History Overview: Dr. Hans Kraus and Dr. Sonja Weber were originally from Austria and came to America to avoid Nazi Germany. Upon arrival, they noticed the poor movement quality of Americans in comparison to Europeans. In particular, they noticed the poor posture of Americans, and by 1940 had joined forces to launch the Posture Clinic at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in NYC.
Following WWII, a “new” epidemic developed in the American medical community called “back pain.” Prior to WWII, chronic and national concern over back pain was non-existent. Kraus and Weber then developed the K-W Test which tested for “minimal” strength and “minimal” flexibility required to avoid back pain–simple put, it was to test postural fitness. In the early 1950s, the K-W test was given to 5,000 American school children and 3,000 European school children aged 6-16. Kraus found that 58% of Americans failed compared to only 9% of Europeans the same age. The K-W Test also came with the corrective exercises to fix the weakness and tightness, and when people did the corrective exercises, most of them got better.
“Just at the time World War II was ending, a new epidemic was striking America for the first time. Few had ever heard of it before. Now it struck seemingly out of the blue, hitting indiscriminately across all demographic lines. No one knew where it came from, what caused it, or how to stop it. Finding its causes, prevention, and cure would occupy the rest of Kraus’s life. The epidemic was back pain.” –“End Back Pain Forever: A Ground Breaking Approach to Eliminate Your Suffering” by Norman J. Marcus, MD
Kraus then went on to work with the YMCA who adopted his protocols into “The Y’s Way to a Healthy Back” for the public. The program ran from 1976-1988 and reached over 300,000 people. This was the largest program of its kind ever and was taught over a six-week course.
Today few have heard of the K-W Test let alone know its value or the technical information behind giving the test. It is predicted now that if we tested American children, 85-100% of them would fail the K-W Test for “minimum postural fitness” required for daily activities…so yes, our back pain problems have gotten far worse since the early 1950s when Kraus’ original study “shocked” the nation and President Eisenhower–the poor postural fitness of American children was indeed national news during 1950s.
While researching the K-W Test, we became aware of fitness icon Bonnie Prudden who was the alpine climbing partner of Hans Kraus. Both Kraus and Prudden were world-class climbers. Prudden went on to assist Kraus with the initial K-W Testing pilots which led to her life-long work of not only K-W Tests, but also the corrective exercises to prevent back pain and her many exercise and fitness protocols for youth through senior populations. Both of these pioneers in fitness and corrective exercise have given great depth to our knowledge base. Hans Kraus died in 1996 and Bonnie Prudden died in 2011.
Moving Forward: Dr. Norman Marcus was the last physician to be mentored by Dr. Kraus, so we have listed Dr. Marcus’ recent book below as a reference. “End Back Pain Forever” covers the Kraus-Weber history plus the most current list of corrective exercises developed in support of the K-W Testing by Kraus and Marcus. It is an excellent read.
Reference Books: History and some specifics on Kraus, & K-W Testing.
- Lean Berets Shows on K-W Test:
- K-W Test Publicity & Articles:
- “The Report That Shocked The President” (Sports Illustrated-1955)
- Bonnie Prudden-Fitness Pioneer (Sports Illustrated)
- Kids Failed Fitness: The Need for Exercise/Slide 7 (Jake Monlux, RPT)
- Dr. Hans Kraus:
- Bonnie Prudden:
- Dr. Norman J. Marcus: