Protocols for the sit & reach test

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The sit and reach test is a test often used in gym classes and other fitness testing settings to test the flexibility of your hamstrings and lower back muscles. The traditional variation in the United States is the sit and reach test from the President’s Challenge Fitness Awards, which considers your sit and reach score in an overall score for physical fitness.

Sit and Reach Box

The Presidential Challenge sit and reach test requires a Presidential Challenge sit and reach box to score your flexibility. These boxes have measurements on the top, usually in centimetres or inches, to measure the distance your arms can reach toward your feet. Similar sit and reach boxes can also be made at home with minimal materials.

Taking the Test

Stretching or warming up before the test can be helpful to maximise flexibility. To prepare for the sit and reach test, sit and extend your legs straight out in front of you, knees flat against the ground. Place your feet flat against the box, shoulder width apart, and your hands on top of one another, palms facing downward. When ready, take three practice reaches forward, as far along the measuring line as possible with your knees flat against the ground. On the fourth reach, you must hold your reach for two seconds, while the distance reached is recorded. If you can’t keep your knees straight and flat against the ground when testing, ask another person to hold your knees down as you reach.


Scoring is recorded to the nearest centimetre or 1/2 inch from the tips of the fingers. Most President’s Challenge sit and reach boxes set their zero mark at the feet, which is set at 9 inches so that there are no negative numbers when comparing scores. This measurement means that if you can reach your toes, you have hit a score of nine inches. Being able to reach your toes is considered a good score.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Because the President’s Challenge variation of the sit and reach test is the most common of all variations, you can compare your score to a large amount of data, and sit and reach boxes that comply with President’s Challenge rules are not difficult to find compared to other sit and reach test box variations. However, this variation of the test puts those with long arms and short legs at an advantage, and those with short arms and long legs at a disadvantage.

Other Variations

The modified sit and reach test is less common, and boxes that comply with its rules are harder to find. However, the advantage to the modified sit and reach test is that it accounts for relative arm, leg, and body length, which the traditional sit and reach test cannot do. The U.S. Navy also has a variation of the sit and reach test, but its differences are mainly in its measurement scale and zero mark.

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