Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) - What are they and why should you do them?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Have you ever felt that you are quite flexible but when performing a movement or lifting a weight you can’t achieve the range of motion that you want? Can you stretch you muscles and joints a long way but when you have to do it under load that all changes? We see this at Physio Inq South Penrith all the time! If this sounds like you then keep reading! You need to learn the difference between flexibility and mobility and furthermore, how to improve the mobility, not just the flexibility of your joints. We also have a previous blog on the difference between balance and stability.

Flexibility is simply the amount of range of motion of our joints – i.e how far we can stretch our joints, with no thought to whether we have control in that range of motion or whether the body will actually allow us to access that range of motion during a functional movement. Mobility refers to the amount of USABLE motion that one possesses across a particular joint. The key here is that it is usable range of motion. Simply put, Flexibility + Strength = Mobility. In order to have good mobility, firstly you need good flexibility and then you need to have good muscular control at the extremities of this range of motion. The more mobile a person is, the more they are able to maximize their movement potential safely, efficiently, and effectively. 

Flexibility + Strength = Mobility

Often, people will have less mobility than flexibility because they lack strength or control of the joint at the extremities of range of motion. Therefore, their nervous system will not allow them to access these extremities of range of motion, especially under load.

Functional Range Conditioning is a methodology that utilizes the latest advancements in scientific knowledge, combined with tried and tested training methods to increase one’s active, usable ranges of motion…one’s mobility. It works by systematically expanding the body’s ranges of motion while simultaneously teaching the nervous system how to control the newly acquired ranges. Passive flexibility is trained so that it converts into usable, functional mobility. This is achieved by taking a joint to the outer limits of motion and developing strength at those ranges. These ranges are then continuously worked on daily, making the newly acquired mobility longer lasting and readily accessible.

Injuries will tend to occur when a force or stress placed on the body exceeds the capacity of a particular joint or muscle. This tends to occur due to a lack of strength and stability at the outer limits of a joint’s motion. Because Functional Range Conditioning captures passive ranges of motion (flexibility) and converts them into usable, active ranges (mobility), the body goes through a simultaneous development of strength and resilience in the ranges of motion it is most likely to get injured in.

Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) are one of the tools used by FRC to achieve these increases in mobility. CARS utilise active rotation movements at outer limits of motion of each individual joint in order to stimulate articular adaptations, and to indicate neurological control of the outer ranges for improved joint stability and kinaesthetic awareness.

CARs involve the patient / participant ACTIVELY moving through their range of motion and utilising their USABLE range of motion under muscular and neurological control rather than just simply holding a static stretch. CARs are essentially ‘circular’ joint motions and the idea is that each time we try and create a ‘larger circle’ in order to improve control in the outer limits of our usable range

As we move through broader ranges of motion, forceful contractions send the message that we can control that range and the brain gives an approving head nod. It bellows, ‘you may keep the range, sir or madam.’ That’s why CARs are controlled with tension. Whipping a joint through a range without forcefully contracting does little to teach the body and brain to maintain it – it may increase flexibility but not mobility.

Each CARs rep should feel like a movement war against yourself. You’re “fighting” to pull the joint through a large range of motion. This creates the teaching tension we’re talking about.

CARs are active rotational movements of joints at the outer limits of articular motion. That is a sophisticated way of saying that the goal is to use the whole ROM of a single joint in a controlled and mindful manner. It also includes isolating the joint and paying close attention that you don’t “borrow” any movement or ROM from the surrounding joints or areas.

How CARs separates itself from other mobility exercises and systems is the isolative nature and controlled, even, and slow speed of movement. All of this comes down to creating the movement with the muscles that use the joint in question. No momentum or other types of “cheating” allowed. The degree of tension can vary anywhere between approximately from low 20% to a high 100% full effort.

This means that CARs can and will be hard work! Doing a single repetition with a full 100% effort while reaching for the last millimeters and degrees of ROM is very challenging and taxing. 

Click here to see an example of a shoulder CAR.

Click here to see an example of a hip CAR.

CARs can be performed on almost any joint in the body. If you are struggling with your mobility and can’t seem to get on top of in come in and see one of friendly physiotherapists at Physio Inq South Penrith. We are your flexibility and mobility experts.

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