Just when you’ve mastered this “old man test” that puts your balance on blast, another viral fitness feat is making waves around the Internet. This one involves grabbing a broomstick and making your way to the ground and back up without using your hands. And it’s harder than you may think — putting your core strength and hip mobility to the ultimate test.
The so-called “broomstick challenge” is a mobility and stability exercise that involves placing a broomstick between your arms while your hands are clasped behind your back, explains Jakob Roze, a certified strength and conditioning coach and founder and CEO of high-end concierge personal training practice RozeFit. You then must try to get your stomach to the ground onto your stomach and return to a standing position — all while keeping your hands clasped together behind you with the broomstick held in place.
So what skills are being tested by the broomstick challenge? “On a mechanical level, this challenge requires core stability, flexibility, muscle strength, and proper muscle firing patterns,” says Jason Schuster, DPT, a marine veteran and physical therapist who co-owns continuing education company Intricate Art Spine & Body Solutions.
The broomstick challenge specifically targets your core and lower body stability as you must carefully lower yourself to the ground without using your hands — without falling on your face. Specifically, it engages the deep abdominal muscles and quadriceps, Roze says. “It further challenges your coordination as there is a sequential flow to getting on the ground, and thus you must synchronize which parts of your body are moving and when,” Schuster adds.
“Aside from poor core strength, which a huge percentage of the population suffers from, the most likely problem the average person will have with the broomstick challenge is a lack of hip and lumbar mobility,” Schuster says. “You need full hip and lumbar flexion to complete the challenge. The average physical therapy patient would never be able to do this,” he continues, adding that he wouldn’t recommend this challenge to anyone with acute back pain.
If you can’t complete the test on your first try (or even after multiple attempts spread over a few weeks’ time), don’t sweat it. Roze stresses that the best way to train for this challenge is to work on getting onto the floor without your hands. Try doing the test without using a broomstick first, he suggests. “This will help you practice the actual skill of carefully getting onto the ground without your arms for assistance.”
Once you can get down without a problem, it’s time to work on opening up those hips, Roze says. “Hip and lumbar stretches are important for everyone to perform, especially if you want to complete the broomstick challenge. Make sure to stretch the hip flexors, extensors, internal and external rotators,” Schuster says. Fatherly’s list of 10 hip-opening stretches to prevent injury and get rid of pain is a great place to start.
“Together — both practicing the skill itself and then increasing your mobility — you will be able to improve your ability,” Roze says. And that should translate into being able to complete the broomstick challenge. This progression gives you skill-specific practice because even if you have the requisite mobility and strength, the movement itself is challenging and should be practiced in stages, as outlined above, before going all in.
Although this test may seem like a mere Internet sensation, it’s actually a good metric of your physical fitness. “This is a solid challenge to test mobility, stability, and strength. If you can perform this test, then you have good low back, core, and hip mobility, stability, and strength,” Schuster says. “If all people had these three things, the amount of money spent each year on numerous medical impairments would significantly decrease.”
Indeed, the skills used in the broomstick challenge are essential for making your way through the day. “The skills challenged in this test are functionally important for everyday life: getting onto the floor in a stable manner and also the requisite mobility to move into various functional positions,” Roze says. “It is imperative that the hips have the requisite mobility to prevent injuries associated with everyday life tasks.”
Whether that’s sitting down in and standing up from a chair or walking up or down a flight of steps, you’ll want to keep your hips healthy and strong — social media challenges aside.