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Fitness professionals use the curl-up test because it is a quick way to assess muscular endurance. It requires minimal materials and can be easily administered to a group of individuals. Test results indicate potential problems relating to muscular weakness and endurance. These problems can point to individuals who might be at a greater risk for other health problems such as low-back pain.
The curl-up test is performed on a mat with two pieces of masking tape placed 8 cm apart, if you are older than 45, or 12 cm apart, if you are younger than 45. Lie on your back with your knees bent and stretch your arms along the sides of your body, with your finger tips touching the first strip of tape. Sliding your fingers along the floor, curl your upper body off the mat by contracting your abdominal muscles. When your fingers touch the second strip of tape, curl back down to a lying position. You must do this test at a specified rhythm. Set a metronome to 40 beats per minute. On the first click, you must have curled up. By the second click, you must return to a lying position. Perform as many repetitions as you can, up to 75.
The curl-up test requires you to use your abdominal muscles to curl your upper body off the floor. Because you only partially sit up, your hip flexors do not participate in the movement. Fitness instructors used to use a full situp test to evaluate the abdominal muscles, but research has since revealed that when you sit all the way up, your hip flexors do most of the work.
This test looks particularly at the endurance of your abdominal muscles. In anatomical terms, this refers to your muscles' ability to contract repeatedly over a period of time. Muscles with high endurance are more able to withstand fatigue during exercise as well as during daily activities. In particular, having abdominal muscles with high endurance helps prevent low-back pain.
The American College of Sports Medicine has created a set of guidelines for interpreting the results of this test. It provides a range of the number of curl-ups that indicates excellent, good, or average endurance, as well as indications that you need to continue working on or that you need to improve your abdominal endurance. These ranges are sorted by age and gender. You can interpret your curl-up results by using an online calculator.