Stretching Your Knowledge About Range Of Motion

By Dr. Brent Smale, Director of Human Performance and Biomechanics

You are most likely familiar with the concept of range of motion and how it represents your flexibility. It’s also commonly known that you can reach certain positions all by yourself, but a slight push gets you reaching just a little further. This is the concept of active and passive range of motion, which is often referred to as “ROM”. Active ROM is when you use the surrounding muscles without any other assistance to move the joint to its extremes. Passive ROM on the other hand is when an external force such as therapist or equipment (e.g. physio band) is used to move the joint to its extreme without any muscular contraction.

Video 1. Athlete demonstrating active ROM where muscular contractions are responsible for the movement.

Video 2. The Apex Skating 3D motion capture system demonstrating the athlete’s active ROM (left graphs) and skeletal representation (right animation).

They are both very important to an athlete as they provide different advantages. Since active ROM is generated by the muscles, working on this keeps the muscles supple, strong, and functioning at their optimum. Good passive ROM means improved health of those joint tissues that work independently of the muscles such as joint capsules and ligaments. These soft tissues also need to be stretched or else they become stiff and brittle, which in turn lowers their functional ability.

Video 3. Therapist demonstrating the athlete’s passive ROM where external forces are moving the joint to its extremes.

Video 4. The Apex Skating 3D motion capture system demonstrating the athlete’s passive ROM (left graphs) and skeletal representation (right animation). Figures on the left indicate that the athlete’s passive ROM is greater than their active ROM (Video 2).

If you’re an athlete, you’ve likely experienced an injury that made it hard to move that joint. This reduced ROM can be caused by multiple factors including pain, joint swelling (edema), or scar tissue. Regaining ROM through mobilization is known to be very important in the rehabilitation process as it reduces swelling, scar tissue formation, complications, and the length of hospital stay/rehabilitation time (Epstein, 2014; Pashikanti and Von Ah, 2012). To be proactive about avoiding injuries, athletes focus on their flexibility and are committed to stretching both before and after a workout.

Figure 1. Athlete demonstrating static hip stretching.

Figure 1. Athlete demonstrating static hip stretching.

As with range of motion, there are different types of stretching. The more basic and likely more common form is static stretching in which you hold a challenging but comfortable position for about 15 – 30 seconds. The other form is called dynamic stretching and this is when you move through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly for a number of repetitions. This method is gaining popularity among athletes and for good reason too. Dynamic stretching warm-ups allow athletes to achieve better results on performance tests (agility, strength, and jump tests) compared to when they complete static stretching or no warm-ups (McMillian et al., 2006). For these reasons, we at Apex Skating always implement a dynamic warm-up at the beginning of each session. This allows us to promote blood flow, activate muscle groups, and work through joint ranges of motion all while improving the skater’s edgework in the process. It’s a win-win that we believe pays off in both the athlete’s health and performance. We take range of motion and stretching very seriously at Apex Skating and encourage each of you to as well.

Video 5. Demonstration of dynamic stretching conducted in Apex Skating Development Programs. This technique stretches the athlete’s soft tissue (muscles, fascia, etc.) while simultaneously training their edgework.


Epstein, N.E., 2014. A review article on the benefits of early mobilization following spinal surgery and other medical/surgical procedures. Surg. Neurol. Int. 5, S66–S73.

McMillian, D.J., Moore, J.H., Hatler, B.S., Taylor, D.C., 2006. Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: the effect on power and agility performance. J. Strength Cond. Res. 20, 492–499.

Pashikanti, L., Von Ah, D., 2012. Impact of early mobilization protocol on the medical-surgical inpatient population: an integrated review of literature. Clin. Nurse Spec. CNS 26, 87–94.