Purpose: To assess the strength and endurance of the patient's lumbar extensors.
Test Position: Prone with the upper body and abdomen off the edge of the table. A pillow is placed between the hips and the table to decrease lumbar lordosis.
Performing the Test: The arms are crossed across the chest. The cervical spine should be held in neutral or flexion throughout the test (extension is not permitted). The examiner stabilizes the lower extremities of the patient, while the patient maintains a level torso off the ground parallel with the table's surface for as long as possible, but no longer than 5 minutes. Note that if the patient has weak hip extensors, it is okay to stabilize the pelvis during the test.
Normal values: While the test says to stop at 5 minutes, this does not mean the norm is for 5 minutes.
Importance of Test: As you take a look at those sitting around you, it should be obvious that a slouched posture is a common sight. The longer those positions are maintained in a lifetime, the weaker our lumbar extensor muscles become (the muscles required to maintain upright posture in sitting!). This test determines how long those muscles can function before becoming fatigued. It should be noted that lumbar extensor endurance is a better indicator of low back health than lumbar extensor strength. Lumbar extensor strength is a greater indication of athletic ability.
Note: tests should only be performed by a properly trained health care practitioner.