Unlock Your Movement Potential - CARs Explained


Last week I was asked by a client, "Why perform CARs (Controlled Articulated Rotations) with my shoulders?" There had been a few physical therapists who had told her that moving into full endrange would be bad for her, but my first thought was 'How could learning to control our extreme limits of motion be bad?' Why wouldn't you want to have strength throughout your entire range of shoulder motion? Unfortunately, anything that challenges the status quo nowadays is almost immediately labelled as dangerous or a fad by those of us who are not forward-thinking. 

Sure, the majority of our day is spent in the midranges of joint motion, and we don't plan on tripping down the stairs, but if or when we do, wouldn't it be nice to have enough strength and mobility at those (typically unfamiliar) angles so we don't hurt ourselves? We certainly don't want to lift something over our heads and only find out while we are doing it that we don't have the stability in our shoulders to keep it from falling. CARs help us with both of these scenarios by creating strength and motor control throughout the range of motion of the joint. Your neuromuscular system learns the pattern and gets used to doing it, so it is no longer scary!!

CARs provide strength and mobility without the use of weights or other equipment. They can be performed anywhere and by anyone. They can be used as a warm up or as a full workout. When used as a warm up, they can help prevent achy joints. As a workout, they provide a safe way to increase range of motion while still increasing strength.

Integrate shoulder CARs into your workout by following these steps. Start with your arms to your side palms facing in. Then, lift your hands in front of you until they are above your head. 

Rotate the palms backwards as your arms go behind you. Continue to reach backward as you lower your arms down, like you are tracing a large circle. At the bottom of the circle your palms are facing up, with your arms as far behind you as they go. Like if you were carrying a tray behind you, as far from your back as you could hold it. 

Next, bend your elbows and place your hands palms facing out as high as you can on your back, like you are trying to reach up between your shoulder blades. Reverse the process, straightening out your elbows, and rotating inward as you reach back overhead, then return to the starting position.

This movement may seem fairly easy for some of you. If so, slow the entire exercise down so it takes 15-20 seconds to move your arms to the back, and 15-20 seconds to return to the front. You can also make it harder by varying your muscle tension between 20% and 100% of how hard you think you can squeeze. For example, when you 'make a muscle' to show off your guns, you are creating tension in your bicep. Whichever muscles you feel working during the movement, think about squeezing those harder within those percentages. It may also be helpful to imagine that you are moving your arms through super-thick liquid in order to get those muscles to work more. 

Alter your range and tension if you experience any pain or discomfort with the movement at any point. If you have an injury, consult with a healthcare professional before attempting any new exercise. Feel free to email me Alex, or send us a message on facebook or instagram.

By Alex Vergara

Alexander has been training clients of movement and fitness since 2008. He has worked with reputable companies such as Equinox, and has earned certifications in Animal Flow, Kettle Bell Athletics, Trigger Point Therapy, Pre/Post-natal, ViPR, and Power Plate. His degree in Nutrition and Dietetics further allow him to understand the impact of lifestyle change from a nutritional perspective. Alex is co-owner of MSP Athletics. Follow him on Instagram @themovementmasters.