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The Crunch Test

A DIY Fitness Assessment
  -- By Jason Anderson, Certified Personal Trainer
Measuring your fitness level regularly is one way to find out if you're making progress. Most fitness centers have trained staff who can evaluate your body composition, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance, but it can be pricey. If you don’t have access to all the toys and tools of your gym, don’t panic. You have everything you need to measure your fitness level in your own house!

The Crunch Test, technically referred to as the "partial curl-up" test, measures abdominal strength and endurance, a combination that more truly reflects your fitness level than strength tests alone. This test is a better choice over the standard sit-ups because crunches are safer for the lower back and target the abs better. A timed crunch test can also be done anywhere.

Equipment needed: A stop watch or timer that can measure one full minute; a ruler; a friend to help keep count and time you (optional).

Goal: Do as many crunches as you can in one minute.

Execution: Although this test involves regular crunches, it has some specific guidelines. Lie down on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your heels about 18 inches away from your behind. Place your arms at your sides, palms down, fingertips next to your hips. Place a ruler next to your fingertips in this position and measure 6 inches further. You can put a piece of paper, the ruler itself, or a piece of tape at that 6-inch marker.

Keep your hands on the floor throughout the test. Just like abdominal crunches, engage the abs to lift your head, neck, and shoulder blades off the floor, but allow your fingertips to slide toward the 6-inch marker. Return to the starting position to complete one rep. Repeat this as many times as you can in 60 seconds, counting only the number of repetitions that your fingertips successfully reach the 6-inch marker. You may rest in the starting position (relaxed), but the clock continues to run.

What this measures: Strength and endurance in your abdominals.

Scoring: Here are the age-adjusted standards based on guidelines published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

Ratings for Men, Based on Age
Rating < 35 years 35-44 years > 45 years
Excellent 60 50 40
Good 45 40 25
Marginal 30 25 15
Needs Work 15 10 5

Ratings for Women, Based on Age
Rating < 35 years 35-44 years > 45 years
Excellent 50 40 30
Good 40 25 15
Marginal 25 15 10
Needs Work 10 6 4

Maybe you’ll find that you’re doing really well. But even if you weren't able to do enough reps to register on the chart, that's OK. Everyone starts somewhere! Just try to improve gradually over time from where you started. Remember, you are looking for improvement in yourself, regardless of what a chart says or how many repetitions someone else can do.

How to improve: To improve your scores on this test, choose strength exercises that focus on the core muscles of the abdominals and lower back. There are lots of variations of crunches that can help build strength and endurance in the abs. Good exercises that target these muscles include: How to know its working: When you're done testing, you can track your score on SparkPeople to keep track of your progress! Over time, you should be able to do more crunches in subsequent assessments. Try to re-test yourself every 2-4 weeks.

This test is a great tool to see how you are doing. If you don’t score as well as you like, just remember to focus on improving your own scores periodically. As long as you are improving, your fitness plan is working. If you find you aren’t making the progress that you feel you should be seeing, it may be time to change your workout routine.