Circles (CARs) for healthy elbows

To keep our joints healthy we need to move them, on a daily basis, throughout their full range of motion. This helps stress the ligaments and muscles supporting the joints, as well as, distribute the synovial fluid throughout the joint. The synovial fluid helps to reduce friction and provide the cartilage with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

Elbow circles (CARS)

This is another one of my exercises that I give to athletes/patients in the controlled articular rotations (CARs) category. The training method and acronym is popularized by Dr Andreo Spina. It was taught to me at a Functional Range Conditioning course in Winnipeg.  I call them “circles” to my patients because it’s easier for them to understand.  What I like about CARs is that they are easy, yet challenging, and expose to my athletes areas of mobility that they are lacking in.  I recommend performing this exercise on a daily basis to help self assess your mobility.

The elbow joint is actually made up of 3 joints. These joints allow the elbow to bend and straighten as well and pronation and supination (turning the palm down and up when the elbow is bent).

To perform this exercise:

  • Begin with your elbow straight and your palm facing forward. Begin to bend your elbow. During this time supinate (turning the pinky side of the hand up towards the ceiling) the forearm as far as you can.
  • Once you have bent your elbow completely, turn the palm over towards the floor, attempting to rotate the thumb to the floor as far as you can (pronating).
  • While you are pronating straighten out your arm.

These are purposeful slow movements. In the beginning, imagine you are fighting against an imaginary opponent who is trying to move you in the opposite direction at about 20 percent of your maximum strength.