Think about your typical day – it may involve running or lifting weights in the gym, climbing stairs in your home, carrying groceries or walking the dog. Your joints power all of these daily activities.

Your hips and shoulders bear most of the stress of daily activity, and may be especially prone to degeneration as you age. If you want to live a healthy, active lifestyle, it's imperative to take care of your joints now.

To maintain your joints, incorporate controlled articular rotations (CARs) into your daily exercise routine.

What are CARs?

Most daily activities don't require your joints to work through their complete range of motion, or the degree to which the area between two bones can move before movement is restricted by the surrounding tendons, muscles and ligaments. A mobile joint is lubricated with fluid, which assists with delivering oxygen and nutrients to the joint and flushing away toxins to help with injury prevention and recovery.

CARs are movements designed to take your joints through the largest possible range of motion using tension and control.

How do CARs work?

CARs send feedback to the central nervous system, giving your brain the ability to have more control over movement and understand how to best use that range of motion.

CARs improve how your body moves, recovers and protects itself from injury. They also help you find areas of weakness in your body, which, if left unaddressed, can cause issues including muscle imbalance, pain, stiffness and instability in the joints.

How to do CARs

Most fitness professionals recommend doing CARs daily – or at least as often as you go to the gym to exercise.  I recommend making them part of your warm-up routine.

To do them correctly, create tension by contracting all the muscles and joints in your body except for the one you'll work. Start by performing a large, slow circle moving through every angle of the joint. It's normal for your joint to stick, click or make a popping noise in certain spots. However, if you feel a pinch, that's a sign of an issue that needs further attention.

You'll want to target the joints of the neck, shoulders, hips, ankles and thoracic spine. Below are two examples.

Neck CAR:

  1. Start in a standing position and look straight ahead.
  2. Drop your chin down toward your chest.
  3. Roll your neck gently to the left. Drop your ear toward your left shoulder.
  4. Tilt your head back. Lead with your chin angling it up toward the ceiling.
  5. Continue the circular movement guiding your right ear toward your right shoulder and then return to the starting position.
  6. Do at least three repetitions then switch directions.

Shoulder CAR:

  1. Stand with both arms at your side, palms facing in.
  2. Keeping your right arm straight, reach out in front of you.
  3. Continue the rotation by bringing your arm upright so your fingers point toward the ceiling.
  4. Turn your palm to face outward and guide your arm back around to its starting position.
  5. Repeat three times then change directions by rotating your arm back first.
  6. Repeat with the left arm.

When you make CARs a priority in your fitness routine, you will begin to see improved strength, balance, functionality and posture, not only in your workouts, but also in your daily life.

Brian Maher, BS, CSCS, is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a Philadelphia-based studio offering personal training, physical therapy, and nutrition counseling.