by Jamie Atlas
Tagged with assessment, exercise, fitness, fitness assessment, flexibility, functional training, hammies, hamstring, hamstring flexibility, hamstring stretch, Health, low back flexibility, sit and reach, toe touches
Your ‘sit and reach’ test results have nothing to do with your functional flexibility
In gyms across the world right now someone is sitting in a small room with a measuring device between their heels – straining, grunting and reaching with both hands for an ethereal point just beyond their toes.
The participant will try to hold that point for 2-3 seconds then exhale and lean back, looking up hopefully at the personal trainer conducting their initial fitness assessment.
The trainer will jot down the number, look back at the hopeful face of the client and smile awkwardly, saying “not bad… something to work on for later”.
You will then likely be given a ‘ranking’ to let you know how poor/well you did.
But what was the test supposed to measure?
Was the test supposed to measure how well you can bend over to pick something up? So why did they test you from a sitting position and not standing?
Do I think a sitting flexibility test is a good measure of functional flexibility? Not in a million years.
We use our hamstrings standing up, not sitting down.
If a test is designed to help measure increases in function, the test should be based in function.
When we lean our bodies forward to smell a flower/tie our shoes/pick up laundry, the muscles in the lower back and legs (in fact most of the muscles on the back half of our body) receive a signal.
The signal that is sent through the body as you lean forward goes something like this:
“Hey all you back-half-muscles!!! Something just happened and this body is tilting forward at an accelerating pace! If we don’t switch on and all work together to pull, we are going to end up landing our pretty face right into that rose bush/concrete/pile of smelly undies!”
WHEN LENGTHENING THE HAMSTRINGS, WHICH VERSION DO YOU USE MORE OFTEN – SITTING OR STANDING?
- At gym, doing non-functional movement because trainer tells you to
- in bed, reach forward to pull off socks
- reach over to pick up kids/toys/diapers/kids in diapers holding toys
- pick up keys off of coffee table
- field ground ball
- completing a volleyball dig
- bend over to tie shoes
- swing club in golf
- lean forward for a backhand shot in tennis
- tilt our body forward FOR ANY REASON from a vertical position.
Does it make sense to you that a more FUNCTIONAL test would be to measure your flexibility from a standing position?
So print this off and give it to your trainer/local gym rat and say “what do you think of that? That guys crazy, right?” then give them a second to look it over, then a few more seconds to watch their wheels start to turn as they realize that they have been testing for something completely different than they thought they were.
Let me know what they say…
Just don’t tell them where I live – I am still catching heat for my ‘never run on a treadmill again‘ post a couple of months ago that upset more than a few tread-lovers out there.
Bottom line: Don’t blame the trainer. Don’t blame the fitness club. They are only doing what has been passed down to them from the previous generation of sports scientists.
Know that this test is a great measure of your ability to do this test – not necessarily of the flexibility you need in the real world.
Just wanted you to know that
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