Controlled Articular Rotations – Complicated nonsense or another way of hacking your body’s mobility
Flexibility does NOT equal Mobility.
This may be a point of contention with a lot of folks out there doing tons of static stretching to "make their muscles longer".
Flexibility is simply considered the range of motion you have at each joint. It’s just how far you can move through the range of motion that a joint should possess.
Mobility, on the other hand, is the amount of usable/accessible range of motion that you have at a specific joint coupled with muscular control throughout that same range.
So again, Flexibility does NOT equal Mobility
Mobility IS flexibility coupled with muscular control
I often encounter people with good flexibility who have trash mobility because they lack any degree of strength & control at the extreme ends of their range of motion. And often this “end range of motion” they possess is well below anything that could be described as normal. Then the questions becomes, not do they possess “normal” range of motion but rather do they possess “functional” range of motion; meaning do they possess an amount of range of motion that allows them to accomplish their daily tasks optimally and without supercharging tissue(s) into becoming angry & symptomatic.
Often people display less mobility than flexibility because they lack the strength & control of the joint. This deficiency drives the nervous system to throttle down force expression in unfamiliar ranges.
Essentially, if you end up in a position that the body is unfamiliar with the brain limits your ability to produce substantial muscular force because it is convinced you'll hurt something.
We are occasional passengers in our own body.
Imagine a back squat; if you’ve only ever squatted to a 20” target, muscle length, force expression and joint tisse changes have occurred to make you VERY good at squatting to that depth. Now if you introduce a 14” target and expect to magically be able to express strength & control as the 20” level you’ll most likely encounter challenges as strength is throttled down in the new 6" of motion; you may even experience "pain" in the joints as they are forced to access new angles.
For instance, take the hip ROM demands of a world class sprinter compared that of a novice runner. They are different, not significantly at the very base comparison but definitely different.
The level of demand each places on their body is VERY different. A world class sprinter’s primary focus is on optimal function of their body to allow for peak performance.
For a novice runner; running is typically NOT their primary focus, it’s a hobby, a past time, not a means of supporting themselves, etc. They cannot dedicate hours per day/week to master their craft so their ROM will ultimately be different to that of a professional.
This doesn't mean to give up a pursuit of better mobility! If you use the strength & control of a professional as a barometer for your own mobility, then you have something to strive for. The closer you get to mastering the limits of your OWN body, the better all of your output will become.
How do you improve upon the strength & control in that position? Just force yourself into that position and hope your body catches on and makes adjustments? Heck no.
To make the new mobility and more readily accessible, you have to consciously take a joint to its outer limits and actively develop strength in those ranges.
Rather than passively stretching, you’re taking a joint to near end range and then contracting the muscles to venture further into the position. The contraction provides a message to the brain/nervous system that we can initiate and control a contraction in the position and the brain logs it as safe or usable. Every rep regardless of joint being trained should feel like you’re fighting your body to get the joint into a farther or deeper position.
Below are two examples of CARs for the Hip.
You have to pay close attention when isolating a joint and movement. Early on you’ll feel your body’s “work around strategies” to borrow movement from surrounding tissues and/or joints.
Do your best to only use the muscles involved in moving the joint in question. No momentum, hitching, shrugging, side bending are allowed.
Because of the isolated nature of this style of training you do not need to perform dozens uppon dozens of reps. 1-3 sets of 4-6 reps with a 5-10” hold at the top of the movement is plenty. Doing low volume with a hold should get you sweating and shaking pretty quickly.
Try a set or two and let me know what you think!