Joint Health

Nikki Donovan

Flexibility vs Mobility – do you know the difference?


Flexibility = amount of range of motion (ROM)in our joints (passive)

Mobility = amount of ‘useable’ ROM in our joints(active) 

  • The more mobility, the more movement potential

Mobility is key to being pain-free and builds a foundation for speed, strength and power

Often people will have less mobility than flexibility because they lack strength or control of the joint at the extremities of ROM, especially under load.


Flexibility + Strength = Mobility


We therefore need to convert passive ROM (flexibility) into usable, active ROM (mobility).

In the gym we often try to stabilize our joints with knee sleeves and wrist wraps and other accessories that intend to secure them and limit range of motion. But we need to be able to move our joints in their full ROM in order to get the most out of them. We can practice and improve on this through Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs).


Controlled Articular Rotations

Controlled: Purposeful, deliberate, and smooth

Articular: Dealing with articulations (joints)

Rotations: Rotational movements, ideally through end ranges of motion


Goals of CARs – use the whole ROM of a single joint, in a controlled manner, isolating the joint and paying attention not to“borrow” any movement or ROM from surrounding areas to compensate.


  • Used to increase active ROM (aka mobility), turning passive flexibility into usable, functional mobility
  • Achieved by taking a joint to the outer limits of your ranges of motion and developing strength at these ranges
  • Ensures improved joint stability and awareness, teaching nervous system how to control the newly acquired ranges
  • The more often you practise, the more longer-lasting and readily accessible this newly acquired mobility will be.


An example of a Full Body CARs Routine -


During the exercises, consider:

  • Do you feel any pain or pinching? Where in the movement? What side of the joint is it on?
  • Do you feel anything uncomfortable (but not necessarily painful)? For example, stiffness, tightness, discomfort, cramping, weakness, crunching, popping, grinding, or jerky/shaky movements?
  • Do other body parts that are not the target joint move, too?

For example, when you reach your arm overhead and backwards to do the shoulder CARs, does your elbow bend, your torso twist, your hips turn, your head lean, or anything else that’s not just clean movement at your shoulder joint?

  • What is the biggest range of motion you feel good about? Can you expand into a bigger range on your next rep? Can you get more rotation out of the joint if you try a little harder?
  • What is the overall quality of the movement? Are you straining or do you do you move with grace, control, and ease?


The nervous system and movement

Research on the biology of connective tissue, how the nervous system generates movements, and how stretching and exercises affects tissue (from ‘Starting a Daily Mobility Practise’ by Matt Kirtley):

  • Your body prioritises repairing and improving tissues that you use regularly (anything you don’t use will not be well maintained)
  • Your nervous system gets worse at controlling ranges you do not use often
  • Using a body part more improves your nervous systems command over it
  • You gradually “lose” a range of motion the longer you neglect to use it
  • The connective tissues of the joint capsules are sustained by movement
  • The brain prioritises signals from the joint capsule as high priority
  • Joint rotation is the best way to get at the deep capsular tissue


“You can only get stronger in the ranges you have access to”

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