Take a Break – Upper Body Mobility Routine

Take a Break! Work This Upper Body Mobility Routine

You know the feeling. When you are sitting in the same position for longer than you can remember and you find your neck and spine are stiff. Give yourself a break, stand up and move about a bit, then try out these exercises before you move forward with your day. You can do this routine as many times a day that feels good!

What are CARs?

CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations) are a way to focus on a specific joint and move through its range of motion with control (as in, slow it down!) and intention. Remember to sit tall and connect to the core (think about holding the rib cage down and “zippering” the hips up to the belly button) while practicing CARs, so that the rest of the body is still while focusing on the movement in the specific joint that is being worked on.

Mobility and CARs Exercises

Isometric Stretch Sequence for the Neck

Exercise 1: Take the right ear towards the right shoulder and gently place a hand on the left side of the head, adding little to no resistance. Then extend the left arm down to the side and actively reach long for the floor in order to create the stretch. Breath here for as long as needed, repeat on the other side.

Exercise 2: Sitting up tall, bring the chin down to the chest. Intertwine the fingers and place them on the back of the head with little to no resistance. Begin to actively push the head into the hands towards the ceiling in order to create the stretch. Breath here for as long as needed, then slowly release when done.

Cervical (Neck) CARs

Sitting up tall, relax the shoulders down away from the ear. Keep an active core.

Begin by bring the chin down to the chest. Pause and take a breath, then start to bring the chin towards the left shoulder. Tilt the head back as you bring the chin up towards the ceiling while keeping the torso still. Begin to bring the chin down towards the right shoulder before returning back to the chest. Reverse the movement and repeat.

Stay within a range of motion that feels good to you, if you should feel any pain, back out of that position or create a smaller range of motion.

Scapular CARs

This mobility exercise can be done from a variety of positions, including seated and quadruped as shown here, in a plank, or with the hands against a wall! The first bunch of times will probably feel difficult, especially in one of the directions — that’s totally normal! Practice holding a neutral spine and move through the scapulae (aka shoulder blades) only. 

Begin by drawing a box by first sliding the shoulder blades “into the back pockets”. Then push the shoulder blades forward. Next, slide them up toward the ears before pinching them together, and repeat! Don’t forget to draw boxes in the opposite direction.

Shoulder Swimmers

Awesome shoulder mobility movement! Move with control and breathe throughout the sequence.

Sit or stand tall and extend the arms out to the sides. Squeeze the shoulder blades together, then bend at the elbows to reach for the ears. When the hands are behind the head, press the back of the head gently into the fingers. 

Reverse the movement, then reach for the low back. When the arms are behind the hips, press the hands into the hips while dropping the shoulders down.

T-Spine CARs

Sitting up tall, cross your arms over your chest. The goal of this movement is to rotate from the T-Spine, so it is important to keep the core active and the hips as still as possible.

Collapse the shoulders down to the hips. Then with an exhale, bring the right shoulder towards the left hip. Keeping still in the hips, start to open the chest towards the ceiling, circling around and down by bringing the left shoulder down towards the right hips and returning to start. Reverse the movement, making sure to breathe wherever it might feel sticky. Then repeat.

Stay within a range of motion that feels good to you, if you should feel any pain, back out of that position or create a smaller range of motion.


Make sure to set up with the knees under the hips and hands under shoulders – use extra padding if needed! 

Begin by starting to look upward as the chest drops downward and tilting the pelvis upward. Then reverse the movement by tucking the tailbone under, rounding the back towards the ceiling and pushing away from the floor, letting the head drop.

Keep the core engaged throughout, and make sure to breathe. Feel free to turn the movement into a circle to stretch out the sides of the body.