Spinal Flow Yoga

Standards

Test, score, and track total body strength, stamina, and speed, in 3 minutes.

Warning

Are you ready to take this test? Probably NOT, at least not all of it.

If I were writing this in the 1970s when people were more fit and less fat, I’d say go for it. However, with widespread processed foods, video games, and “strip mall yoga” masquerading as exercise, people have gotten soft, so you’re probably soft. Bootcamps? Pfft, not very good. And gyms? Yes, those of us grunting in the free weight area knew what we were doing, but we would talk at length about how the rest of you always looked basic at best, AND WE LAUGHED AT WHAT YOUR PERSONAL TRAINERS HAD YOU DO. Today even thin people are soft and weak, such that a “dad bod” is something to be proud of, and fat people? “Body positive” or not, well, take the test, you’ll see. It’s those who think they “aren’t doing that bad” that inspired the test.

As such if you are out of shape and you start off as hard as you can, are likely to strain something?


Yes! Yes you are…

…and that’s no way to start a new exercise program. That said if you think you’re in at least modest shape, you’ve read the descriptions and watched the demos, feel free to try, though maybe ease into it and not go for 100% the first time. You get as many tries as you want to better your score later. Just don’t come crying to me if you get hurt. While the tests are basic exercises, I’m presenting them in a bit of a different way so “this is for information purposes only.” I absolve myself from any and all responsibility with regards to what you do to yourself in your own home.

The Standards

3 tests, 60 seconds each

Test 1: LUNGES in 60 seconds (one of two ways), count em.   

Choose one: If first time, I strongly suggest the L2-Lunges.

L2 or “regular” lunges

L3 or “jump” lunges


Rules and comments: 

Alternate legs and your knee MUST touch the floor (softly) every time to count. Record your number. For L2, I’m stepping forward, but stepping back is also okay. With L3 it’s best to stay more centered.


If you look at the video and think, “I can’t even do L2,” score yourself a zero. The good news is that in Spinal Flow Yoga’s F5 sequence there is an L1-Lunge that’s as easy as you want to make it but since L1s don’t have a defined depth they don’t count for score. Barring a major disability, L1 lunges should progress you to L2 at which point you will be on the board. Later if things go well, progress to L3. My mother, who’s 72 years old, tests at 49 L3-Lunges in 60 seconds. She’s officially “elderly” so if you can’t do this test, it’s not the test, it’s you.


I always do the Standards with a timer in view counting down in front of me. I set it for 1 minute 10 seconds, giving me ten seconds to get ready and as soon as it counts down to 60 seconds I go for it. Resting a few seconds is fine if you must, but the clock still counts, and only the reps inside 60 seconds count. Starting out L3, and then downshifting to L2 as you get tired is fine also, so long as your knee touches the floor each rep it counts. 


Record your number, 100% goal for men is 110 reps in 60 seconds, for women 100 reps.

Test 2: PUSHUPS in 60 seconds “man style” FULL range, count em. 

L3 Pushups: One way, ALL the way up and ALL the way down.


Rules and comments:

Your chest must touch the floor at the bottom, you must fully straighten your elbows at the top, and you must keep your core and hips locked straight, no partial reps or “upward dogging.” By going all the way up and all the way down, these are more strict than military pushups, so you’ll get more out of them.


If you can’t, do full “man style” pushups, score yourself a zero. Again, don’t feel too bad, many adults can’t do them. F5 has L1 and L2 (beginner and intermediate) here to fix that. Unfortunately, L2-Pushups don’t cleanly progress into L3 quite the way lunges do so only L3 is included for the test. Not being able to do any tells you where you are. My mom could do 14 last time I checked.

As above, I always do them with a timer counting down in front of me. I set it for 1 minute 10 seconds, giving me ten seconds to get ready and as soon as it hits 60 seconds, I go. Resting and pausing is fine, but the clock still counts and only the reps inside 60 seconds count.


Record your number, 100% goal for men is 60 reps in 60 seconds, for women 35 reps.

Test 3: PULLUPS in 60 seconds, count em.    

Pullups: There’s only one way, and you can do them or you can’t.


Rules and comments:

Technique wise these are regular school yard or military pullups, the only catch is you have only 60 seconds to finish as many as you can, so you can’t hang and rest for very long. To score you must pull your chin over the bar and lower yourself at least 90% of full range of motion.

If you can’t do any, score yourself a zero. If you get a zero, again don’t feel too bad. I suspect most adults these days can do few if any, so weakness has company. Do F5 religiously (well every day, not just Sunday’s) and I bet you’ll do a lot in time. If you have been at F5 for a year and you still can’t do any L3 Pushups or Pullups, you have my permission to feel bad, but keep trying anyway. My elderly mother can do six!

As above, I do them with a timer counting down in front of me, set it for 1 minute 10 seconds, giving me ten seconds to get ready and as soon as it hits 60 seconds, I go. Resting and pausing is fine, but the clock still counts and only the reps inside 60 seconds count.


Record your number, 100% goal for men is 30 reps in 60 seconds, for women 15 reps.

Scoring: 

Max score for men is 200 reps. A total of 110 Lunges, 60 Pushups, 30 Pullups. Max score for women is 150 reps. A total of 100 Lunges, 35 Pushups, 15 Pullups. Your percentage of the total is your score.

Men’s Percent Calculator

Woman’s Calculator

Absolute percent is what matters most.

What percent of man are you, (lol) or what percent of a woman? Both of which are percentages fairly easy to increase. However, if you want a break down into levels the following seem reasonable.

  • 100% plus, (You aced it, F5 has goals that are harder but you’re still killing it.)
  • 80% or above is an A (excellent) 
  • 60-79.9% is a B (above average)
  • 40-59.9% is a C (what should be average)
  • 20-39.9% is a D (not very good)
  • <20% is an F (you flunked, this probably is numerically average these days, like the average SAT score of illiterate wolf boys)

Intents

A.  To shock  

To wake you, to dis”enchant” you, as it were, from what literally appear to be food and fitness industry spells. Spells that make you think you’re healthy “at any size” and that “time in the gym” or walking as exercise results in anything more than mediocrity. It’s my observation that many people are walking around thinking they are fit, healthy, and/or at least kinda “in shape” with frail yoga girls and body positive women being some of the worst offenders. Of course guys with “dad bods” who think they “don’t look that bad” are right there as well. You do look “that bad,” and it’s that belly and chin fat that makes you sleep with a CPAP, accelerates arthritis, then kills you young. While your ego may not like what the standards reveal, your coronary arteries will thank me. With these tests you’ll see yourself like I see you, and hopefully see where you could be with a little (is five minutes too much?) work and self-discipline.

B.  To inspire

You’ll see what scores are 100% performances. Instead of thinking how far away 100% is, envision what you’ll look like if you push yourself to that mark. I mean, I can’t just call people too lazy to do F5 a bunch of losers. I might think that, but I can’t say that, so the Standards are my “plan-B” method to motivate. If it doesn’t work, you can guess what I think, lol.

C.  To have a goal worth talking about

In high school the measure we (guys) lived by and talked about was “what’s your bench?” Long before I lived by this measure I heard the bigger guys talk about it. With bench press being a concrete measure of what we had achieved and what we were continually working to increase, and it worked, it was motivating, we became strong because of it. Lifters who were more sophisticated, added to this “what’s your squat and deadlift?” making the now plural measures more total body, but also more gear intensive, which was cool if you had the gear and/or the time and/or babysitter allowing you regular visitations to your gym.


With Spinal Flow Yoga I was eliminating reliance on a gym, plus I wanted a measure that was more in line with how people want to look, where bigger isn’t always better. And as much as strength should be important to both genders, I couldn’t help but notice that with the whole “what’s your bench” thing… girls just weren’t into it. With the heavier weighing of the female favorite exercise (the Lunge) should be more universal appeal, and Lunges are as important for men, even if they don’t like to train legs. Therefore, I think the Standards are the end all, be all, best simple measure of total body strength, function and fitness. And my substitute question for what’s your bench is, “what’s your percent” on the standards? And if you don’t want to answer, well, lol, just like bench press we know why.

D.  To determine what intensity level you should start on F5 

Honestly, I think the best way to begin Force-5 (F5) is just to look at it, imagine what level you think you should do, start easy, and progress or back off from there, however some people have said they wanted a bit more guidance. With the test being shorter, those with a tendency to NOT go easy, are less apt to get into trouble with the test than with F5.

If you watch the Standards videos and think, “no way” then you’ll probably want to start F5 at Level-1. If you can do the lunges but score less than 40, you’ll probably want to start at L2, or Pushups 20 or less you’ll want to start L2 also. More on each and you’re probably safe to start at Level-3 on each respectively. Pullups are all Level-3 if you can do them, don’t do them if you can’t.

E.  To serve as a preview or showcase for F5 

Spinal Flow Yoga was originally designed to cure spine pain and still does, however rehabilitation is not much of a long term motivator, especially once healed. But it’s inconveniently true that continued exercise and ever improved spine awareness do much to prevent pain recurrence. Therefore I wanted short term reasons to continue, and “I” needed short term reasons myself to continue to work on and improve Spinal Flow Yoga after it was first conceived. That reason manifested itself as an extremely efficient total body fitness program, taking only 5 minutes per day, yet shows results almost immediately.

Interestingly, I think more people have joined Spinal Flow based on the fitness I achieved, as opposed to the research I cite on neck and back pain. I used to think this odd but now I think it is absolutely fair. There is a lot of bad research and a lot of out of shape researchers, many of whom I know have spine pain themselves. But appearance isn’t everything, and one guy’s question regarding how strong I was, how strong Spinal Flow Yoga would make him, helped inspire the Standards. Since I no longer lift weights I couldn’t really answer, in a conventional way. The tests demonstrate not only the way I teach the exercises, but the kind of fitness developed by them. Also the fatigue most will feel after doing just 60 seconds of the test will give some idea of how legit the full F5 program is.

F.  To use as a single determinant to track over time 

The standards are implicit within Spinal Flow’s F5 greater routine, so if you watch your split times you can accurately derive where you are. Being as F5 is for members only, you can use the standards to put the smackdown on any of your non-member friends who are feeling scrappy. And if you are “not competitive” I would suggest you learn to get that way for a few minutes per day, otherwise you’ll never reach your physical potential and your quality of life will be “non-competitive.”

G.  To reveal gross muscle weaknesses and imbalance 

The challenge is a good way to ensure you are balancing both push and pull muscles of the upper body, and as well as balance between upper and lower body. While it’s fairly normal for people to start out able to do a fair number of lunges, a few pushups and no pullups, the test is set up so that best total scores (and that’s what counts) should result from being able kill it on each and every exercise. Thus while thinner, weaker upper body will (and does make lunges easier) but will mean you’ll score poorly on both pushups and pullups. And for guys who like to train upper body and neglect their lower, legs (lunges) contribute more towards a max score than both pushups and pullups combined. So while your girlfriend shouldn’t be able to beat you, she might.

H.   To teach the best way to do F5

While most of the F5 exercises are 2 minutes long, thus longer than the standards. I have found that pacing yourself, even for 2 minutes, is NOT as good as going as hard as you can from the start, then holding on as best as you can as you get tired, literally trying your hardest for every second of the set, with zero pacing, zero saving of one’s energy. The increased speed at the start, per F=MA (force = mass x acceleration) increases force on the muscles and bones, thus making both stronger than would a more even pace over the entire set. So while F5 is usually longer than the Standards 1-minute, I like that the Standards first minute counts for bragging rights, thus encouraging the right attitude. To emphasize this further, as I always have the timer in front of me, I take mental notes of what rep I’m on at the 10 second and 30 second marks, going for mini records on even the smaller splits, and though this was more fatiguing in the short run, it absolutely spurred both greater numbers and increased muscle gains in the long run.

I.   So YOU know instantly if something is off 

I noticed something off with my Lunges after a period of long hours at the computer and related it to what Stuart McGill calls “gluteal amnesia” (which I had previously been skeptical) by my performance on Lunges. In doing so I was able to realize and fix my own injury, but I feel I was able to add something meaningful to the concept. In what I think is not muscle amnesia but rather a prolonged pressure injury to muscle and or nerve, so perhaps more of a “hamstring and gluteal palsy.” And this serendipitous revelation came when I noticed a precipitous drop in my Lunge number. If I had not been continually testing, knowing exactly what I should score, I would have had no idea. The test will tell you many things such as are you losing muscle when cutting weight, gaining fat when bulking, or is something “just not right” for which you should see a doctor to figure out? Knowing exactly where you are at throughout your body, you’ll know something is off. If you aren’t improving over time you’ll know something is not right, and you’ll know something is off, big time, if things worsen.

J.   So you can evaluate instantly FOR YOURSELF how well Spinal Flow works  

If you choose to try F5, being only 5 minutes a day, I honestly think doing it is a no-brainer, and at this point I have complete faith in it, but new people often think it’s not enough. So if you want to see how far your current workout or yoga has gotten you, or you want to try something new, or try something in addition, you can easily do so and retest yourself and see if it helped or hindered. Likewise you can take a break from F5 for a few weeks, test again on the Standards, and see what you lost. It will probably be noticeable.

K.  Finally, if you need help, so I can best relate to your situation

From time to time people want to do consultations with me and Spinal Flow being web-based it’s not like you are standing in front of me in my office. I’m trying to make Spinal Flow Yoga such that consultations are unnecessary, as they are expensive. However, when individual help is needed, whether we are talking about spine pain, fitness, or fasting over the phone, it helps tremendously if we are comparing apples to apples with regards to fitness level. The Standards are the best way I know of to make sure we are both on the same page. Even if you score a zero, that tells me a lot, and any comments I give are likely to vary considerably from what I would say if you were scoring towards the top. Also knowing how you score on one exercise versus another, helps me hone in on where a problem might be. Likewise by knowing how your score improved over time, I can get an idea of how the program is working for you, and thus diagnose if something is holding you back. Finally, knowing what people score in relation to height, weight and age, helps me better gauge most appropriate standards and percentages thereof.

FAQ

1.  Why are you so concerned with the body? Aren’t the Standards overly “physical?” Shouldn’t yoga be more stretch based, spiritual, or at least mental? Is this even yoga?

OK, this is a lot of questions at once but they all kind of blend, and they’re actually my favorite questions that I had to work on, so hear me out.

  • It might surprise some people to learn this but historically yoga has little to do with stretching. With F5 I’m addressing the problem raised by Ramana Maharshi, my favorite jnani yogi (who apparently didn’t stretch) when asked in 1938 whether or not a healthy mind can only be in a healthy body, and “should one not attempt to keep the body strong and healthy?” He replied discouragingly, implying such efforts were meh, saying, “In that way there will be no end of attention to the health of the body.” And with far more respect than I give most, I would agree with Ramana Maharishi that people often take health and fitness too far, and sometimes to the point where it’s absurd, and with the techniques of Hatha Yoga in his time I don’t blame him. But I had his words in mind that I put time limits on Spinal Flow Yoga (so there is an end), and surprisingly noticed it kept working, better in fact, and with F5 whittled down to 5 minutes per day I would have to think he would not object. Also watching Ramana Maharshi’s difficult walking in his later years, it looks like he had a torn hip abductor, for which F5 would most assuredly have prevented. So while I would surmise he’s less concerned about that than most, all the same I imagine given his druthers he’d rather his muscles remained as sharp as his mind. Wherefore 5 minutes spent on Spinal Flow would have sped his walking, sitting, standing, etc., more than making up for the time spent exercising. Interestingly, while Ramana Maharshi wasn’t big on physical exercise, he very much understood the use of mental exercise to strengthen the mind, which is of the exact same concept. A concept from which I’ll soon argue that modern “mindfulness” has digressed from, rather than progressed. Therefore I’ll have much to quote from him when I start writing about meditation, but that’s for a later date. 


  • Yoga Sutra compiler Patanjali, circa ~2nd century BCE (also not known to stretch), in my favorite sutra says, “…strength, adamantine hardness, and robustness constitute bodily perfection.” I very much agree, and think F5 is by far the most efficient way to get there, with downward dogs not getting you there at all. I don’t see downward dogs as being especially mentally stimulating, nor spiritual either. I mean come on, look at em. 


  • Furthermore I would note that being “woke” is one of the easiest things in the world to fake. All you have to do is pretend to be serine, walk around with a dumb smile on your face, speak with a soft… slow…voice, and parrot what others have parroted for centuries about love, bliss, being present, bla. bla. bla. The infamous U.G. Krishnamurti (a man after my own heart) who’s been there, done that, and concluded “whatever,” who trained with the widely influential yogi teacher Krishnamacharya (yet said his stretching didn’t help him) was without a doubt best at calling out spades in regard to phony gurus. His books being well worth reading, prequeling much of own skepticism with regards what there is to gain from the whole concept of seeking. 


  • Around the time I was studying UGK, I was also learning about Japanese Zen Buddhism, wondering what’s up with the Samurai?, and how come in spite of their alleged mental peace and “zeroness with the universe,” they were chopping off so many heads? This brought me to Miyamoto Musashi’s book, and while it seems Buddhism changed considerably traveling from India to Japan, where I thought I was going to critique Musashi, instead I rated it a 10/10. His book was great and while I would not call him enlightened, I absolutely credit him for NOT being a phony, and his read being well better than Suzuki and Kapleau. It’s really easy to lie to others, lie to yourself, or just use your imagination with regards to what you see with your eyes closed, but what you can demonstrate in combat, sport, or the Standards are genuinely verifiable. And while a true Hindu might call that all maya, it’s better maya

My experiences in India were relevant. When I was doing my teacher training in Goa, India, it was interesting that very few of the locals did yoga. My teacher said it was more popular in the West and amongst tourists in India, and that most living in India couldn’t afford to take classes even if they wanted too. Moreover, when I was walking through town, talking to people, definitely more were impressed with my arm size than any stretches I could do. And I was absolutely inspired by a local I saw there, who from what I could tell ran the length of Agonda Beach, did one set of as many pushups as he could, meditated, and ran back. I saw him do it a couple days so I think it was his regular thing, and I even grabbed a couple pics as I thought it was awesome! Not exactly Spinal Flow Yoga, but not far off either. I remember thinking, “that’s legit.”

2.  What’s so good about this test?  
  • I’m unaware of any test that’s so easily accessible, so quick to administer, so evenly gauges upper and lower body strength, speed, and stamina, and tests such a wide group, ranging from miserably out of shape (you score few, or zero reps) to highly advanced (you aced it).

  • So far nobody has been able to ace it. I’m unaware of any test that so adequately tests lower body performance without equipment. The Pistol Squat is probably one of the hitherto most difficult lower body weight exercises, but it takes more coordination and light bodyweight to do, more so than real strength, and you wouldn’t want to rep it like the L3-Lunge because to do a Pistol Squat you must flex your low back fully, likely irritating those with low back pain, and ultimately causing low back pain if you did enough of them. Which probably explains why you don’t see people doing that many. 

  • It’s ultimately functional. You’re manipulating your body with strength and eventually power. That’s how we move in real life, there are no tricks other than improving your total body strength and power to weight ratio. 

  • By effectively double weighing legs per the greater reps possible with Lunges, it puts the smack down on men who just want to train their showy upper body muscles, hiding thin legs with long pants. Which is for their ultimate good, as aggressively working the larger muscle mass of the hips and legs there is more of a systemic anabolic hormonal response, that ultimately helps with the upper body gains they want. Sorry that it’s difficult. Likewise, Pushups are in there, which women usually hate, yet they often complain of ptosis and flabby triceps, go figure. And Pullups just plain make sure everyone is strong. In short, it tests what both men and women don’t like, revealing real and culturally induced weaknesses, with eliminating those weaknesses of both being necessary if you want a great score.
3.  If I score well, what do I get?  
  • Pride? 

  • You’ll look in the mirror and know you’ll look freaking awesome, with no mantras to convince yourself you’re lovable.

  • More energy, everything you lift will feel lighter to you. You can use this energy for good or ill, you’re choice.

  • You’ll be better at just about any other sport or physical activity that interests you, with more time to practice it.

  • Almost certainly you’ll age slower, live longer, sleep better, think clearer, be happier, and have less pain. 

  • If you DON’T do well at first, and most won’t, what you get is an accurate assessment of where you are, and something to build on. Much as most won’t walk into a calculus class and ace, or even pass, the final without a lot of study, most won’t ace or pass this test without training. So unless someone’s a professional athlete I don’t expect anyone to ace the test from the start. For that matter I don’t expect many or any professional athletes will ace the test from the start.
4.  Aren’t these standards a bit severe?   
  • Would you rather it were easy? The scores open to some revision, and if you read below you’ll see I have plans to scale them in the future based on height and age. As of now 100% scores are what I think are reasonable, but still very high levels of human performance for healthy people, in prime years, of ideal weight and roughly average stature, likely only after years of training F5. It’s taking me years, anyway. To prove they’re not theoretical my demo vids are some of my better performances, that are close to 100%, and this is based on my having consistently trained myself daily with F5 (or close variant as I do continually adapt it) since 2017. 

  • 70% is what I’m considering average, but that’s based on what I surmise is a hunter gatherer’s type of average, or a Celtic, Samurai or Apache warrior of yesteryear, not some fat first world middle managing paper pusher today. So if you fail, it’s not the test, and with F5 I’m teaching how best to ace it. 

  • This does raise an interesting question. What’s more motivating for people to better themselves? Feeling positive in the short term by falsely feeling you’re doing great? Or feeling bad in the short term by correctly feeling you’re far from great. I have to think it’s the latter, as only in the latter would you feel a need to change something that would lead to feeling better in the long run.
5.  What’s this F5 you keep talking about?   
  • F5 (or Force-5) is my daily 5-minute “yoga” sequence designed not for stretchiness , floppiness, and sit-stillage but rather strength, stamina, and speed. More info here.
6.  What if I only feel like taking part of the test?    
  • Just take part of the test. If all you can do are a few cautious lunges, and most people can do that, if it were me I would do just that. That at least gets you on the board. Pushups and Pullups may score zeros for many but with progress on F5 that would almost certainly change dramatically for the better. Which is the whole point of the Standards.
7.  Warning stated, what if I don’t feel safe taking the test?     
  • Then don’t take the test. You score a zero by default. If you would like to score higher in the future I would suggest joining Spinal Flow Yoga and beginning the C5 and F5 (both 5 minute) programs to work yourself up. The tests (and more) are implicit within F5. I belabor this point because my audience is wide. I don’t expect tests will be easy for anyone, for many they will still be very safe, but also for many it will be too much too soon, so use your brain.
8.  I have no desire to take the test. What do you say to that?     
  • You still score a zero by default. If you don’t feel safe or ready to take the test that’s one thing. However, if you are saying to yourself you just don’t want to, obviously you’re subconscious knows you aren’t going to do well, likely thus defending a weak ego, much like the fox and his sour grapes. Ironically, this is the kind of person who stands to gain the most from taking the test.
9.  What about gender? Is this test fair to women?      
  • I’m endeavoring to make it as fair as possible. This is tough to answer absolutely as there are many women I know who will beat many men. But overwhelmingly research, sporting, and biology tend to indicate men have the edge in strength and power over women, more so to do with upper body strength than lower. However, while I think some of this difference is biological, I think more is cultural than most would expect. As such I have set different goals for women (total of 150 reps) than men (total of 200 reps) based on a reading of the literature, and more than 20 years experience testing and training people. However, the 100% goals I set are open to revision. As it is now, with scoring being via a percentage, a woman totaling 120 reps (80%) would score higher than a man totaling 150 reps (75%). I think that’s fair.
10.  What about weight?      
  • Obviously, fat people are going to want to lose weight, lose fat specifically, but not an ounce of muscle, hopefully gaining muscle, in the process. On the contrary some skinny people will need to gain muscle and weight, or at least “recomp” so to speak, gaining muscle while at the same time losing fat. I am positive that anorexics will not ace this test, but I would also argue that if they can ace this test, they’ve cured themselves in a way that I imagine most would find both physically and psychologically pleasing. 

  • Even though increased body weight makes the tests harder, the point is to optimize weight around performance. So no credit is given for being heavier. Rather what you get for starting heavy is knowing that your progress should be twice as fast as you have more weight to lose while simultaneously gaining muscle, which is something that F5 combined with IF (intermittent fasting) is synergized to deliver.
11.  What about height?      
  • The current 100% scores are based on people with roughly average height (5 feet 9 inches for men, 5 feet 4 inches for women) and for perspective I’m a tad over 5’10”. I’m sure that shorter people have an advantage and taller a disadvantage, and thus there is some factor that could be applied to the score to normalize height. Unfortunately, I am unsure what that factor is. The single most impressive all around bodyweight repper I have seen is 5’4” and I’m not greatly discouraged I can’t catch him. While a friend of mine is 6’6”, I don’t think he should be discouraged if he can’t catch me. All three of us I expect can become equally jacked per our height, respective to our improvements on the Standards.

  • Height being fixed and weight variable, I think “height classes” are another way to go for comparison sake, as opposed to “weight classes” as are used in weightlifting, and combat sports. There are formulas in weightlifting (e.g. the Sinclair Formula) so that people can compare ability between weight classes but I’m unaware of anything similar with regards to height, and particularly not height with regards to bodyweight repetitions. I absolutely do think that would be an interesting thing in the future to try and determine. In the meantime if you are a lot shorter than me, you better be able to surpass me, and if you are much taller expect to be at a nominal disadvantage, but in actuality you are just training and testing with heavier weights/less reps, which if anything should make you stronger still. Anyway, to be continued.
12.  What about age?      
  • I feel this one, or rather, I don’t. Instead I own this one and I have little mercy for anyone using age as an excuse. I’m middle aged!, 48 years old as I write this, and 48 years old as these demo vids are being shot. I expect my performance will be higher when I’m 50, probably lower when I’m 70 and who knows when I’m 60. However, I have noticed people start making excuses for their age when they’re 30, and while many do decline at that point I don’t think it’s because they need to. Rather I think their exercise is weak, their diets poor, and their lives sedentary. I don’t feel my age at all. I have a few injuries from years of foolishness but I don’t feel like I could have scored higher at a younger age. Still, I think tracking Standards performance over the years to be a very interesting endeavor.

  • Intellectually, I understand that at some point I must slow down, but the longer I resist, the longer I’ll put the smack down on all my younger friends on the standards, which so far is 100%. I’ve mentioned my mother who’s 72 and says she feels 30, and turns in some amazing scores. I don’t want water her goals down either, as I use her to shame most everyone I know.
13.  What about cheating?   

I don’t take steroids.

Oh wait, we’re talking about exercise technique.


That’s a legit issue! And there’s no perfect solution. If you read the contortions the US military has to go through for their fitness tests to fight the fact that EVERYBODY CHEATS THEIR PUSHUPS, and NO JUDGE CAN BE TRUSTED TO SCORE THEM, you would laugh. It was so bad that they literally scrapped real pushups in favor of this floor “hand release” thing and I know for a fact that soldiers are still cheating by not fully extending their elbows, but I digress.


To counter this I’ve done my best to keep my tests as simple and objective as possible, with a high score being matched with that technique that best coincides with muscular development, which is what I think the military lost with their hand release pushup. So for my Lunges, the knee must touch the floor and that’s it, simple. For Pushups chest must touch the floor, elbows must FULLY straighten, and body must stay locked straight. The three points of focus, bottom, top, body lock, are a bit more complex, so take any numbers (yours and others) with a grain of salt unless there is video to prove it. People usually don’t cheat on purpose, and frequently aren’t even aware of it. It was only in watching my own videos for the making of Spinal Flow, that I went, “eww, I don’t like it, I don’t like the look of it” and saw how much I needed to clean things up. Which turned out for the best as it made the exercises harder, harder exercises make you fitter, and I think this is one of the reasons why I’m able to get such results out of just 5 minutes of exercise. So now I think of it as the eternal tension of yin and yang. Yang says push for more, get more, which is very necessary for improvement. Yin says clean it up, do it right, which is every bit as necessary for improvement. Favoring either one over the other is a frequent mistake that will cost you progress. But it’s a mistake that you can always clean up the next time, pushing to improve that side of the coin in which you are weakest and is most against your nature. The cautious usually being more in need of reckless abandon, the aggressive more in need of control. You want to be neither an exercise nerd, nor a slob. Watching a video of yourself taken with your phone being one of the best self-checks.


Pullups are a bit easier to judge, chin must be over the bar at the top, and you must lower to at least 90% (admittedly slightly subjective in practice) of full range. Again video is the best check. Failure to self-check will result in a good number to quote, but skinny arms and poor V-taper, causing people to judge your number with some skepticism, thinking that’s probably a T (user rule 6).

14.  Can kids do the test?      
  • Almost absolutely. The tests are not that different from the Presidents Physical Fitness Challenge given to children nationwide since the 60s. I would argue, my tests are actually safer as I took out sit-ups, curl-ups, and sit and reach tests, all of which put the spine in compromising positions. Still, the standard warnings apply; if your child is overweight and a couch potato, he’s almost as likely to strain something as anyone else, and we all know obesity is on the rise. I know some kids doing F5 and they’re doing great.
15.  I’m not competitive. Why should I care?      
  • Because doing well on the test demonstrates most definitively that you have a high strength to weight ratio, or confirms most definitively that you do not. A high strength to weight ratio implies more muscle, and less fat. Meaning (within reason) more health, and an increased ability to move your body, and everything else in life, with greater ease. For cultural reasons this appeals to men more, which of course it is good for them that it does, as gaining muscle will improve performance, attract women, impress children, make them feel better, and live longer.


  • However for women, though strength frequently does not appeal as much, it SHOULD matter more. Directly related to muscle strength, women have greater incidence of osteoporosis. Partly as a result of less muscle women tend to suffer more joint pain and instability, also contributing is their ligaments are looser and more hypermobile, which is more a benefit to child bearing than playing soccer, but for which an increase in muscle strength can help compensate. And speaking of ligament hypermobility, the same collagen laxity that makes the woman’s ligaments looser, also comprises their blood vessels making them looser too. Subsequently these blood vessels dilate more upon standing, sometimes resulting in a drop in blood pressure, a compensatory adrenaline rush, and racing heartbeat as the body attempts to return blood to the head before one passes out, diagnosed as orthostatic hypotension/tachycardia. This adrenaline rush/rapid heartbeat can be misinterpreted as a panic attack. The adrenaline then makes them feel jittery, a physical manifestation of anxiety, and if the person really does pass out, or can’t sleep, due to increased adrenaline in the blood, this can result in legitimate worry. This is especially true in women “good at yoga” who are more flexible than strong, and who double down on this “syndrome” in yoga class, further stretching already unstable joints, making said joints looser and less stable still and depending on the type of yoga decreases muscle strength, further increasing chronic pain, as well as syncope. In the meantime missing out on more aggressive forms of exercise that would strengthen the hearts stroke volume, so that it need not beat as fast, and increase muscle tone, which helps pressurize veins and keeping blood from pooling in the legs. So if you are an especially flexible yoga girl, it will almost certainly be a good idea to cross train in such a way that you are upping your Standards.
16.  Do I need to warmup?      
  • Generally not if you are fit. I never do, I never have, and I never teach it that way, but my bodyweight is relatively light compared to my strength level (which is the point) of Spina Flow Yoga. If I looked at a person and thought they needed to warm up first, I probably wouldn’t have them push to the max on any of these tests. Rather I would suggest they start F5 at Level-1 or 2 to work up their fitness level first. So if you look at the test and feel a warmup will help, or make it safer, I won’t disagree, but that could be an indication that you are not ready to go all out on any of these exercises. It might be better to train up to where you know they are safe for you, as opposed to warming up and hoping things go well.
17.  Can I go easy on the test, to just feel it out?      
  • Absolutely, and if you are unsure this is a very good way to go when first starting out. Later, after you know what you are doing, and you are confident you won’t get hurt, you can give it all you got.
18. How often can I test?      
  • As often as you like. Your first test only sets a baseline from which you’ll want to mark future progress. I probably wouldn’t do it more than once in a day. If you go hard, for optimal recovery, I would think you would want two days rest in between. When you start F5 you’ll be testing yourself on the full program (consisting of a 2, 2, and 1-minute exercises) each day, but cycling through the program repeating each test only every third day.
19.  Can I cheat by training for the test?      
  • Yes, and in this case it’s not cheating and part of what F5 is based on. However, F5 trains two of the three test-exercises a little longer and thus harder, plus has six additional exercises dispersed over three days time. If you only train the test-exercises, you could do a lot worse, but I think your progress will be stunted relative to training F5. Also F5 is developing total body muscle balance more so than just doing the test, training additional muscles like posterior delts, rotator cuff, hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, and core, etc. The test itself is implicit within F5, so once you start F5 are in essence training the test, and training for the test in an optimal way. More details on F5 here.
20.  Can you score more than 100 percent?      
  • Yes, as of yet nobody has but it’s my current goal. 100-plus percent sounds pretty cool.
21.  Why do you want your elbows fully straightened on Pushups but not on Pullups?  
  • Good question. With Pushups you are pushing your bodyweight up, such that gravity is working against you. Thus gravity is helping decelerate the body as you fully straighten (but not hyperextend) your elbows. With Pullups, on the contrary, gravity is working with you, tugging you down potentially with its greatest momentum just as the elbows, shoulders, and joint capsules are reaching the end of their range. While there is no research on this, it feels unwise to me, to drop into 100% hang as fast as one can, as I think gravity may want to pull you a few percents further, increasing risk of injury.
22.  Shouldn’t we go all the way up on L3-Lunges?      
  • In theory yes, but in practice doing so is impossible to police, even on yourself. So “all the way up” is high enough that you can shift your feet. Part of the technique I discovered is by staying low, you can do everything faster. Which in spite of the lesser work done per rep is more than made up for by the increased reps per minute, thus making faster always a better workout. Also staying low, you are staying in the portion of the lunge that is the most muscularly intense. If however, the knee was not touching the floor and you were making things quicker by not going all the way down, everything would be easier, impossible to measure, leaving you wondering why you have a good number but your legs and butt still look terrible.
23.  Who will do well on this test?      
  • My expectation is people, at or near a muscular ideal weight, with balanced upper and lower body strength, will do best. So…
  • MMA fighters
  • Sprinters
  • Decathletes and Heptathletes
  • Gymnasts with strong legs
  • Military Special Forces Units
  • American Ninja Warriors
  • CrossFitters
  • I expect Conor McGregor would kill it, same with George St-Pierre, and for women I would put my money on Jamie Eason or Jayne Lo.
24.  Who will do poorly on this test?      
  • Anyone with high bodyweight relative to their strength levels, including those who are strong but heavy, those who are light but “skinny-fat.” 

  • If you’re overweight, you’re about to see how much harder that weight makes life. A thin yogi, who thinks they’re fit just cause they’re thin, might be about to have a different kind of “awakening.” 

  • I also expect that people who are hella jacked, bodybuilders and heavy weightlifters and powerlifters, will do only moderately well, as it’s so much body weight, even muscle to move up and down. As such I don’t think anabolic steroids to be much of a help. I expect when I was bodybuilding and Olympic weightlifting years ago, weighing over 200 pounds, I would not score as high as I do now.

  • Those who’s muscular development is unbalanced. This would include a number of the calisthenics guys on youtube, who usually have well developed upper bodies, but hide thin legs behind their long baggy pants and who think a few pistol-squats are a good leg workout. Good luck with the lunges. Same idea, but opposite result with women who train legs hard, but whose upper body work is a few curls and tricep kickbacks with some neoprene coated dumbbells.
25.  Who is this test for?      
  • The Test is for everyone who’s ready for it. And it’s especially for everyone who’s NOT ready for it, for they have the most to gain. Populations I had in mind when creating it include:

  • People with neck and back pain. This is “Spinal Flow Yoga” after all and curing back pain (the #1 cause of disability worldwide) and neck pain (the #4 cause) were my original, and are still my explicit first priority. Neither are usually that hard to treat, and they’re relatively easy to prevent if you know what causes it. It’s just too bad that everyone in health care (conventional or alternative) are taught to give terrible advice, mostly because the causes of spine pain were not well understood until after their respective profession had already codified their respective advices, and because good research delineating those causes is lost in a haystack of bad research. Testing out the Standards is probably not something someone with spine pain should do first, but in later stages it’s relatively safe to do so as it’s done with a neutral spine. Of course the C5 flow should be learned first to correct posture, and ensure what’s “meant to be done” with a neutral spine “is in fact done” with a neutral spine.

  • People who know they are not fit. That was the cool side effect of Spinal Flow’s F5. It fixed spine pain, partly but largely, by increasing total body fitness in a way that happened to be good for the spine. So that even if you don’t have spine pain, it still works EXTREMELY WELL for increasing fitness, with the prevention of future spine pain being a neat side effect.

  • People who think they are fit but aren’t. A strong part of me wants to simply write these people off as delusional, and deserving of what they get for being weak minded and stupid. However, this group is so prevalent now that I’m willing to believe that some large number of them have been self-reinforceably brainwashing themselves as “body positive,” however, I would not discount food, drug, and psychology industry influence all who stand to profit in making people less healthy and self-sufficient.


  • People who ARE legit fit. How fit are you? I’m curious to know from my end how well your workouts stack up against Spinal Flow’s F5. If you can ace the test, I’ll want to know how you did it and see if I have anything to learn. Or if I’ll want to give props to some other workout than my own. The Spinal Flow Standards being free, simple, conventional, balanced and requiring no special equipment, gives us a great way to compare apples to apples. So if you can ace this, I want to know. But of course, “video or it didn’t happen.”
26.  What’s missing from the Standards?      
  • While the Standards balances upper and lower body very well, and hits hard many major muscle groups, it’s not specifically and intensely targeting some of the smaller muscles that are still of great importance. And for which, when put together make for a large amount of muscle mass that not only increases your metabolic rate (so you can eat more without getting fat) but also balances the larger muscle groups reducing the risk of injury. Those muscles mentioned elsewhere include the posterior delts, rotator cuff, hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, and core, etc. The full workout is targeted in the Spinal Flow Yoga’s Force-5 or F5 (five minute) sequences. 


  • Also not trained in the test is awareness and ability to keep your spine neutral, either during the test or during activities of daily living. So while the test is giving you a good measure of overall fitness, that’s only half the battle for alleviating or preventing spine pain. Neutral spine awareness and discipline to maintain it, is the other half of the battle, and is taught in Spinal Flow’s Control-5 or C5 (five minute) routine.
27.  Are you goading us? Using reverse psychology with your warning and toxic masculine posturing?      
  • Maybe.
28.  Why do you use words like fat, flunk, weak, frail, etc? As a yogi and physical therapist shouldn’t you try and be more encouraging?       
  • That would ruin the effect of goading now, wouldn’t it? And to be honest I’ve given many a person the slow, kind, understanding approach of motivation countless times over decades and I can’t remember a single case where it worked. While it’s proverbial for motivation that some people need a kick in the tail while others need a pat on that back, by observing what works on me, and what works on others is that if you don’t respond to a kick in the tail, you weren’t going to respond to a pat on the back either. And nobody should get a pat on the back until they have earned it, at which point it will actually mean something. Ace this test and I’ll be impressed, I promise.
29.  Why the 1 minute time limits?       
  • Time limits keep the test from becoming needlessly lengthy, unwieldy, and overwhelmingly aerobic. Many can do more reps if they drag out the rest between reps, but increasing reps per minute demands increased fitness. In addition, one minute seems sufficient to determine fitness level on each. Even though F5 often trains with two minute time limits, improvements in either appear HIGHLY CORRELATED.
30.  Should I really go as fast as I can?  Isn’t that dangerous? Everyone says you should exercise slow and controlled.     
  • You should go as fast as you feel you safely can. The fitter you are, the faster this will be. Thus if you are in great shape, then yes, that should be as fast as possible. Force equals Mass times Acceleration (F=MA) therefore the faster you can go, the more force you have (which is being tested) in addition to the more reps you’ll presumably get, equating to your stamina (which is also being tested). If you are fit and conditioned to do so, this is then of low relative risk. If you are not conditioned to do so, then it is, which is why the big warning, written in red, at the top. People who say everything should be “slow and controlled” are generally not that athletic, not that strong, and/or have to workout for at it a lot longer for results that are still substandard. But “slow and controlled” is a good way to CYA as an instructor. Yet if you watch weightlifting in the Olympics you’ll see nobody is lifting slow and controlled, but rather fast, on the edge of control. Control is good always, slow is a good way to start and learn, but not a good way to train and develop.
31.  What about cardio? 
  • If you are acing the test you’ll be surprised how good your cardio is, regardless of how you are otherwise training. However, if in addition you want to run a mile for time I won’t stop you.
32.  Any last bits of advice or wisdoms? 
  • I have a kitchen timer counting down, in view, so I know where I’m at with regards to needing to keep up the pace. I’m sure this helps. With that timer, I’m mindful of my splits, I know where I am at 10 seconds, 30 seconds and finally at 60 seconds, which keeps me on track. It’s interesting how much drama there can be inside a minute, where your body wants to give up, but you resist. 

  • Testing (and doing F5) it is best doing it to music that is loud, fast, and motivating. I expect the serene sound of waterfalls to be counterproductive. Save that for later. For what it is worth, if you want to feel tranquil, sattvic even, you will feel more so after you’ve exercised hard, used up your adrenaline, and tired yourself out, and feeling satisfied having your hard work behind you rather than in front.