Abdominal Strength Test

I’ve recently been working as a personal trainer in a gym. As an endurance coach this been great for me — and of course the whole point of doing it. I’ve seen a much wider range of clients than my typical ultra-distance athlete. This has caused me to do a lot of research, and a lot of rethinking how to best serve everyone. 
I have started to apply the following test for my gym clients. It’s super easy to do. If you are an ultrarunner, endurance cyclist, triathlete or adventure racer racer – YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO LEVEL 4! The stress of what we do requires a strong core — it’s a prerequisite. Before you delve into big weeks and overload — whether it be speed or volume or both — get that core strength up to par.
The test is just various forms of sitting up, that will progressively challenge you anterior core strength.
Level 1
Successful Body Transformation

Easy? You got it with no hitching or jerking, and kept both heels on the floor? Excellent. You’re ready for Level 2.

Level 2
Successful Body Transformation

When I tried this on two Testosterone Muscle guys at a conference in September, the middle-aged editor passed, but the contributor who’s a competitive bodybuilder couldn’t do it without one leg coming off the floor. It can be humbling.

Level 3
Successful Body Transformation

It’s harder than it looks.

Level 4

The key with this one is to keep your arms next to your ears throughout the movement. That means your shoulders, neck, and head all move up as one unit. The editor didn’t get this one in September, but after months of training with the Level 3 exercise he says he can do several reps of Level 4 before his form breaks down.

Successful Body Transformation
• Women tend to have more success with these progressions than men, at least in the testing stage. (Editor’s note: hey, wait a second… ) I don’t know why it works that way, but I can tell you the gender disparity disappears with training.
• Many athletes who have trouble with these movements will tell me they’re too bulky up top, or their torsos are too long. Sorry, I’m not buying it. These athletes simply lack the relative torso strength they should have.
• If you want some variety in your training, it’s okay to add load to any of these exercises — using a med ball, dumbbell, weight plate, or whatever else you have around that you think you can use safely and effectively. Just don’t modify the exercises with an external load in the assessment process.
now what? whether you are level 1 or 4 continuing to work on the core is important. here is the best core workout i’ve found. write the exercises down and start with low reps. comments and opinions welcome!
*thanks t-nation for the original article