Testing your abdominal muscle strength

While you may find a number of abdominal muscle strength tests in exercise and fitness books, the curl up is the most reliable and valid test of the abdominals that you can perform at home. Since the curl up is based in research, you will be able to compare your results to your peers by age group and gender.

The curl up test is performed on a mat. Place tape on your mat 3 inches down the mat from your fingertips as shown. When you do the curl up, you must be able to touch the tape each time, keeping a pace of 1 curl up every 3 seconds (20 per minute)*. Once you slow down, the test is over.  See your results on the charts below.

*To ensure that you score the test correctly, get a metronome app for your mobile phone, such as Mobile Metronome.  Set the app for 40 beats per minute.  Then you can time your curl up to the beat of the metronome:  1 beat on the way up and 1 beat on the way down.  You may need a friend to watch and help you keep pace correctly.

Note: A "Superior" rating means your score is in the top 15% when compared to the men or women in your age group.

Research for the Curl Up Test is out of Canada (1). At this point, there has been analysis, but no update to the Curl Up Test. There is, however, a classical abdominal strength test you can try at home. This test was devised by Florence Kendall, a pioneer and leader in physical therapy muscle testing.

Upper Abdominal Muscle Strength Test

Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and arms at your sides.

1) Slowly curl your spine off the floor, reaching your arms out in front of you, until you are in a full seated position with your legs flat on the floor. (This movement is called a Roll Up in Pilates) Was this easy? Proceed to #2

2) Curl up the same way, but with your arms folded across your chest.
Try #3 if this move was also easy.

3) Fold your arms behind your head and curl up.


Poor: Unable to raise up from the floor in exercise #1
Fair: Able to curl up, but not to full sitting, for exercise #1
Fair+: Can curl up to a full sitting position in exercise #1
Good: Can curl up with arms folded
Normal: Can curl up with arms behind head 

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Rob Cowell, PT is the author of whyiexercise.com and the new book, Progressive Core Strengthening.  This website was created from his knowledge and experience in physical therapy, fitness and athletics. Thanks for visiting!

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