We're always seeking out the simplest solution to help our clients get superior results so they can move and feel their best and ultimately live their best lives. Most of the time, that bright-shiny-new exercise that is ridiculously hard to perform isn't the solution. It is not uncommon for people to feel 'tight' when what they are really lacking is stability around a joint and good control of that joint's range of motion. What if I told you there was an exercise that would help you improve your mobility, stability and overall joint health...all in one?
Enter CARs (long fancy trainer word: controlled articular rotations) and their magic ability to help you feel unstuck and more ninja-like.
What are CARs?
First off, these are not your standard arm circles. I mean, technically they are circles done at the joint but they are done with as big and as controlled a motion of possible. I borrowed this idea from Dr. Andreo Spina and his Functional Range Conditioning system although it's nothing new in the fitness world. Things always come full circle...pun intended.
CARs are the entry-level movement in Dr. Spina's system and he describes them as active, rotational movements at the outer limits of articular motion. It's important to note that this is an ACTIVE exercise which I'll get to that in a minute.
Why should I incorporate them?
We LOVE incorporating these in our programming at AMP Fitness because they are ridiculously simple and beautifully effective. They instantly help improve range of motion, joint control, rotator cuff health (shoulder), joint capsule health, joint stability, muscle balance, athletic and fitness performance, and overall badassery.
They help you explore your outer ranges of motion ,which tend to be provocative positions, in a safe manner since you're doing so without load (dumbbell, weight, bodyweight, etc). This is extremely important for not only when you're training in the gym but when you're out adulting and such. Like when you're carrying all the groceries in the door and you reach for that last bag or simply when you're reaching for something off the top shelf.
CARs are a simple way to bulletproof your joints for life.
How to do them
There are a TON of different ways to perform CARs but today we're going to go through the basic components to get you moving. Here are some basic coaching tips:
- Maintain a stable torso and neutral spine. EG try not to twist or bend too much.
- Go SLOW. It should feel as if you're moving through mud.
- Actively reach the whole time. You should feel a slight 'burn' if you're active.
- CARs are meant to be performed under consistent speed and smoothness.
- Try to create tension in non-moving parts of your body.
- DON'T move through painful range of motion.
Just like many of the exercises we teach, we recommend starting on the floor with these variations. It makes it easier to maintain a stable torso and natural spine which helps to integrate the smaller muscle groups.
The big difference between quadruped and standing CARs is the effect of gravity on various muscle groups. Both are good in different ways so it's good to switch it up from time to time.
Quadruped Hip CARs
Quadruped Shoulder CARs
Standing Hip CARs
Standing Shoulder CARs (against wall)
When should I do them?
CARs are a very versatile drill and can be used effectively in many places within a structured (or unstructured) training regimen. Pretty much anytime between waking and hitting the sack is great but we like to use them most as our go-to warmup to get you ready to move. The can pretty much fit anywhere in the warmup so don't worry too much about the logistics.
They're also great as a pre-movement drill before any type of physical activity from smashing golf balls to hiking Mt. Everest to gardening in your backyard. Since they require little space and no equipment they travel well. :-)
Wrapping it up
This simple drill is an easy way to keep your joints healthy until your 97 years old and still moving like a ninja and picking things up and putting them down. You need to be able to move, stabilize, and perform for the rest of your life so why not incorporate the easy stuff?