Introduction and Purpose
The sit and reach test is one of the linear flexibility tests that helps measure the extensibility of the hamstrings and lower back. It was originally described by Wells and Dillon in 1952 and is perhaps the most widely used adaptive test. It has a simple design that is easy to use requires little skill training and the equipment needed to perform the test is expensive. Moreover it is also a field test that can be easily applied in densely populated areas.
Good lumbar and pelvic flexibility is recommended as it plays an important role in health-related exercises. Important areas include:
- Injury prevention – acute or chronic musculoskeletal injuries and lower back problems
- Risk of falling
- Gait limitations
- Postural deviations
Image: Posterior thigh muscles (hamstrings highlighted in green) – posterior view
There are many techniques and variations of the Sit and Reach test. What is explained below is based on the 2014 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for the YCMA. 
- Pre-Test: The client/patient should do a short warm-up with some gentle stretching before this test. During the test, participants were advised not to make quick, jerky movements, which could increase the likelihood of injury. Participants’ shoes should be removed.
- A measuring tape is lowered and taped at right angles to the 15-inch mark. The patient/client sits with the measuring tape between the legs with the legs extended forward evenly on lines taped to the floor. The heel of the foot should touch and form the end of the taped line about 10 to 12 inches apart.
- The patient/client should slowly reach forward placing one hand above the other facing the elbow as much as possible holding this position for approximately 2 seconds will keep his hands level and not lead with one hand. Fingertips can be and overlaps and must contact the weighing or measuring portion of the sit-and-reach box.
- The control is the farthest point (cm or in) reached by the fingertip. The three best tests should be recorded. To assist in best efforts, the patient/client should inhale and rest their head between the hands as they reach. Examiners should ensure that the participant’s knees stay in place extended; but the participant’s knees should not be pressed. The patient/patient should breathe normally during the test and should not hold their breath at any time.
- Note the zero point at the foot/box interface to use the appropriate criteria. Thus for the YCMA the “zero” point is placed at the 15 inch mark.
Normative values of Sit and Reach Test
Fitness Categories for the YMCA Sit-and-Reach Test (are) by Age and Gender
- 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 method to measure hamstring flexibility in the elderly with a correlation coefficient of 0.76 and 0.81 for older men and women.
The selection of the test to use is often based on the tester’s preference for ease of use and is more a matter of professional discipline or tradition than of scientific evidence because there is no conclusive evidence or definitive set of evidence indicating which test is most appropriate to use observe tenderness of the spine and lower back.
Lemmink et al. (2003) showed a moderate inter class correlation co-efficient(r) of 0.57 and 0.74 in middle-aged men and women, respectively.
Ayala F et al. (2011) identified acceptable reproducibility for the sit and reach test with an 8.74% coefficient of variation (CV) and 0.92 intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC).
According to the meta-analysis by Vega et al. (2014) Sit-and-reach tests had moderate significance relative to the relative standard for calculating hamstring extensibility (mean correlation coefficient r= 0.46-0.67) but had a lower median for calculating lumbar extensibility (2015). r = 0. 16-0.35).  .
Thus evidence suggests that the sit-and-reach tests have moderate mid-range standard-related validity for estimating hamstring extensibility and the classic sit and reach test protocol seems best to estimate hamstring flexibility.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Posterior thigh muscles (hamstrings, highlighted in green) – posterior view image – © Kenhub https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/posterior-thigh-muscles
- http://antoinedl.com/fichiers/public/ACSM-guidelines-2014.pdf. Last assessed: December 20, 2019
- University of Delaware Exercise Science. ACSM Sit and Reach Test. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q23yXIYoagk [ last assessed: 2019-12-20]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.