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ABS Workout

fitness programme

By Rezaul KarimPublished 2 months ago 7 min read
ABS Workout
Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

If you attended an American public school between 1966 and 2012, chances are you recall the Presidential Physical Fitness Test—a rigorous challenge in gym class comprising a mile run, sit-ups, pull-ups (or push-ups), a sit-and-reach, and a shuttle run.

For the naturally athletic, it offered a chance to showcase their abilities: Those scoring in the top 15 percent earned the prestigious Presidential Physical Fitness Award, often commemorated by having their names painted on the gym wall. But for others, it could evoke apprehension, serving as a reminder of perceived limitations in physical ability. Who doesn't recall struggling on the pull-up bar?

Originating from Cold War anxieties about America's fitness level, President Lyndon Johnson introduced the test in 1966 with the aim of bolstering youth fitness for potential military service. Initially including a softball throw reminiscent of hurling a grenade, the test reflected the military mindset of its time.

In 2012, President Barack Obama phased out the test, replacing it with the Fitness Gram assessment. Unlike its predecessor, the Fitness Gram focuses less on outperforming peers and more on enhancing individual health and well-being. According to Dr. Dawn Coe, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, this shift represents a departure from the one-size-fits-all approach, emphasizing personal improvement over competition.

For those of us who once struggled with the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, many have come to appreciate exercise in various forms and make peace with the test's biases towards certain body types.

But have you ever wondered how your current self would fare on these challenges? I consulted experts to assess each event's relevance in measuring fitness today. With some tweaks, these tests can still offer valuable insights into cardiovascular health, strength, and flexibility—essential components for a fulfilling and enduring life.

Above all, experts emphasize the importance of focusing on personal progress rather than comparison. Health isn't a competition; it's about feeling stronger and more capable over time, perhaps even embracing new challenges.

Let's break down the events:

1. The mile run:

The test: Complete a mile by running or walking at a challenging pace, timing yourself.

What it gets right: This provides a straightforward measure of cardiovascular health and endurance. For those in excellent aerobic condition or seasoned runners, it can also serve as an opportunity to push your speed limits and compare with peers of similar age.

What it gets wrong: Emphasizing speed can feel arbitrary and may deter individuals from running altogether due to the associated discomfort and exhaustion. Rick Richey, a personal trainer in New York, suggests re-framing the question: "How effectively are you challenging your cardio respiratory system?"

How to use it today: If you’re a beginner, start by walking a mile, then gradually incorporate running intervals. Along the way, make a mental note of how the exercise feels. If you can increase your speed over time or feel increasingly better while going at the same pace, you’re winning, Dr. Richey said.

2. The pull-up:

The test: Hang from a pull-up bar with a full extension, palms facing either away or towards you (children were typically allowed to choose, with the former being easier). Pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Count the number of repetitions, with no time limit.

What it gets right: Pull-ups and chin-ups effectively gauge upper body strength, at least in theory.

What it gets wrong: Many individuals lack the necessary strength or biomechanics to complete a full pull-up without targeted training.

How to use it today: While challenging, mastering the pull-up remains a valuable and attainable goal. This exercise targets the back, shoulders, and arms, while also enhancing grip strength, an attribute associated with improved longevity and overall health. With consistent effort and proper technique, progress can be made towards achieving this milestone.

If full pull-ups seem daunting, start by testing your hang time on the bar, advises Dr. Richey. Progress to the flexed arm hang, then try assisted pull-ups using resistance bands to lighten the load. Gradually work towards achieving an unassisted pull-up.

Alternatively, consider the push-up:

The test: Schools often offered students a choice between pull-ups and push-ups. Perform as many push-ups as possible until reaching failure, with no time limit.

What it gets right: Exercise experts unanimously regard the push-up as a gold standard test for assessing not only upper body strength but also full-body strength and endurance. It requires engagement and coordination of multiple muscle groups, promoting overall body awareness from head to toe.

What it gets wrong: When executed incorrectly, push-ups can lead to flawed results. Proper form is essential—beginning in a plank position, maintaining a straight line from head to heels, and avoiding sagging or arching of the back. Quality trumps quantity; it's better to perform one push-up with proper form than several with compromised technique.

How to use it today: Cadence Dubus, founder of the Brooklyn Strength virtual training program, advocates for push-up training as a means to redefine one's perception of strength and capability. With focused practice and attention to form, individuals can gradually enhance their push-up proficiency, fostering a sense of empowerment and achievement.

3. The sit-up:

The test: Technically termed a curl-up, this exercise involves performing partial sit-ups with your back forming a C-shape and arms crossed over your chest. In the Presidential test, participants aimed to complete as many curl-ups as possible within 60 seconds, often with a partner holding their feet down.

What it gets right: Unfortunately, not much.

What it gets wrong: Among all the test events, the curl-up test draws the most criticism from contemporary exercise scientists. Not only does it risk exacerbating lower back discomfort by placing undue stress on the lumbar spine, but it primarily targets the superficial layers of core muscles, neglecting deeper muscle groups.

What to do instead: For a more effective approach to enhancing and evaluating core strength—essential for long-term well-being—Mary Winfrey-Kovell, a lecturer in exercise science at Ball State University, suggests timing how long you can maintain a plank position with proper alignment. Beginners can start with modified planks, with knees resting on the floor, or opt for standing planks against a wall using forearms for support. Progress to traditional plank variations as core strength improves, aiming for a 60-second hold duration.

4. The shuttle run:

The test: Participants run back and forth between two lines set 30 feet apart, completing two rounds as swiftly as possible. At each line, they pick up and deposit a wooden block or chalkboard eraser.

What it gets right: The shuttle run effectively evaluates speed and agility.

What it gets wrong: Without prior experience or training in speed and agility, attempting the shuttle run can pose injury risks, particularly due to abrupt changes in direction.

Expert opinion: Dr. Calvin Duffaut, a sports medicine physician and UCLA Athletics team doctor, expresses concerns about potential injuries associated with the shuttle run, especially for adults lacking familiarity with such movements. The rapid changes in direction increase the likelihood of mishaps.

What to do instead: Many schools have replaced the shuttle run with the beep test, which involves acceleration and deceleration but eliminates the need for sudden directional shifts, making it safer, according to Dr. Duffaut. Nevertheless, enhancing agility— the ability to swiftly change direction—can benefit both recreational activities like pickleball and daily routines. Exercises such as lateral plyometric jumps help improve agility, with individuals gradually increasing their speed over time to gauge progress.

5. Assessing Flexibility: Sit-and-Reach

Procedure: Begin by removing your shoes and sitting with your legs extended against a sit-and-reach ruler box. Lean forward as far as possible, aiming to touch or surpass a designated point. Alternatively, if a ruler box is unavailable, you can perform the V-sit reach by sitting with your feet positioned eight to 12 inches apart and noting your reach distance.

Advantages: This test effectively gauges your reach distance, providing insights into the flexibility of your lower back and hamstrings.

Considerations: It's important to acknowledge that these assessments may not be entirely equitable. Individuals with shorter arms or longer legs may face inherent disadvantages, as noted by Dr. Richey. Even individuals with significant flexibility, like Dr. Richey who could perform a split in three directions, might score poorly due to these structural differences.

Application Today: When used for self-assessment and executed with proper form—emphasizing hip hinge and avoiding rounding of the back—the sit-and-reach test can still offer valuable insights into personal flexibility levels. Both Dr. Richey and Ms. Dubus emphasize the significance of being able to reach one's foot and ankle, highlighting its relevance for maintaining flexibility and preventing potential issues. Regular practice of the sit-and-reach, alongside stretches geared toward improving hip mobility such as the 90/90 stretch, can enhance flexibility over time.


About the Creator

Rezaul Karim

Hello! I'm Rezaul Karim, a seasoned freelance writer passionate about transforming ideas into captivating articles. With 10 years of experience, I specialize in crafting engaging content across diverse topics.

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  • md rezaul Karim2 months ago

    the article looks good

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