About Testing the Abdominals

There are numerous fitness tests for measuring the function of the abdominal muscles (or 'abs' as they are called in the fitness industry). This is a very important area for testing, as abdominal strength or abdominal muscle endurance is an indicator of core strength and therefore core stability and support of the lower back.

The tests fall into two main categories, abdominal strength and abdominal endurance (see the list below). In the abdominal strength tests, assessed is the ability of the abdominal muscle to function optimally and hold a correct position under increasing difficulty. In the abdominal endurance tests, assessed is the ability to perform repeated abdominal curls in a set time (e.g. one minute) or at a set rate. Which test you use will be dependent of what you are trying to measure, weighed up against the costs and ease of conducting the test.

The techniques for the abdominal endurance sit-up tests used for the US defense forces (US Army, US Marines, US Navy), the home test and other endurance tests vary slightly. Make note of the instructions such as where the hands are held (across the chest, behind the head, on the side of the head, out in front), how far you have to go back (shoulders to the ground, head to touch) and how far you go up (to touch your knees, chest to thighs), the angle of the knees (usually 90 degrees) and whether the feet are held or not. Being consistent with the technique will improve the reliability of the tests. When comparing the results to normative values, you should make sure that the testing technique, test conditions and subject populations are the same.

Abdominal CurlSit Up endurance tests are usually conducted over a one minute period, and measure the maximum number of correctly performed situps in that time. The home test is one example of this. The Army, Navy and Marines use a two minute test, and allow rest breaks. An alternative to the one or two minute test is a sit-up test that is continued until exhaustion at a given pace given by a metronome or audio recording.

Sit Up strength tests do not require repeated sit-ups to be performed. The 7-Stage and the simpler variation the 4-Level test require the subject to perform sit ups of increasing difficulty. Similarly, the Straight Leg Lift monitors the ability of the abdominal muscles to function as the difficulty of the movement increases.

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