The Sit and Reach Test: Benefits & Normative Data

The sit and Reach test is an indirect measure to assess hamstring and lower back flexibility. Hamstring and lower back flexibility are important for activities of daily living and sports performance.

The sit and reach test was first proposed by Wells and Dillon in 1952. Since then, a few variations of the test have been proposed. Below we’ll look at how to perform the Standard Sit and Reach Test, what to do with the data, factors that affect the data, and the advantages and disadvantages of the sit and reach test.

How to Conduct the Sit and Reach Test

To conduct the sit and reach test, you will need:

  • Sit and Reach Box.
  • Assistant.

Prior to completing the sit and reach test, ensure:

  • The athlete completes a standardised warm-up, which includes some stretches.
  • The athlete removes their shoes.
  • The Sit and Reach Box is on a flat surface against a wall.  

Now that we are ready to conduct the test, follow the instructions below:

  1. The athlete sits on the floor with their legs extended forwards and feet flat against the box.
  2. Instruct the athlete to slowly reach forwards as far as possible with the palms of their hands, and hold that stretch for three seconds.
  3. Ensure that the athlete:
  • Keeps their hands on the box at all times.
  • Keeps their knees extended.
  • Breaths normally throughout and does not hold their breath.
  • Use’s one smooth movement rather than a bouncing or jerking movement.
An Image of an athlete performing the sit and reach test
An athlete performing the sit and reach test

To score the test:

  • The assistant must record the score as the most distant point reached by the athlete with their fingertips (measured in cm).
  • The athlete can complete this test twice, and the best of the two scores is recorded.

Sit and Reach Test Normative Data

Below is normative data for the sit and reach test for males and females from The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Age (years)20 – 2930 – 3940 – 4950 – 5960 – 69
Excellent≥ 29≥ 27≥ 24≥ 24≥ 22
Very Good23 – 2822 – 2618 – 2317 – 2314 – 21
Good19 – 2217 – 2113 – 1713 – 169 – 13
Fair14 – 1812 – 167 – 125 – 124 – 8
Poor≤ 13≤ 11≤ 6≤ 4≤ 3
ACSM (2018) Sit and Reach Test Normative Data for Males

Age (years)20-2930-3940-4950-5960-69
Excellent≥ 30≥ 30≥ 27≥ 28≥ 24
Very Good26 – 2925 – 2923 – 2622 – 2720 – 23
Good22 – 2521 – 2419 – 2219 – 2116 – 19
Fair17 – 2116 – 2014 – 1814 – 1812 – 15
Poor≤ 16≤ 15≤ 13≤ 13≤ 11
ACSM (2018) Sit and Reach Test Normative Data for Females

Now that we have the athlete’s Sit and Reach Test score, we can compare their score to sit and reach test normative values from the ACSM in the tables above.

The ACSM doesn’t provide any details (e.g., population, training history, limb length, etc.) about the population this data is collected from, so caution must be taken when comparing your performer against this data.

When comparing your athlete’s score to these normative values, be aware of the type of box that you are using, as each box might be slightly different. The values above use a sit-and-reach box where the toe line (also called “zero point”) is at the 15cm mark, as shown below.

If you use a box in which the toe line is set at a different mark (e.g., 26cm), you will need to make adjustments from each value in the table above (e.g., if the mark is set at 26cm, add 11 to each value) to be able to compare.

Sit and reach box in which the toe line is set at 15cm.

We can also monitor our athlete’s hamstring and lower back flexibility over time. To do this, we can ask the athlete to perform the test again and compare the data with the athletes’ previous score. Following training or an intervention, we would expect the athlete’s Sit and Reach Test score to increase, which would indicate their hamstring and lower back flexibility has improved.

Factors to Consider for the Sit and Reach Test

It is important that we consider factors that influence flexibility and acknowledge that certain factors can’t be altered through training or an intervention, these include:

Gender

Women are typically more flexible than men.

Age

As you age, your muscles and joints become stiffer and less flexible. This means we are at our most flexible when we are children and over time, this is lost.

Activity Level

The more active an individual is, the more likely it is that they are moving their joints through their range of motion and generally they would have a greater level of flexibility.

Muscle Bulk

It may be difficult for athletes with large muscle mass and density to complete certain stretches because their muscle mass gets in the way. 

The Benefits of the Sit and Reach Test Include:

  • It is relatively simple and fast to perform.
  • It can be completed anywhere.
  • It requires minimal equipment.
  • It is widely used and standardised procedure, which allows for athletes’ data to be compared to normative data.

The Disadvantages of the Sit and Reach Test Include:

  • It requires a sit and reach box.
  • It doesn’t account for variations in limb and torso length, which may influence the score.
  • It has limited applicability to sport and “real-life” flexibility.

Questions People also Ask on The Sit and Reach Test

How can I improve my sit and reach flexibility?

To improve your sit and reach flexibility, we recommend increasing your flexibility in the following areas:

  • Hamstrings
  • Lower back

If you would like to learn more, read our article on flexibility.

How do you improve sit and reach test results?

  1. Increase flexibility in your hamstrings.
  2. Increase flexibility in your lower back.

Is the sit and reach test reliable?

The sit and reach test has been considered as highly reliable when a standardised warm up and protocol is used each time the test is conducted. It is also important to ensure the conditions (e.g. environment, test box, etc.) are the same each time the is repeated.

What is a good sit and reach test score?

Below is normative data for the sit and reach test for males and females from The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Age (years)20 – 2930 – 3940 – 4950 – 5960 – 69
Excellent≥ 29≥ 27≥ 24≥ 24≥ 22
Very Good23 – 2822 – 2618 – 2317 – 2314 – 21
Good19 – 2217 – 2113 – 1713 – 169 – 13
Fair14 – 1812 – 167 – 125 – 124 – 8
Poor≤ 13≤ 11≤ 6≤ 4≤ 3
ACSM (2018) Sit and Reach Test Normative Data for Males

Age (years)20-2930-3940-4950-5960-69
Excellent≥ 30≥ 30≥ 27≥ 28≥ 24
Very Good26 – 2925 – 2923 – 2622 – 2720 – 23
Good22 – 2521 – 2419 – 2219 – 2116 – 19
Fair17 – 2116 – 2014 – 1814 – 1812 – 15
Poor≤ 16≤ 15≤ 13≤ 13≤ 11
ACSM (2018) Sit and Reach Test Normative Data for Females

You can use the tables above to determine what a “good” score is for your gender and age.

How is the sit and reach test scored?

The sit and reach test is scored by recording the most distant point reached by the athletes with their fingertips (measured in cm) when reaching forwards on a sit and reach box. The athlete can complete this test twice, and the best of the two scores can be recorded.

Summary

The Sit and Reach Test has its share of limitations, but it is still a simple, fast, convenient and widely used method to measure hamstring and lower back flexibility.

Test scores can be compared to normative data or we can re-test athletes later to monitor their progress over time. We must be aware that factors that influence flexibility including gender, age, and limb length cannot be altered.

Further Reading

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • Dingley, E (2021). Sit and Reach Test. Available from: insert link. [Accessed dd/mm/yyyy].

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Emily, co-founder of Sport Science Insider, graduated from the University of Leeds in 2020 and went on to become an accredited S&C coach with the UKSCA in 2022. A former athlete herself, Emily has since gone on to deliver S&C coaching for the Southern Academy of Sport, GB Rowing, GB Taekwondo and works currently as a full-time S&C coach at the University of Leeds.