However, no matter your age…
- If you are to get through the day comfortably;
- If you are to have the strength to reach out to others;
- If you are to meet emergencies;
- If you are to recover quickly from illness or surgery;
- If you are to remain pain-free;
- If you are to maintain good posture…
…there is a basic level of physical fitness below which you dare not fall. It is called Minimum Fitness and it starts with maintaining good posture by making sure that the key posture muscles are in good working order.
Key Posture Muscles
Key Posture Muscles, the ones that keep you standing erect and are responsible for taking you through the day are: abdominals, psoas, upper back, lower back, and hamstrings.
The Kraus-Weber or K-W Test measures the strength and flexibility of the key posture muscles. The fitness of these muscles is defined by Drs. Hans Kraus and Sonja Weber as “minimum amount of strength and flexibility needed to support and move the body properly in everyday activities.”
The following six tests of key muscle groups represent the minimal performance necessary for healthy living. Because this is a MINIMUM test, you will need to be able to perform ALL SIX PARTS successfully.
- Position: Lie down on back, legs straight, feet held down, hands behind neck. Action: Roll to a sitting position once.
- Position: Lie down on back, knees bent, feet held down, hands behind neck. Action: Roll to sitting position once.
- Position: Lie on back, hands behind neck. Action: Lift both legs up 8-10 inches from floor, hold for a count of 10 seconds.
- Position: Lie face down. Place small pillow under hips. Lower body held down, hands behind neck. Action: Lift upper body off floor and hold for a count of 10 seconds.
- Position: Life face down. Place small pillow under hips. Upper body held down, head resting on hands. Action: Lift lower body from hips and hold for a count of 10 seconds.
- Position: Stand, feet together, knees straight. Action: Bend slowly forward and see how close you can come to touch the floor. If you can touch, hold for count of three. If you can’t touch, measure distance from finger to floor.
If you are NOT able to perform #1 and/or #2 you have 50% chance of having or getting low back pain. If you are NOT able to touch the floor as in #6 you have 50% chance of having or getting low back pain. If you are NOT able to perform #1, #2 and touch the floor as in #6 you WILL have or get low back pain.
How Can I Fix My Muscles?
If you failed any of the K-W tests do the following exercises each day. When you are able to pass each test you will notice that you are not only stronger and more flexible, but you are less tired, your posture is better and you have less pain. That is because the muscles are doing the work they are intended to do and are efficient. It also means that the neighboring muscles who have been trying to help, but are inefficient for the job, can do their own work.
Bent Knee Sitting Roll-Downs, Arms Extended
Start at the top of the sit-up with legs slightly bent, head down and back rounded. Extend both arms and roll slowly down. Pretend there is a button on each segment of your spine and try to feel each one as it touches the floor. Use your arms to get back up to the top of the sit-up. Do four daily.
Note: If your legs are long and your torso short, this will be easy. If the opposite is true, put a weight on your feet, put them under a chair or have someone hold them down.
Sit-Up With Ball Throw
Begin these after a week of Roll Downs. Start in the supine position with legs slightly bent. Pretend to hold a basketball in your outstretched hands. Throw the imaginary basketball across the room with all your strength as you sit up. Roll down with arms extended. Do four daily.
Crossed-Arm Roll-Downs and Sit-Ups
After you have done the Extended Arms Roll Downs and Basketball Sit-Ups for a time, you will be able to cross your arms over your chest for a Roll Down. Then, as soon as you can, do a Crossed Arm Sit-Up. Do four daily.
Hands Behind the Head: Roll-Downs and Sit-Ups
Lastly, roll down with your hands clasped behind your head as in the test for Abdominals. Sit back up with arms crossed in front. In no time, you will be able to sit up with hands behind your head, and you will have passed the first two parts of the test.
Spine Down Stretch
- Lie flat with knees bent over chest.
- Extend legs straight up to make a right angle. Check to see that your spine is flat on the floor, and not arched.
- Drop bent knees to over-chest position.
- Extend legs again, but lower the feet about six inches from the first extension – about a 45-degree angle. Check to see that your spine is still flat. If you can slide your hand under your back, you have gone too far. Go back to the extension at which you could keep your back flat and do four.
As you grow stronger, you will be able to go lower and lower. The goal eventually will be to reach a nearly horizontal line just off the floor. Do four daily.
Repeat with eight leg lifts. These 16 counts make a set. Do four sets.
FLEXIBILITY for BACK and HAMSTRINGS
Note: Don’t panic because the word “bounce” is connected to an exercise. Ballistic stretch bouncing done properly is now considered superior to “static stretch” in which you hold the extreme of a stretch for a matter of a minute or more.
Stand With Legs Absolutely Straight
- Stand with legs apart and absolutely straight.
- Get your head up and clasp your hands behind your back.
- Lean forward from the hips.
- Bounce gently to rhythm: eight front, eight left and eight right.
- Next, drop your whole upper body — chest, arms, neck, and head — loosely down. Keep your upper body relaxed and bounce eight front, eight left and eight right.
That makes a set. Do four sets.
Remember: Stand with legs absolutely straight.
SOME OFTEN ASKED QUESTIONS
REGARDING THE KRAUS-WEBER TEST
- Why rate failing of ONE test-item as complete failure?
If you fail ONE of a battery of MINIMUM tests you are BELOW minimum. If you have sugar in your urine you cannot be considered healthy even though all other clinical findings are normal.
- Why is a flexibility test part of this battery?
Flexibility is an important part of muscular fitness. Its absence indicates an imbalance…not enough physical outlet to offset the tension of daily life.
- Does the floor touch test depend on size?
No, computations do not show that it does.
- Why does the K-W test apply to all age, sex, weight and height groups?
Because it is self-correlating. It tests your strength against your own body weight and size. As long as you walk you must manage your weight and your height with your key posture muscles.
The History of the Kraus-Weber Tests
The Kraus-Weber tests are the labor of more than fifteen years of study by two Austrian émigrés, Drs. Hans Kraus and Sonja Weber. In 1940 Dr. Weber founded the Posture Clinic at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and she asked her friend Dr. Kraus to join her there. The tests for Minimum Muscular Strength and Flexibility were NOT designed for healthy people, but to determine the minimum muscular effectiveness that persons suffering with various disabilities — for example, disabling backache or posture problems — must have to be able to overcome their difficulties.
It seemed that an ever-increasing number of parents were noticing that their children were developing poor posture and brought them to the hospital for treatment. Kraus and Weber were surprised to find that after putting 200 children through a series of laborious and time consuming physical exams and X-rays over a period of four years that only 10% had spinal pathology and that 90% had no obvious cause. So why couldn’t they stand up straight? European doctors’ training included a lot of muscle work so it occurred to them that perhaps this was a muscle problem.
They devised a battery of tests (the Kraus-Weber or K-W Test) to measure the strength and flexibility of key posture muscles: abdominal, abdominals and psoas together, psoas, upper and lower back and hamstrings, the muscles responsible for holding the body erect. Then they defined fitness for these muscles as the “minimum amount of strength and flexibility needed to support and move the body properly in everyday activities.” Next they devised therapeutic exercises designed to correct the muscular deficiencies, which they identified in the K-W Test.
The test worked on everyone no matter the age, gender, weight, height, or demographics. The test applies to EVERYONE because it is self-correlating. It tests your own strength and flexibility against your own body weight and size. As long as you walk you must manage your weight and height with your key posture muscles. Therefore no norms are needed.
By 1944 they discerned a pattern. Children who did their K-W exercises, regardless of the original problem, no longer had poor posture. Those who didn’t do their exercises or stopped doing them didn’t improve. In other words, if they fixed the weak and inflexible muscles they fixed the poor posture.
With the ending of World War II, they began to notice another problem: the beginning of the epidemic of low back pain. And in 1946 Columbia Presbyterian formed the Back Clinic under the direction of Dr. Barbara Stimson who recruited a whole range of specialists including Kraus and Weber. The new specialty was called Rehabilitation Medicine. They were asked to explore possible links between poor posture, poor postural muscles, and back pain. After 3,000 patients, X-rays and physical exams, the results were identical to those at the Posture Clinic. Very few patients — about 18% — showed a pathological reason for their back pain while the majority — 82% — had no apparent reason for their back pain….although they did fail at least one of the K-W Tests. Also identical were the results: those who did their exercises had no back pain. Those that didn’t or stopped, kept their back pain.
This test and these exercises will work for YOU too. Start yesterday!!
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®