Sit And Reach Test Explained: Normative Data & Considerations

Do you consider yourself to be a fitness enthusiast? You might have heard about the sit and reach test if you do.

It is a very well-known test among fitness experts and trainers around the world. In simple terms, it is a means of measuring the flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings.

Of course, there are several other considerations that need to be kept in mind when explaining this test. And an amateur fitness enthusiast may not know about many of these aspects. 

But there is no need to worry because we have explained all the necessary details of this test in this guide. So, if you are curious, then jump right in!

What Is The Sit And Reach Test?

Originally proposed by Wells and Dillon in 1952, the sit and reach test has become one of the most popular flexibility tests over the years. In fact, several variations of this test have been proposed since its inception. But the basic principle has remained the same, which is to measure lower body flexibility.

To be more precise, the test is an indirect means of measuring the flexibility and extensibility of the lower back muscles and hamstrings. These muscles are extremely important for maintaining the stability of your body, especially if you are standing or doing some physically intensive activity.

In the traditional variant of this test, the level of the feet is considered to be the zero mark. So, if a test taker is unable to reach up to this mark, the results are considered to be negative. Conversely, those who can reach the mark get positive results.

However, for the purposes of statistical analysis and comparison, the negative results can be difficult to account for. That is why several variations of this test exist, which take different factors into consideration for providing more comprehensive results.

How To Conduct The Sit And Reach Test?

In this section, we have described how to conduct the sit and reach test. For convenience, we have considered the traditional variant.

Equipment Required

To conduct this test, you will need a sit and reach box that contains a graded scale on the top. Alternatively, you can use a simple block and a yardstick as well. And it is advisable to have an assistant conduct the test and note the measurements.


Step 1 – Before you begin, complete a set of standardized warm-up exercises, such as stretching, squatting, or a slow jog. After that, remove your shoes and take your position on the ground.

Step 2 – Place the sit and reach box against a wall or another static surface. Then place the soles of your feet against the box flatly. Make sure that the heels are a couple of inches apart and the legs are lying flat on the ground. If you are having trouble keeping your legs flat, you can ask the assistant to hold them down.

Step 3 – Keeping your palms facing downwards, extend your arms forward slowly. Place one arm over the other and stretch out as much as possible over the box. Once you have reached the maximum stretchable distance, hold that position for 2 to 3 seconds.

During this time, ensure that both hands are parallel to each other. Breathe normally during the entirety of the stretching exercise, and keep your movements smooth and relaxed. Also, make sure to keep your knees extended throughout the exercise so that your leg does not bend too much.


The scoring of this test is done by measuring the most distant point reached by the fingertips in the stretched position (either in cm or inches). For consistency, the test should be repeated one or two more times so that multiple measurements can be obtained. Likewise, the best measurement out of all the trials should be recorded as the final score.

Normative Data

Below is the normative data for the sit and reach test for different age groups and genders. The values are based on the sit and reach normative data published by the ACSM (The American College of Sports Medicine) in 2018. You can correlate your results with the normative data (in cm) to get an idea of where you stand.

A. For Ages 20 To 29

  • Excellent: >=30 (females) or >=29 (males)
  • Very Good: 26-29 (females) or 23-28 (males)
  • Good: 22-25 (females) or 19-22 (males)
  • Fair: 17-21 (females) or 14-18 (males)
  • Poor: <=16 (females) or <=13 (males)

B. For Ages 30 To 39

  • Excellent: >=30 (females) or >=27 (males)
  • Very Good: 25-29 (females) or 22-26 (males)
  • Good: 21-24 (females) or 17-21 (males)
  • Fair: 16-20 (females) or 12-16 (males)
  • Poor: <=15 (females) or <=11 (males)

C. For Ages 40 To 49

  • Excellent: >=27 (females) or >=24 (males)
  • Very Good: 23-26 (females) or 18-23 (males)
  • Good: 19-22 (females) or 13-17 (males)
  • Fair: 14-18 (females) or 7-12 (males)
  • Poor: <=13 (females) or <=6 (males)

D. For Ages 50 To 59

  • Excellent: >=28 (females) or >=24 (males)
  • Very Good: 22-27 (females) or 17-23 (males)
  • Good: 19-21 (females) or 13-16 (males)
  • Fair: 14-18 (females) or 5-12 (males)
  • Poor: <=13 (females) or <=4 (males)

E. For Ages 60 And Above

  • Excellent: >=24 (females) or >=22 (males)
  • Very Good: 20-23 (females) or 14-21 (males)
  • Good: 16-19 (females) or 9-13 (males)
  • Fair: 12-15 (females) or 4-8 (males)
  • Poor: <=11 (females) or <=3 (males)

Reliability Of The Sit And Reach Test

The sit and reach test can be considered to be a pretty reliable test that gives valid observations for the level of flexibility. However, this is subject to the standardized warm-up exercises that have been conducted. While the test has been designed to be effective without them, conducting proper warm-up exercises has been observed to yield more consistent results among the test takers.

Also, the reliability of the result is improved if you use a similar procedure and equipment to conduct the test each time.

Factors To Consider Before Conducting The Sit And Reach Test

While the test produces fairly reliable results, the variation of certain factors can affect the outcomes drastically. This is due to the fact that not everyone has a similar type of body. 

For instance, a tall person may have a considerable advantage while taking the test compared to a shorter person. Similarly, a person with a leaner body structure might be able to perform the test more easily than someone with a bulky body structure, despite having the same levels of fitness.

That is why we have discussed some of the pertinent factors to consider before taking the test. Some of them can be altered through exercise or physical activity, but others are inherent to the individual, and therefore, cannot be changed.

1. Age

The biggest factor to consider when taking the sit and reach test is the individual’s age. It is a well-known fact that the flexibility levels of your body reduce as you become older. 

As you age, the joints in your body become stiffer, and the muscles lose their elasticity. Because of that, their freedom of movement decreases, which directly manifests as a reduction in the overall flexibility of your body. 

This implies that a young person will be able to complete the test with relative ease compared to an elderly individual. The results of the test are graded separately for different age groups to reflect this fact.

2. Sex

When talking about sex, the average female body has a relatively leaner structure compared to a typical male body. As such, the joints and muscles have a greater degree of freedom when compared to their male counterparts. This puts female individuals at an advantage when taking the test. 

Therefore, to compensate for this difference, the test is graded separately for male and female individuals.

3. Build

The overall build plays a crucial role in determining how easily an individual can perform this test. A tall or lean individual can move their muscles and joints more freely than a person who has a short or stocky build. This is also true for people with considerable muscle mass since the size and density of their large muscles may get in the way of completing this test.

Not only that, but the individual limb sizes may vary as well, which can give rise to considerable differences when taking the test. For example, a person with longer arms will be able to complete the test with good results easily. In contrast, an individual with shorter arms will face a significant challenge in completing the test.

4 .Lifestyle

The lifestyle of an individual is also an important factor that needs to be considered. A sedentary individual will have considerably less flexibility than a person who leads an active lifestyle. 

For instance, an average white-collar worker spends most of their day sitting at a desk in an office. So, they will naturally have lower flexibility than, say, a construction worker, who needs to move around a lot when working.

Other Variations Of The Sit And Reach Test

As we have stated before, apart from the traditional method, several variations of the test exist today. There are some minor differences in the procedure of these tests, but by principle, all of them produce similar results. Thus, the choice of the test to be employed comes down to individual differences, preferences of the test taker, or ease of use.

On that note, the most common variations have been listed below.

  • Modified test
  • V sit and reach test
  • Unilateral sit and reach test
  • Bilateral sit and reach test
  • CSR or chair sit and reach test
  • Stand and reach test
  • Toe touch test
  • Back-saver sit and reach test

Advantages Of The Sit And Reach Test

The different advantages of the sit and reach test have been discussed below.

1. Quick And Easy To Perform

This is a very simple test that does not require you to have a lot of technical knowledge or training. Because of that, anyone can perform this test at any time without any hassles. On top of that, the core procedure is very short, which means that it can be performed in an instant.

2. Authentic Results

All the results obtained from this test are completely valid and fairly reliable, which is why this test is so popular for testing lower back flexibility. It gives a very clear idea of your flexibility levels so that you can plan your fitness routine accordingly.

3. Requires Minimal Equipment

The only equipment that you will require to conduct this test is a sit and reach box. Even if you do not have that, a simple block and yardstick will suffice. There is no other equipment or instruments that you need to carry around for this test, which makes it convenient.

Disadvantages Of The Sit And Reach Test

While this test has its benefits, there are certain drawbacks to it as well, as we have discussed in this section.

1. Issues With Variability

This test fails to account for the individual differences in body types which limits its overall effectiveness. That is why so many variations of the test have been developed over the years to compensate for these differences. Even then, the results vary between different genders and age groups, as is evident from the normative data.

2. Not Very Comprehensive

The test only measures the flexibility levels of your lower back muscles and hamstrings. It does not measure the flexibility of any other parts of your body, such as your upper back, arms, or shoulders. So, you do not get a comprehensive idea about your overall body flexibility.

Final Words

That is about everything we have to say about the sit and reach test. As you can see, it is not that difficult to do, so you can safely conduct it to measure your lower body flexibility.

If you engage in a lot of physical activity, you are guaranteed to get excellent results. However, there is no need to be disheartened if the results are not as good. You can improve on this aspect if you undertake a proper exercise regimen after consulting with your trainer.

Anyways, our work here is done for now. We will be back again soon!

Niklas Lampi

My name is Niklas Lampi and I work as a fitness writer, nutritional consultant and personal trainer. My favourite exercise is the bench press and my favourite food is pizza!

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