Infofit's career specialists are ready to answer your questions.


If this is an after hours call, we will contact you the next business day.

Inside The Core – Choose the Best and Most Accurate Assessment

What Fitness Professionals Need to Know When Choosing the Best Core Assessment

The lumbar spine, particularly the lumbopelvic junction, also know as the core,

is comprised of twenty-nine dynamic muscles. Each designed to stabilize, transmit force and work synergistically during daily and sport movements. Within these muscles, there are four that are particularly important to remember. They include the transverse abdominis,

obliques, multifidus and quadratus liumborum. Research by Paul Hodges, PT discovered  that when someone suffers a low back injury, the transverse abdominis becomes absent or delayed. Further research has shown those with chronic low back pain, the mulifidus is weaker than those without an injury.

transverse abdomins
Transverse abdominis and obliques
Multifidus and quadratus lumborum muscles
Multifidus and quadratus lumborum muscles

Assessing The ‘Four Horseman’

There are a multitude of assessments at the finger tips of a fitness professional. Choosing
the most accurate and objective assessments should be the cornerstone of any fitness

The plank and the side plank are two objective tests that should be in your
fitness arsenal. The four point plank test challenges the erector spinae and paraspinal
muscles. While the side planktest challenged the obliques and quadratus lumborum

Four Point Plank Test

front plank

Grading for both tests is as follows:

Normal: Able to lift pelvis off and hold straight 15-20 second count.

Good: Able to lift pelvis off but has difficulty holding spine straight for 15-20 seconds.

Fair: Able to lift pelvis off but has difficulty holding spine straight for 10-15 seconds.

Poor: Able to lift pelvis off but cannot hold for 1-10 seconds.

Trace: Unable to lift pelvis.

side plank

Steps for side plank testing:

  1. Position the client in a side lying position with the elbows flexed at 90 degrees while resting the upper body on the elbow.
  1. Ask your client to lift their pelvis off the table/floor while keeping the legs straight.
  1. Observe the ability of the client to maintain and hold this straight erect position(torso, hips and legs).
  1. Once the client’s hips dip down, trunk side bends or knees bend, then mark their time.
  1. Repeat the test 2-3x per side, recording their best time.

Multifidus Test

This test assesses the client’s ability or inability to properly contract the multifidi. Have the client lie prone, then palpate multifidi muscle which is ~1” above ilium. Provide instructions asking the client to extend their hip 1-2” off the table and observe what muscles the client elicits.

Normal Movement:

To teach the client to contract the multifidi first, palpate the muscle (figure 1) (instruct the client to perform an anterior pelvic tilt (which shortens and contracts the multifidi), and then have them lift one leg straight up into the air.

Abnormal Movement:

Common compensatory movement is to activate the glutes or hamstrings first, then contract the lower back (this is dysfunctional) as seen in figure 2.

Look at the pointed finger, her glute maximus is contracting before multifidi. The multifidi are supposed to fire first, followed by the glute maximus and then the hamstring musculature.

Figure 1. Normal motion
Figure 1. Normal motion
Figure 2. Compensatory motion
Figure 2. Compensatory motion

Continuum of Care


In order to work with any potential client who has experienced a prior injury, surgery or other dysfunction, the fitness professional should ensure they understand the following:

  • Functional anatomy
  • Biomechanics
  • Understanding the kinetic chain
  • Joint movements and actions
  • Exercise prescription
  • Periodization training/program design
  • Post rehabilitation principles

If you are weak or don’t understand these areas, study and learn the essentials. Second, if a client seems very complicated or you are confused, contact the client’s physical therapist through a phone call or email.

Written By Chris Gellert, PT, MMusc & Sportsphysio, MPT, CSCS, C-IASTM

Advanced Training Specialist (ATS) Certification

The Advanced Training Specialist (ATS) Full Certification Program consists of 5 Dynamic Home Study Courses purchased as a package.


Infofit is in compliance with the WorkSafe BC and the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) orders. Personal Training Certification Courses are in person. Please visit Standards of Safety for more information.