How to Measure Your Range of Motion With a Shoulder Flexibility Test (2023)

Also Known As: Shoulder flexibility test, reach test, back scratch test, shoulder reach test

Targets: Shoulder

Equipment Needed: None

Level: Beginner

The Apley scratch test is a shoulder flexibility test used to evaluate the flexibility and mobility of your shoulder joint. The test can also be used to assess the range of motion (ROM) of your shoulder, including flexion and extension.

You perform the Apley back scratch test by touching your palm to the opposite shoulder blade by bending your elbow above or below your shoulder. It can be a helpful test and stretch to perform before any upper-body sport workout or strength-training workout that includes throwing, catching, or any shoulder movement.


The Apley back scratch specifically tests the mobility of your shoulders. The goal of the shoulder flexibility test is to prevent hyperextension of the joint.

Hyperextension (the extension of the joint beyond its normal limits) can lead to an acute or chronic injury of the rotator cuff muscle group, including supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These rotator cuff injuries can be caused by repetitive movements, such as those involved with swimming, tennis, volleyball, racquetball, or any sport that requires throwing or catching.

Restricted shoulder movement is often related to stiffness and tension in the upper back and neck. If these muscles become rigid or foreshortened because of an injury or inactivity, it will limit your ability to:

  • Extend your arm up and behind your head
  • Reach sideways across your head
  • Rotate your shoulder outward, upward, and backward

If you build bulky muscles without retaining flexibility through routine stretching—particularly in your upper back (trapezius), neck (sternocleidomastoid), shoulder (deltoid), or lower back (latissimus dorsi)—the connective tissues can become tight and limit your ROM.

The shoulder flexibility test is used by exercise physiologists and physical therapists to assess baseline flexibility before starting an exercise or rehab program. The test is repeated every few weeks to determine progress.

Step-by-Step Instructions

The shoulder flexibility test is best performed when you are not wearing bulky clothing. It is also recommended that the temperature of the room you are in is comfortable (rather than cold). The only equipment needed is a measuring tape or ruler.

(Video) Shoulder Mobility Assessment

Stand evenly on both feet and relax your shoulders and arms.

To begin the test:

  1. Raise your right arm straight up over your head.
  2. Bend your right elbow. Let your right palm rest on the back of your neck with your fingers pointing down toward your feet.
  3. Using your left hand, reach down behind your back and rest the back of your hand on your spine (your palm should be facing away from your body).
  4. Without straining, slide your right hand down your neck and your left hand up your spine (your hands should be moving toward each other).
  5. Once you have reached as far as you can, the examiner will measure the distance between your fingers.
  6. Release your grasp by reversing the stretch and returning to the starting position.

If your fingers touched, the examiner will record your score as zero ("0 inches"). If your fingers overlapped, the results will be recorded as a negative figure (e.g., "-1 inch").

You would then switch hands to perform the test on the opposite shoulder.

Test Results

The shoulder flexibility test is a basic test that can give your therapist a good idea of your functional ROM. The functional range of motion gives you and the therapist an idea of how well your joint will function in activities of daily living.

For general health purposes, your ROM test results would be described as follows:

  • Excellent: Fingers overlap
  • Good: Fingers touch
  • Average: Fingers are less than 2 inches apart
  • Poor: Fingers are more than 2 inches apart

For training purposes, the physiologist would be more concerned about the exact measurement, especially in sports like swimming or gymnastics where shoulder flexibility can make the difference in performance.

If your score is below average, your physical therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that may include therapeutic modalities and stretching exercises to improve your flexibility and ROM.

Common Mistakes

The test must be completed without any straining or arching in your back. When extending your fingertips toward each other, make sure you are not arching your back to force contact. Stand relaxed with your back straight for the most accurate result.

Variations and Modifications


While the above instructions show using both arms in the exercise, the Apley test can also be performed separately with each arm, measuring the external rotation and internal rotation of the shoulder independently.

The test can be done by extending one arm above and behind the back and toward the opposite scapula (shoulder blade). Then, taking the same arm, reach under behind your back toward the lower part of the opposite shoulder blade.

(Video) Shoulder Flexibility Test

Need a Modification?

The Brockport Physical Fitness Test, used to test fitness in children with disabilities, modifies the Apley test by instructing the student to touch their back using one hand, reaching for the opposite scapula.

Safety and Precautions

If you have existing back discomfort or pain, do not attempt the stretch test. Consult a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor to diagnose any pain.

When performing a stretch, a bit of tightness or mild discomfort is normal. However, if you feel pain, stop immediately.

Shoulder Conditions

If you have been diagnosed with certain shoulder conditions, your Apley scratch test score may be poor or average. Conditions including injury, frozen shoulder, tendonitis, arthritis, or any shoulder pain can prohibit full ROM.

Improving Range of Motion

To improve your shoulder mobility and score higher on the Apley scratch test, you can improve the range of motion in your shoulder using stretches and at-home exercises.

Consider these helpful shoulder stretches to improve your shoulder flexibility:

  • Towel shoulder rotation stretch: Using a towel, hold one end in each hand and perform a modified Apley test, pulling the towel up with your top hand and feeling the stretch in your shoulder blade.
  • Thread the needle: While on all fours, lift your right arm in the air, opening up for a chest stretch. Take your right palm, moving it under your left shoulder, and dropping your right shoulder to the floor. Hold the pose for a few seconds and feel the stretch as you press against the mat.
  • Anterior shoulder stretch: Clasp your palms together behind your back, and slowly lift them toward the sky. You'll feel this move in your shoulder blades, and always make sure to stop raising your palms when you feel discomfort.

A Word From Verywell

When stretching or performing any physical activity, always listen to your body. If you feel any pain or severe discomfort, stop immediately and consult a physical therapist or physician.

4 Sources

(Video) 2 Shoulder Mobility Tests Everyone Should Try

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Rotator Cuff Tears.

  2. Gates DH, Walters LS, Cowley J, Wilken JM, Resnik L. Range of motion requirements for upper-limb activities of daily living. Am J Occup Ther. 2016;70(1). doi:10.5014/ajot.2016.015487

  3. Woodward TW, Best TM. The painful shoulder: part i. Clinical evaluation.AFP. 2000;61(10):3079-3088.

  4. The College of Brockport: State University of New York. Test Items and Standards Related to Aerobic Functioning on the Brockport Physical Fitness Test.

Additional Reading

  • Aumiller W, Kleuser T. Diagnosis and treatment of cuff tear arthropathy. J Am Acad PA. 2015;28(8):33–8. doi:10.1097/01.JAA.0000469435.44701.ce.

  • American College of Sports Medicine. (2013) ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (9th Edition). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. ISBN: 978-1-6091-3955-1.

By Elizabeth Quinn
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.


How do you test the range of motion in the shoulder? ›

For extension ask your patient to stand upright. And then instruct him to bring the arms as far back

What test will you use to measure your shoulder flexibility? ›

The Apley scratch test is a shoulder flexibility test used to evaluate the flexibility and mobility of your shoulder joint. The test can also be used to assess the range of motion (ROM) of your shoulder, including flexion and extension.

How will we measure the score of flexibility test? ›

After three practice attempts reach as far as you can hold. And then measure the results. The way we

How do you measure range of motion? ›

Physical therapists use a device called a goniometer to measure your ROM. The device has two arms with a hinge in the middle. Your therapist will measure the degree to which you can straighten, bend, or rotate your joint. Each joint has different ranges of motion for each type of movement it can perform.

How do you find the range of motion? ›

To measure range of motion, physical therapists most commonly use a goniometer, which is an instrument that measures angle at a joint. Goniometers show degrees of an angle from zero to 180 or 360 degrees and are available in different shapes and sizes for the unique joints in the human body.

What is the average shoulder flexibility? ›

A normal range of motion for shoulder flexion is 180 degrees. This involves moving your arms from palms against the side of your body to the highest point you can raise your arms over your head.

Why is shoulder flexibility important? ›

Shoulder mobility is important both from a strengthening and stretching perspective. We need strength to help support the joint and decrease risk of injury. We also need flexibility to maintain a pain-free range of motion.

What is an example of flexibility? ›

Examples of flexibility activities include: stretching. yoga. tai chi.

What are 3 tests used to measure flexibility? ›

To test flexibility, goniometers, sit-and-reach tests, and functional movement screenings are the most commonly used methods. Testing for flexibility is highly specific, meaning it only relates to the specific joint being tested.

Which of the following is use to measure flexibility? ›

The most accurate tests of flexibility are those in which a goniometer is used to measure the actual degrees of rotation of the various joints. A goniometer is a protractor type of instrument used to measure the joint angle at both extremes in the total range of movement.

How do you do a 3 minute step test? ›

3 Minute Step Test
  1. Start the metronome counter, and set yourself a timer for 3 minutes.
  2. Step on and off the step one foot at a time (up, up, down, down), stepping at a consistent pace to the beat of the metronome counter.
  3. Perform this for 3 minutes without stopping. ...
  4. Once the 3 minutes is up, check your pulse.
17 Oct 2020

What physical fitness test is used to measure the flexibility of the shoulder joints and create an appreciation on the importance of flexibility in other parts of the body? ›

Shoulder flexibility testing: Sometimes called the zipper test, shoulder flexibility testing evaluates the flexibility and mobility of your shoulder joint. Use one hand to reach behind your neck, between your shoulders, while reaching behind your back, toward your shoulders, with the other.

Which of the following is an example of flexibility test? ›

The sit and reach test is the most common flexibility test. It measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings. It requires a box about 30cm (12 inches) high and a meter rule: Sit on the floor with your back and head against a wall.

Why do we measure range of motion? ›

Range of motion or flexibility testing is important in determining the cause and severity of issues you may be having with joint movement. Improper flexibility can cause pain, limitations in the activities of daily living (ADL's) and it can even cause compensation patterns that may lead to more dysfunction.

What is range of motion How is it measured in a joint movement? ›

Range of motion (ROM) is the measurement of movement around a specific joint or body part. It involves both the distance a joint can move and the direction in which it can move. There are established ranges considered normal for various joints in the body. For a joint to have full ROM, it must have good flexibility.

What is ROM assessment? ›

A ROM assessment is most commonly used to measure movement of the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers. Measures are taken on consecutive occasions to assess any change over time. They are used to determine whether an individual's ROM is within the expected range.

Is range of motion the same as flexibility? ›

Range of motion is the available amount of movement of a joint, whereas flexibility is the ability of soft tissue structures, such as muscle, tendon, and connective tissue, to elongate through the available range of joint motion.

What is full range of motion? ›

1. Full Range of Motion. What it is: The act of moving as far as anatomically possible during a given exercise. For example, when squatting, you lower down until your butt is just a few inches from the floor — or until your heels pop up — whichever comes first.

Which factor of a person determines the range of motion and level of flexibility? ›

Muscle strength: Flexibility depends on the level of strength. Weak muscles can become a limiting factor for achieving higher range of movement.

What are the normal ranges for shoulder flexion and extension? ›

The literature review confirmed there to be a wide variation in the normal shoulder ROM. The published average and range values for specific shoulder movements were: forward flexion 165 (117–180), extension 54 (28–80), abduction 171 (117–189), internal rotation 74 (30–110), external rotation 83 (40–117).

How do you measure shoulder extension? ›

Shoulder Extension Range Of Motion Measurement - YouTube

How do you increase shoulder flexibility? ›

To do this exercise:
  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  3. Engage your core and bend forward at the waist. Keep your back straight. ...
  4. Raise your arms away from your body. ...
  5. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
10 Jan 2020

Why do I have poor shoulder mobility? ›

Mobility issues that develop in the shoulder can result from several types of activity or inactivity. Some of the most common types of shoulder mobility issues are impingement, rotator cuff tears, and frozen shoulder. Instability and overuse of the joint cause many of these.

What causes limited shoulder mobility? ›

An injury to any part of the shoulder, or a chronic condition that causes degeneration in the shoulder, can limit your shoulder mobility. Conditions that can make it harder for you to move your shoulder include: Shoulder arthritis. Shoulder bursitis.

What activity should you do more to increase flexibility of the arms and shoulder? ›

6. Shoulder cross-arm swing stretch
  • Stand with feet a little less than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bring left arm up to just below your shoulder.
  • Place right hand on left elbow.
  • Slowly pull left arm across your body.
  • Use right hand to gently hold the position for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.
25 Feb 2021

What is flexibility Short answer? ›

Flexibility is the ability of a joint or series of joints to move through an unrestricted, pain free range of motion. Although flexibility varies widely from person to person, minimum ranges are necessary for maintaining joint and total body health.

What are 10 exercises for flexibility? ›

10 Exercises to Improve Your Flexibility
  • Standing Quad Stretch. Stand with your feet together. ...
  • Standing Side Stretch. Standing with your feet together, lift your arms overhead. ...
  • Seated Hamstring Stretch. ...
  • Standing Calf Stretch. ...
  • Shoulder Stretch. ...
  • The Forward Hang. ...
  • Back stretch. ...
  • Butterfly Groin Stretch.
8 Mar 2022

How do you measure material flexibility? ›

Beyond thickness, flexibility of materials can be compared using the ratio of yield strength, which reflects how strong or weak a material is, to the elastic modulus, which measures how stiff the material is.

Why do we test flexibility? ›

Flexibility tests are used to diagnose muscle imbalances, arthritis in a joint, or conditions such as a sprain or shoulder impingement. They are also used to identify tight muscle groups that can lead to injury during everyday activities or exercise.

What is flexible testing? ›

What Does Test Flexible Mean? If you're not a good standardized test-taker but don't want to simply not submit a test score, there are test flexible schools. Test flexible colleges or universities allow students to choose which type of test (or tests) they'd like to submit with their application.

How much flexibility is enough? ›

Generally speaking for healthy adults with normal flexibility, it is safe to stretch to the point of mild tension on a daily basis, three to five times per stretch and for 10 to 30 seconds per stretch.

What equipment can be used to test one's flexibility? ›

For the trunk and lower extremity the most common ways to measure flexibilty are using a sit and reach box or by direct measurement with a goniometer. For the upper extremity, a goniometer is most common. Don't forget, you can always use bilateral comparison as a simple measure for most joints.

Why can't ti split anymore? ›

Tight hamstrings and hip flexors are the top reasons why you can't do the splits. Doing splits is so much more than a cool parlor trick. Indeed, the ability to seamlessly slide into a split is a fantastic feat of flexibility and mobility, which is also why accomplishing the masterful move is so difficult.

How do you count your step on a test? ›

When the participant sits down, immediately place your fingers (not the thumb) firmly on the radial artery, get the rhythm and start counting 5 seconds after the test was completed. Measure the number of beats for one full minute. The one-minute count reflects the heart's recovery rate.

How do you solve a step test? ›

3 Minute Step Test - YouTube

What is the normal heart rate after 3-Minute Step Test? ›

3-Minute Step Test (Men) - Heart Rate
Above Average90-9997-103
3 more rows

Why is it important to assess flexibility both before and during a workout regimen Brainly? ›

Explain why it is important to assess flexibility both before starting AND during a workout regimen. In order to accurately evaluate progress in a flexibility workout regimen, it is important to establish a baseline level of flexibility and then to track progress during the regimen from that starting point.

Why is it important to assess flexibility both before and during a workout regimen? ›

Why is it important to assess flexibility both before AND during a workout regimen? Once a body is in top physical condition, the 24-hour recovery period after low-intensity exercise can be safely skipped. The trunk rotation is a common dynamic flexibility assessment.

What is a test to measure the muscular strength of the shoulder and upper arm? ›

The pushup test is one of the best ways to assess upper-body endurance, explains Bell, especially in the muscles of the chest and shoulders. To do the pushup test, you'll need a stopwatch or a timer on your phone, and a ball, like a tennis ball. You may also want an exercise mat.

What do you call a test for the shoulder flexibility? ›

The Apley scratch test is a shoulder flexibility test used to evaluate the flexibility and mobility of your shoulder joint. The test can also be used to assess the range of motion (ROM) of your shoulder, including flexion and extension.

Which of the exercise is commonly used in flexibility assessment? ›

The sit and reach test is the most common way to measure lower back and hamstring flexibility. Because tightness in the low back and hamstrings is often related to muscle pain and stiffness, this test may help determine a person's risk for future pain and injury.

How do you know if you are flexible? ›

A 1-Minute Test Will Show How Flexible You Are - YouTube

What is normal ROM of shoulder? ›

A normal range of motion for shoulder flexion is 180 degrees. This involves moving your arms from palms against the side of your body to the highest point you can raise your arms over your head.

What are the 7 motions of the shoulder? ›

The human shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. This mobility provides the upper extremity with tremendous range of motion such as adduction, abduction, flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation, and 360° circumduction in the sagittal plane.

What range of motion is the shoulder joint? ›

The normal range of motion is 45 to 60 degrees. The main extensors of the shoulder are the posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, and teres major. Internal rotation—Defined as rotation toward the midline along a vertical axis. The normal range of motion is 70 to 90 degrees.

What are the 3 types of range of motion? ›

The 3 types of ROM exercises include passive, active, and active assistive ROM. Passive ROM is the movement applied to a joint by another person or motion machine.

How do you know if you have a 90 degree shoulder? ›

What are 90 Degree Shoulders? Basically, you want a nice straight line from your shoulder down your arm, forming 90 degrees! Additionally, for this look people prefer a super pronounced collar bone as well as a long swan-like neck.

How do you measure shoulder extension? ›

Shoulder Extension Range Of Motion Measurement - YouTube

What is active range of motion? ›

Active Range of Motion (AROM).

This is the space in which you move a part of your body by using your muscles. You make the effort without outside help. For example, lifting your arms above your head to stretch the muscles happens within your active range of motion.

What are the normal ranges for shoulder flexion and extension? ›

The literature review confirmed there to be a wide variation in the normal shoulder ROM. The published average and range values for specific shoulder movements were: forward flexion 165 (117–180), extension 54 (28–80), abduction 171 (117–189), internal rotation 74 (30–110), external rotation 83 (40–117).

What are the 4 movements of the shoulder? ›

Adduction: downward movement of humerus medially toward the body from abduction, in the plane of the scapula. Flexion: the movement of humerus straight anteriorly. Extension: the movement of humerus straight posteriorly. External rotation: the movement of humerus laterally around its long axis away from the midline.

Why does the shoulder have the greatest range of motion? ›

The articular structures of the shoulder complex, in particular the GH Joint, are designed primarily for mobility, allowing us to move and position the hand through a wide range of space, allowing the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body.

How do you find the range of motion in upper extremities? ›

Instructions for measuring ROM: While in a standing or seated position and the right upper arm straight at the client's side, their elbow in 90 degrees of flexion, and their palm facing upward (i.e., the radioulnar joint in supination), have the client flex their wrist as far as possible without flexing their elbow.

What is the normal ROM for shoulder horizontal adduction? ›

Horizontal adduction may fall between 3 and 50° and shoulder flexion ranges from 165° to greater than 180°. These measures provide general ranges to guide clinical examination.

What factors allow the shoulder to have a wide range of motion? ›

What factors allow an especially wide range of motion in the shoulder? The looseness of the attachments and the large articular surface of the humerus in the shallow glenoid cavity allow for the especially wide range of motion in the shoulder.


1. Flexibility Testing
(AIF Education)
2. Active Range of Motion: Shoulder
3. Test shoulder mobility - Apley's scratch test
(HeadStart Sports Massage Clinic, Cambridge)
4. How To Objectively Measure Shoulder Flexibility
(Unity Gym)
5. Shoulder flexibility test
(WSI Sport & Fitness)
6. Practical Skills - Shoulder Joint ROM Assessment
(Functional Anatomy)
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