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Home > Dysfunction Tests > Abdominal Dysfunction Test

Abdominal Dysfunction Test

rectus abdominis


  1. Lie on the ground on your back with the bottom of your feet flat on the floor, knees bent at 90 degrees, hips at 45 degrees, knees together
  2. If your lower back is not already flat against the ground (i.e. you can’t get your hand under it), flex your abs and tilt your pelvis back so your lower back is in contact with the ground
  3. Straighten both legs and lift your legs until both of your feet are directly above your pelvis (at 90 degrees)

abdominal dysfunction


Legs together and knees locked straight, slowly lower both feet simultaneously all the way to 1 centimeter above the ground

weak abdominals


If at any point your lower back arches (come up off the ground), you fail.  You can assess this by simply feeling it happen, using your hand to feel it happen, or having someone else watch your lower back.  If you can lower both feet all the way to the ground with your lower back still in contact with the ground, your lower abdominals (rectus abdominis), your external obliques, and your transversus abdominis (“TVA”) are not dysfunctional and are strong enough for you to actively train them.  For example, you can do “bicycle kicks” or “flutter kicks” without straining your lower back.

ab dysfunction


Do lower intensity abdominal exercises, like crunches (which hardly work your lower abs at all, and work your obliques only slightly more) until your pass the test.  Alternatively, simply perform leg lowerings just like in the test but only do it to the point that your back comes up off the ground, then reset and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.  Repeat the following day and so forth until you pass the test.

arched back
if your back arches like this, you fail


This test, sometimes called the “Double Leg Lowering Test,” looks for weakness of the abdominal muscles.  Weakness of the abdominals is bad for two reasons.  First, the abdominal muscles act to stabilize the lumbar spine, so if they’re weak, this can put undue stress on the lumbar spine.  Second, if you wish to actively train the abdominal muscles, certain exercises can put strain on your lumbar spine if the abdominals are not strong enough. Examples of abdominal exercises that could put strain on your lumbar spine include bicycle kicks, flutter kicks, and reverse crunches.

So why would anyone want to do these exercises if they can hurt your back?  Well, doing regular crunches is a terrible way to get rid of a protruding belly.  First of all, you can’t “spot reduce” fat (see “spot reduction myth”).  Second of all, there are two components to a “pot belly,” the fat deposits on the belly, and the actual protrusion of the abdomen.  The second component is due to the weakness of the transversus abdominis (“TVA”), sometimes called the “girdle muscle.”  Strengthening the transversus abdominis will “suck in your gut.”  The best way to train the transversus abdominis is to do the very exercises that can put strain on your lumbar spine (see above).

Lastly, please note that when performing this test, the primary muscles being used to lower the legs are the hip flexors (iliopsoas and the tensor fasciae latae), not the abdominals.  Nonetheless, the abs are stabilizing during the motion and the test is assessing abdominal strength.

Further Reading: Related Floota.com Articles

  1. Transversus Abdominis ("TVA") Exercise
  2. Plank Exercise


  1. TopEndSports.com
  2. T-Nation.com

Last Updated: 5/29/2011
Originally Posted: 4/7/2008