Manual Muscle Testing: Shoulder Abduction

Muscles Involved:

Deltoid (middle)


Patient Positioning

Seated, shoulder positioned in the scapular plane 25 degrees anterior to frontal plane, thumb directed up

For Grades 0-2 there is no 'gravity minimal' position for this movement.

Therapist Position

  • Therapist is standing at test side
  • Palpation over shoulder abductors.

To Test

  • Patient actively abducts the shoulder[1]
  • For grades 4-5 therapist to provide resistance over distal humerus in the direction opposite to shoulder abduction in the scapular plane.
  • To satisfy grade 5 'normal muscle' performance criteria, the patient must have the ability to move through complete range of motion (active resistance testing) OR maintain an end point range (break testing) against maximum resistance.


  1. Hislop H, Avers D, Brown M. Daniels and Worthingham's muscle Testing-E-Book: Techniques of manual examination and performance testing. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2013 Sep 27.