How to Perform the Sit and Reach Flexibility Test

Young woman stretching, low section, close-up (focus on foreground)
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The sit and reach test is the most common way to measure lower back and hamstring flexibility. Because tightness in the low back and hamstrings is often related to muscle pain and stiffness, this test may help determine a person's risk for future pain and injury.

Exercise physiologists and fitness trainers may use the sit and reach test to assess baseline flexibility before an exercise program. Repeating the test after several weeks can help determine progress.

Because it's been around so long, since 1952, the test has a pretty large database of results across all age groups and genders. You can use it to compare a your flexibility to the average result for someone of your gender and age group.

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Why Perform a Sit and Reach Test?

The sit and reach test has its share of critics who believe it's not a useful measurement of functional, or "real-life," flexibility. How often do we need to sit on the floor with our legs straight in front of us and reach for our toes? Not very often.

On the other hand, how often do we need to bend over and pick something up (golf, tennis, baseball), get into a tuck position (skiing or cycling), or even kick something (soccer)? These are real-life examples where good back and hamstring flexibility are needed. But the sit and reach doesn't do a good job of measuring that well.

New flexibility assessments are currently being developed, and many trainers and therapists use their own versions with clients. But until more specialized flexibility tests become mainstream, the sit and reach can help track flexibility changes over time. When used for this purpose, it can be a useful testing tool for general flexibility.

How to Perform the Sit and Reach Test

First, you'll need a special sit-and-reach testing box. You can also make your own testing box by finding a solid box about 30cm tall. Fix a meter stick on top of the box so that 26 cm of the ruler extends over the front edge of the box toward the test subject. The 26cm mark should be at the edge of the box.

  • Get in position: Remove your shoes and sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you with knees straight and feet flat against the front end of the test box.
  • Begin the movement: In a slow, steady movement, lean forward at the hips, keep your knees straight, and slide your hand up the ruler as far as you can go.
  • Stretch and repeat: Extend as far as you can, record the result in cm, rest, and repeat three times.
  • Calculate your results: Average your results for your final score.

Sit and Reach Test Results

Sit-and-reach results compare your own flexibility over time as well as comparing your score to norms, or averages, for your gender and age. Adequate flexibility is defined as being able to reach your toes (the 26-cm mark on the ruler) while keeping your legs straight.

Sit and Reach Test Scores

 Adult Men  Adult Women Result
 34cm or above  37cm or above Excellent
 28 to 33cm  33 to 36cm Above average
 23 to 27cm  29 to 32cm Average
 16 to 22cm  23 to 28cm Below average
 Below 16cm  Below 23cm Poor

Improve Your Flexibility

If you have less than adequate flexibility, work on stretching the major muscle groups about three times a week. Don't limit yourself to stretching your hamstrings; you'll want to improve flexibility in your both your upper and lower body for the most benefits.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. López-Miñarro PA, Andújar PS, Rodrñguez-Garcña PL. A comparison of the sit-and-reach test and the back-saver sit-and-reach test in university students. J Sports Sci Med. 2009;8(1):116–122.

  2. Wells KF, Dillon EK. The sit and reach—A test of back and leg flexibilityRes Q Am Assoc Health Phys Educ Rec. 1952;23(1):115-118. doi:10.1080/10671188.1952.10761965.

  3. Mayorga-Vega D, Merino-Marban R, Viciana J. Criterion-related validity of sit-and-reach tests for estimating hamstring and lumbar extensibility: A meta-analysisJ Sports Sci Med. 2014;13(1):1–14.