Curl-up / Half Sit-up Test Protocols

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ACSM Curl-up (Cadence)

Subject lies supine on mat with knees bent at 90° and feet on floor. The arms are extended to sides with fingers touching a piece of masking tape. A second piece of tape is placed beyond the first piece:

  • 12 cm apart for subjects less than 45 years of age
  • 8 cm apart for subjects 45 years or older

Set metronome at 40 beats per minute. At the first beep, the subject slowly lifts the shoulder blades off the mat by flexing spine until finger tips reach the second piece of tape. At the next beep, the subject slowly returns shoulder blades to mat by flattening lower back. Subject repeats curl-up in time with the metronome (20 curl-ups per minute).

One repetition is counted each time shoulder blades touch the floor. Subject performs as many curl-ups as possible without stopping, up to a maximum of 75 repetitions. The test is terminated if the cadence is broken. 

Allow the subject to practice a few repetitions before test begins. Instruct the subject to breathe easily during the exercise, so as not to invoke the Valsalva maneuver. Make sure that the fingertips are not beyond the first line in starting position.

Curl-up and Half Sit-up formSince elevation of the truck to 30° is the important criteria, alternative techniques can be considered:

  • placing hands on thighs and curling up until hands reach knee caps.
  • hands positioned across chest with head activating a counter when spin is flexed 30°.
    • Author's note: may be slightly more difficult, since weight of arms are positioned further up from spine articulation (shifts center of gravity away from fulcrum(s) essentially creating longer lever arm)

American College of Sports Medicine, (2000) ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Sixth Edition, 84-85.


YMCA Half Sit-up (1 minute)

  • Equipment
    • Stopwatch or clock with second hand
    • A mat (optional)
    • Four 6" (15 cm) strips of self-adherent Velcro
      • perpendicular to body
      • 3.5" (9 cm) apart (ensures 30 degree spinal flexion)
      • placed rough side up
  • Procedure
    • Subject lies supine
      • knees bent at right angle
      • palms face down
      • fingertips on first strip of Velcro
    • Instruct subject to maintain relaxed shoulder position
    • Signal "Go" and start timer
    • Subject performs as many repetitions as possible in one minute
      • Flex spine so fingertips of each hand reach second strip of Velcro
      • Return to starting position
        • Shoulder returned to touch mat
        • Head need not touch
      • Repeat until minute has expired
    • Subject should breath easily during test
    • Score number of repetitions

YMCA of the USA (2000), YMCA Fitness Testing and Assessment Manual, 4th Edition.


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