Often referred to as the father of sports medicine, Dr. Hans Kraus helped President Dwight Eisenhower develop the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and served as President John Kennedy’s back specialist. Kraus dedicated much of his career researching ways to manage pain, especially back discomfort. Kraus’ work led the creation of the Kraus-Weber Fitness Test, a program featuring six exercises to evaluate an individual’s overall muscle fitness.
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Kraus-Weber exercises aren’t meant to build strength but to determine whether or not an individual has the acceptable minimum core muscle strength and flexibility. Being unable to perform even one of the six exercises qualifies as failing the test, allowing physicians to create a specific exercise program geared towards strengthening the muscles responsible for failure.
The first Kraus-Weber exercise calls for the completion of one simple sit-up. Assume a standard sit-up position with your back flat on the floor, your knees bent and your feet planted. Have a friend or examiner kneel on your feet to keep them anchored to the floor. Now, with your hands clasped behind you head, sit up, using only your core muscles.
The second Kraus-Weber exercise involves a variation of the first, this time having the subject perform a sit-up with his legs extended and not bent. The examiner should hold the legs down to provide support. Again, with your hands clasped behind your head, use your back and core muscles to roll into a sit-up. Performing the exercise with straight legs lessens the involvement of the hip flexors and places more emphasis on the abdominals.
The third Kraus-Weber exercise tests the hip flexors. Lie on your back and raise your feet eight inches off the ground. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Inability to keep your feet elevated or having to significantly arch your bad to sustain elevation amounts to failing the test.
Lie on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your head and a pillow positioned beneath your lower abs and pelvis. Have your friend or examiner press down on your feet and pelvis to stabilize you. Now raise your head, chest and shoulders off the ground. Hold the position for 10 seconds. This exercise tests the muscles of the upper back.
Remain in the same position as the previous exercise, except this time the examiner must press down on your upper back and shoulders to pin your chest to the floor. With your feet together, lift your legs off the ground and hold the position for 10 seconds. This exercise targets the muscles of the lower back.
Stand erect, feet together with your arms at your sides. With the examiner holding your knees straight, bend forward to touch the floor. Remain in contact with the ground for at least three seconds. This exercise tests overall flexibility, especially in the muscles of the back.