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Active Range of Motion: Definition and Examples

What is Active Range of Motion?

Active range of motion (AROM) refers to the unassisted movement that can occur at a particular joint when the surrounding muscles contract (shorten) or relax (lengthen). To use the knee as an example, an active range of motion can be for the leg to go from straight to bent as the hamstring contracts and the quadricep relaxes. 

Active vs. Passive Range of Motion

Active range of motion is when the athlete uses their muscles to to perform movement at a specific joint. For example, you instruct clients to squat as deeply as they can and come back up. This is an excellent way to test mobility and strength.

In contrast, passive range of motion (PROM) is when someone else applies an external force to create joint movement without requiring effort from the surrounding muscles. 

For example, a physical therapist may move the knee through a specific range of motion in a patient recovering from surgery. This can be an excellent tactic to improve mobility in people who cannot move independently.


1. Should you measure the active range of motion as a coach?

Performing regular assessments of the active range of motion provides insight into your client’s ability to move through space and whether they can safely perform the movements required for their sport.

For example, a powerlifter’s active range of motion in the squat wouldn’t need to be as long as that of an Olympic lifter. As a coach, you must ensure that each client can safely move through the required range of motion.

2. Should everyone aim for the same active range of motion?

Active range of motion varies between people, as it depends on many factors, including athletic level, age, injury history, pain, and anatomy. 

You must monitor each client carefully to determine their ideal range of motion and avoid pushing them beyond that too quickly, as this can increase the risk of injury.

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