Three examples of range of motion exercises

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Personal/Fitness Training Blog

The term ‘range of motion’ refers to how much movement you can make around a specific joint or body part. When a joint is injured, a physical therapist will advise a series of range of motion exercises to alleviate the stress of the injured joint.

Here are three types of range of motion exercises:


Passive range of motion exercises are performed by a physical therapist on clients who are unable to mobilise a specific joint.

These exercises usually involve stretching the surrounding muscles of a joint to increase flexibility.

Some exercises to try:

  1. Doorway chest stretch, your therapist will assist your arms through the motion

Bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Line up your forearm in an upright position against a hallway or doorway opening. Lunge your torso forward so you are creating a stretch with your chest opening up.

  1. Rotation stretch

Sitting down with your nose toward your armpit, your therapist will push the back of your head downward.

  1. Piriformis stretch

Lie down on the floor. Your therapist will provide resistance by moving your leg through the passive range of motion.


With an active-assistive range of motion exercises, the client will move the specific joint with the therapist’s assistance. They can also use a strap or band for assistance.

Some exercises to try:

  1. Shoulder flexion and extension

With your arm bent at your side, reach your arm forward and return your elbow back to your side. Your therapist will make sure you keep your body still and isolate the movement in your arm.

  1. Elbow flexion and extension

With your arm straight at your side, bend your elbow, bringing your hand toward your shoulder. Then straighten your elbow.

  1. Internal and external arm rotations

With your arm bent and with your elbow at your side, rotate your hand and forearm out to the side and then return it to your side.


Active range of motion exercises are performed by the client independently. The physical therapist will provide verbal assistance, but the client is responsible for moving the joints on their own.

Some exercises to try:

  1. Neck exercises

Facing forward in either a sitting or standing position, your shoulders should be straight and relaxed.

Alternate between bowing your head forward to your chest and tilting your head back as far as possible.

Then, alternate between tilting your head from one side to the other, bringing your ear toward your shoulder.

Lastly, alternate between turning your head to look over each should and tilting your chin down towards your shoulder.

  1. Arm and wrist exercises

Sit down and bend your elbow with your forearm resting on a flat surface. Hang your wrists loosely over the side.

Alternate between bending your hand back toward your wrist and down toward your arm.

Alternate between moving your hand from one side to the other and rolling your hand in circles in one direction, then the other.

With your elbow fixed to your side, alternate between turning your palm to face up and down.

  1. Hip and knee exercises

Lie flat with your legs flat and straight. Point your toes and slowly bend your knee up as close to your chest as possible, then straighten. Alternate.

Lift your leg so your foot is 15 to 31 centimetres in the air. Hold it in the air for a number of seconds and lower it. Alternate.

Roll your leg towards the middle so your big toe touches the bed. Then roll it out so your small toe touches the bed. Alternate.

When you’ve injured a joint in your body, it is important to do the right exercises in order to avoid any further damages or injury to the joint. A physical therapist will tell you to perform a passive, active or active-assistive range of motion exercises depending on the severity of the injury. DO NOT TRY TO DO IT ALONE!

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Have a look at our Personal Training Diploma for more information about exercise and how to rehabilitate clients when they’ve incurred any injuries.

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