach in the measurement of flexibility in women.  Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 63: 191-195.
  5. Hui, S.C., Huen, P.Y., Morrow, J.R. and Jackson, A.W. (1999). Comparison of the criterion-related validity of sit-and-reach tests with and without limb length adjustment in Asian adults. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 70: 401-406.
  6. Minkler, S. and Patterson, P. (1994). The validity of the modified sit-and-reach test in college-age students. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 65: 189-192.
  7. Wells, K.F. and Dillon E.K. (1952). The sit and reach: a test of back and leg flexibility. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 23: 115-8.