Testing You Core: Part 3

Evaluation and Correction of the Abdominal Muscles

We all know that proper strength and endurance of the ‘core’ muscles that protect and surround  your spine is needed to stay healthy and free from back pain.  But very few people actually know how to determine if there muscles are working properly…..

So that is the focus of this four-part article series.  In our previous article we discussed how to test the muscles of the lower back.   In this article we will review the tests (and corrective exercises that can be used to improve strength of these muscles should you find a problem) of the abdominal muscles.

Testing the Abdominal Muscles

To test the endurance of the abdominal  muscles you can perform a test known as the ‘Trunk Flexor Endurance Test’. Here is how you do it:

  • Begin in a seated position with your knees bent approximately 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor or a firm bed or bench.
  • You will need to secure your feet to the floor or bench – you can have a partner hold your feet down, or you can use a strap (see image below)
  • Sit up with your back straight then lean your trunk back so it forms a 60 degree angle. You should feel your abdominal muscles contract as you do this – they will need to be active to hold your trunk in this position.
  • Try to hold this position as long as you can, and record how long you are able to do so and compare it with the normal values reported below.


trunk flexor endurance

What is Normal?

Studies looking at normal (i.e., healthy people with no back pain) people have found that both men can hold the position for about 130-140 seconds.   If your test falls below this mark it is an indication that you are lacking adequate endurance in your abdominal muscles – this may put you at risk for back pain.  If this is the case, exercises to correct this problem are warranted.

Abdominal Exercises


Plank Exercise


Modified Curl-Up Exercise

When people think of abdominal muscles they often think of sit-ups or curl-ups – these are not the best abdominal exercises for most people.  These exercises have actually been show to stress the lower back.

Instead, using a plank or modified curl-up exercise is much safer and more effective.  These are the exercises we use in our office to train the abdominals.

To learn more about these exercises, simply review the Plank Exercise Tract and/or the Modified Curl-Up Tract from our Exercise Library. Here are the links….

Plank Exercise Tract

Modified Curl-Up Tract