Sit and Reach Test

Original Editor -Manisha Shrestha

Lead Editors  

Introduction and Purpose

The Sit and reach test is one of the linear flexibility tests which helps to measure the extensibility of the hamstrings and lower back.[1] It was initially described by Wells and Dillon in 1952 and is probably the mostly used flexibility test. It has a simple procedure, is easy to administer, requires minimal skills training for its application, and the equipment necessary to perform the test is affordable. Furthermore, it is also a field test which is easy to administer in a community setting with a large scale of population size.[2]

A good level of flexibility of the hamstrings and lower back is advocated as it plays a key role in health related fitness. Areas where it is important include:[3]

  • Injury prevention - acute or chronic musculoskeletal injuries and lower back problems
  • Risk of falling
  • Gait limitations
  • Postural deviations

Technique

  • There are various techniques and variation of the Sit and Reach test. The one which is explained below is based upon the Young Men's Christian Association (YCMA) from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guideline, 2014.[4]
  • Pretest: Clients/Patients should perform a short warm-up prior to this test with some gentle stretches. During the test participants are suggested not to do fast, jerky movements, which may increase the possibility of an injury. The participant’s shoes should be removed.
  • A yardstick is placed on the floor and tape is placed across it at a right angle to the 15 inches mark. The client/patient sits with the yardstick between the legs, with the legs extended at right angles to the taped line on the floor. Heels of the feet should touch the edge of the taped line and be about 10 to 12 inches apart.
  • The client/patient should slowly reach forward with extended arms, placing one hand on top of the other facing palms down, as far as possible, holding this position for approximately 2 seconds. Be sure that the participant keeps the hands parallel and does not lead with one hand. Fingertips can be overlapped and should be in contact with the measuring portion or yardstick of the sit-and-reach box.
  • The score is the most distant point (cm or in) reached with the fingertips. The best of three trials should be recorded. To assist with the best attempt, the client/patient should exhale and drop the head between the arms when reaching. Testers should ensure that the knees of the participant stay extended; however, the participant’s knees should not be pressed down. The client/patient should breathe normally during the test and should not hold her/his breath at any time.
  • Note the zero point at the foot/box interface to use the appropriate norms. So for YCMA the “zero” point is set at the 15 inches mark.[4]
[5]

Normative values of Sit and Reach Test

Fitness Categories for the YMCA Sit-and-Reach Test (in) by Age and Sex[4]

Variations

  • Unilateral sit and reach test 
  • Back-saver sit and reach test
  • Bilateral sit and reach test
  • V sit and reach test.
  • Modified sit and-reach test
  • Toe-touch test
  • Canadian Trunk Forward Flexion Test
  • Chair sit-and-reach test (CSR test)- It was proposed as an alternative for assessing hamstring flexibility in elderly people with correlation coefficient of  0.76 and 0.81 for older men and women respectively.[2][6]

The choice of the test to be employed is more often based on the examiner’s preferences, ease of use, professional discipline, or tradition, rather than scientific evidence as there is still no convincing proof or conclusively provided evidence of which test is the most appropriate to use to assess hamstring and low-back flexibility.[2]

Evidence

Lemmink et al. (2003) showed moderate inter class correlation co-efficient(r) of 0.57 and 0.74 in middle aged older men and women respectively.[7]

Ayala F et al. (2011) showed acceptable reproducibility measures for the sit and reach test with 8.74% coefficient of variation (CV) and 0.92 intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC).[8]

According to the meta-analysis done by Vega et al. (2014), Sit-and-reach tests had a moderate mean criterion-related validity for estimating hamstring extensibility (mean correlation coefficient, r= 0.46-0.67), but they had a low mean for estimating lumbar extensibility (r = 0. 16-0.35). [1]

Thus, evidences shows that sit-and-reach tests have a moderate mean criterion-related validity for estimating hamstring extensibility and classic sit and reach test protocol seems to be best to estimate hamstring flexibility.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mayorga-Vega D, Merino-Marban R, Viciana J. Criterion-related validity of sit-and-reach tests for estimating hamstring and lumbar extensibility: A meta-analysis. Journal of sports science & medicine. 2014 Jan;13(1):1.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Baltaci G, Un N, Tunay V, Besler A, Gerçeker S. Comparison of three different sit and reach tests for measurement of hamstring flexibility in female university students. British journal of sports medicine. 2003 Feb 1;37(1):59-61.
  3. Cuberek R, Machová I, Lipenská M. Reliability of V sit-and-reach test used for flexibility self-assessment in females. Acta Gymnica. 2013 Dec 18;43(1):35-9.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 http://antoinedl.com/fichiers/public/ACSM-guidelines-2014.pdf. Last assessed: December 20, 2019
  5. University of Delaware Exercise Science. ACSM Sit and Reach Test. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q23yXIYoagk [ last assessed: 2019-12-20]
  6. Jones CJ, Rikli RE, Max J, Noffal G. The reliability and validity of a chair sit-and-reach test as a measure of hamstring flexibility in older adults. Research quarterly for exercise and sport. 1998 Dec 1;69(4):338-43.
  7. Lemmink KA, Kemper HC, Greef MH, Rispens P, Stevens M. The validity of the sit-and-reach test and the modified sit-and-reach test in middle-aged to older men and women. Research quarterly for exercise and sport. 2003 Sep 1;74(3):331-6.
  8. Ayala F, de Baranda PS, Croix MD, Santonja F. Reproducibility and criterion-related validity of the sit and reach test and toe touch test for estimating hamstring flexibility in recreationally active young adults. Physical Therapy in Sport. 2012 Nov 1;13(4):219-26.