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A woman in pink leggings and a black top performs a sit-and-reach test on a white device over a green mat.

Sit and Reach Normative Data

Table of Contents

What is the sit and reach test? 

The definition of sit and reach test is a measuring test to determine the level of someone’s flexibility. The sit and reach test is a common fitness test that measures the flexibility of your lower back and hamstrings. The test is simple to perform and only requires a few minutes to complete. The test involves sitting and reaching forward using either a tape measure or testing box. 

Flexibility refers to the ability to move the joints through their full range of motion. If you are anything like me, you might find that your flexibility is not what it once was.

Whether this is due to a chronic injury, a sedentary lifestyle or merely a component of age, having pliant muscles is key to performing daily activities. Still, you might not be exactly sure how to measure your flexibility. One test that commonly used in the evaluation of flexibility is the sit-and-reach test.

The Sit-and-Reach Test Defined

There are two sit and reach components: the testing box, and the sit and reach ruler. The testing box is a device used to measure flexibility. It consists of a box with a sliding ruler attached to it.

As you may have already guessed, this examination only involves sitting and reaching. You will be required to sit down on the floor (preferably on a padded mat below your trunk and legs). Position yourself so that your legs are out in front of you.

Your toes should be pointed towards the ceiling, and the back of your knees should be as close as possible to touching the floor. It is common to use either a table or a box to make certain that your feet are completely upright. 

Firmly place the ruler on the table so that the edge closest to you lines up with the zero-centimetre mark (the beginning of the ruler). Then, slowly bend forward until the tips of your fingers are as far along the ruler as possible without straining yourself and measure the distance.

How to Perform the Sit and Reach Test

Before we look at some typical sit-and-reach normative data results, there are a few suggestions to keep in mind.

First, it is important that you warm-up. Cold and tight muscles will not provide an accurate reading of your flexibility. Perform basic stretches for the lower back and the hamstrings. Then, slowly ease yourself into the sit-and-reach position. Never perform any quick movements when reaching forward; you could pull your hamstrings or the muscles in your lower back. 

Sit and Reach Test Protocol

To obtain the most relevant sit-and-reach normative data, it is a good idea to perform this test three different times while resting for a few moments between each stretch. If you are like me, you will notice that you can reach farther out after the first two attempts. The best way to obtain an accurate result is to take the average of all three attempt

Interpreting the Data

Sit and reach test scores are a measure of flexibility and are often used by physical therapists and other healthcare professionals to assess a person’s range of motion.

First, we should note that women are known to be slightly more flexible than men. Your age and activity levels will obviously also have an impact on how far you can reach. Generally, those who participate in sports or athletes tend to have more supple and pliable muscles than those rarely perform physical exercise.

There are two sit and reach tests types standard and modified. Here are some of the basic guidelines to help you interpret your results, note that these are using the Cartwright Fitness standard sit and reach box which has a baseline measuring line (where the feet sit) of 15 cm this can be adjusted to 30 cm for different protocols. 

Sit and Reach Normative Data Results Table

Result Men Women
Superior >42cm >45cm
Excellent 32 - 41cm 36 - 44cm
Good 21 - 29cm 26 - 35cm
Average 15 - 20cm 16 -25cm
Fair 8 - 15cm 7 - 15cm
Poor 1 - 7cm 5 - 6cm
Very Poor <1cm <5cm

We recommend that you make use of an assistant to manipulate the ruler and to accurately record the findings; we supply a slider as a standard that help track accurate measurements easily.

When I first took this test, I found that I was only “fair” regarding my Flexibility measurement flexibility. Although this was a bit frustrating, the fact of the matter is that muscles can become dramatically more pliant over time Engaging in regular flexibility work can significantly aid the development of flexibility.

The American Council of Health recommends that stretching your hamstrings for 30 minutes a day three times a week will help to increase flexibility within a few months.

This sit-and-reach test is an excellent way to determine your overall levels of flexibility. If you find that you have scored extremely low, this is a good sign that you need to incorporate more flexibility training into your daily routine. 

The great news is that stretching is a low-impact way to prevent injuries and even to burn calories from the comfort of your home. Here is an article on the ACSM site regarding improving flexibility. You will be surprised at the positive results to be enjoyed in nearly no time at all. 

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