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September 06, 2022 5 min read

You may not realize it, but all your everyday activities are mini-workouts, regardless of whether you've laced up your trainers. You use muscles of all three planes of motion in everything you do. Your leg muscles work when you walk to the couch, your back muscles help you to sit up, and your core muscles work when you stretch to grab the remote from the far end of the couch.

This highlights the importance of working all your muscles in your training sessions.

The best way to do this is to make sure you're working out in the same way you actually move day-to-day— in all dimensions.

WHAT ARE THE THREE PLANES OF MOTION?

Imagine three lines, or planes, cutting through the human body, dividing it into segments.

  • Sagittal plane: Divides your body into right and left sides
  • Frontal plane: Divides your body into front and back halves
  • Transverse plane: Divides your body into top and bottom sections

Your movements could be limited to one of the three planes, or compound, involving more than one plane at the same time.

Imagine walking up the stairs, the movements of your ankles, knees, and hips run parallel with the sagittal plane of motion which divides your body into left and right sides.

Reaching sideways with your hand to grab the handrail, your frontal plane will do the work, being parallel with the line that dissects your body into front and back sections.

Turning to look behind you is a rotational movement activating the transverse plane because you rotate your torso parallel to the line that divides your body into top and bottom sections.

When you make any of these different movements simultaneously, using different planes, they become compound motions.

Every plane of motion is responsible for specific movements.

SAGITTAL PLANE MOVEMENTS

Sagittal plane motions are probably the most frequently used movements happening throughout our daily activities.  

They typically happen in front or behind us.

The mechanics of eating are examples of sagittal plane motions, and so are typing on a computer keyboard, texting, and walking.

Sagittal plane movements are classified as follows:

  • Flexion: A movement that bends ordecreases the angle at a joint.
  • Extension: A movement that extends orincreases the angle of a joint.
  • Hyperextension: A movement that extends the angle at a joint beyond neutral.
  • Dorsiflexion: A movement that bends the ankle, moving the top of the foottoward the shin.
  • Plantar flexion: A movement that pushes the foot down andaway from the body, like pointing the toes

Many traditional strength training movements occur in the sagittal plane:

  • Bicep curls
  • Forward or reverse lunges
  • Squats
  • Vertical jumping
  • Running
  • Front raises
  • Triceps push downs
  • Calf raises
  • Deadlifts
  • Dead bugs
  • See Saw Walk
  • Burpees

FRONTAL PLANE MOVEMENTS

The frontal plane (also called the coronal plane) divides the body into front (anterior) and back (posterior) sections. Movements that occur in the frontal plane are lateral or side-to-side movements.

Frontal movements are slightly less common than sagittal movements. Throughout our daily activities, we walk forward more often than from side to side. Likewise, we reach for something in front of us more frequently than directly out to the side.

Frontal plane movements are classified as follows:

  • Abduction: Moving the body or a limb laterally andaway from the body’s midline.
  • Adduction:  Moving the body or a limb laterallytoward the body’s midline.
  • Elevation: Moving the shoulder blades (scapula)up.
  • Depression: Moving the scapuladown.
  • Eversion:  Rolling a foot towards the medial side (inside).
  • Inversion:  Rolling a foot towards thelateral side (outside).

Exercises that occur in the frontal plane include:

  • Lateral raises
  • Jumping jack
  • Side bends
  • Standing Teapot
  • Banded lateral Walks
  • Lateral Plyo Skiers
  • Jumping jacks
  • Side lunges,
  • Side shuffles

TRAVERSE PLANE MOVEMENTS

Movements that occur in the transverse plane typically involve rotation.

Everyday activities in the traverse plane include turning a doorknob or turning your head to look behind you. However, major body movements on the traverse plane are less frequent than both sagittal and frontal plane movements. In fact, a significant percentage of exercise injuries occur during rotational (transverse) movements.

Transverse plane movements include:

  • Rotation: The movement of a limb or the torso around its vertical axis.
  • Pronation: Rotating the foot or forearm to a foot-sidedown or palm-side down position.
  • Supination:  Rotating the foot or forearm to a foot-sideupor palm-side up position.
  • Horizontal abduction: The movement of the upper armaway from the body’s midline when it is elevated to 90 degrees
  • Horizontal adduction:  The movement of the upper armtoward the body’s midline when it is elevated to 90 degrees.

Exercises that occur in the transverse plane include:

  • Russian twists
  • Bench presses
  • Push-ups
  • Oblique crunches
  • Chest and back flys
  • Trunk twists
  • Hitting a golf ball
  • Swinging a bat
  • Seated twists

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT MULTI-PLANAR TRAINING?

Traditional weight lifting and other training programs tend to focus primarily on exercise routines focusing on sagittal and frontal plane exercises. 

Lunges, squats, leg presses, lateral raises, bicep curls, and triceps extensions, are some of the exercises most frequently included in workout routines.

We should not lose sight of the many muscle groups and joints that move in more than one direction. 

Multi-planar movements occur not only during workouts but also in our day-to-day activities.

That right there shows why multi-planar training is essential.

WHAT IS MULTI-PLANAR TRAINING?

Ideally, working out any part of the body should involve each plane of motion.

Why is it important to train all three planes?

Compound training involves all three planes of motion, generating greater body awareness. Furthermore, multi-planar training could improve balance, coordination, and agility.

Multi-planar workouts play a significant role in resistance training because it creates balanced muscle development and reduces injury risks.

Muscle imbalance frequently causes workout-related injuries, which are common causes of chronic back pain and other long-term conditions.

Equally significant is functional fitness. Our day-to-day movements include leaning over, bending, twisting, and more, involving movement in all planes of motion.

Likewise, when we play sports, we could be hitting baseballs, swinging tennis rackets, or golf clubs, etc. Strength and coordination in all planes of movement bring optimal fitness.

Multi-Planar Motion – Creative Exercise Planning – Image from Shutterstock

With a bit of creativity, you can modify many single exercises to work several different planes of motion, and even have fun doing it!

For example, a lower body workout could include backward movements, forward lunges, lateral lunges, and alternating transverse lunges.

Core workouts could include crunches or reverse crunches working the sagittal plane, side planks working the frontal plane, and oblique crunches or Russian twists working the transverse plane.

For upper body workouts, close-grip shoulder presses will benefit the sagittal plane movements, lateral raises can work the frontal plane, and chest flys can add the traverse plane to make your workout multi-planar.

Here are a few more tips for integrating multi-planar exercises into your workout routine:

  • Select exercises that involve primary joints like hips, ankles, knees, shoulders, and elbows.
  • Emphasize multi-joint movements and check for kinetic chain alignment.
  • Don’t be over-ambitious — start small and build strength and confidence as you do more and more complex multi-joint movements.
  • Keep it exciting and challenging by mixing it up and including new equipment, movements and modalities frequently.
  • Continue to challenge yourself using resistance, reaction, and combining and re-sequencing Primals and planes of motion.

CONCLUSION

A varied workout series and functional training are essential ingredients in preparing the body for multi-directional movement patterns.

It involves more than working on a single muscle group, body part, or plane of motion. Multi-planar workouts can improve mobility, strength, posture, and fitness, while also optimizing your capacity to move with balance and coordination.

AN EXTRA BOOST

With bodybuilders, runners, and everyone in between looking for every training advantage they can get, the demand forcutting-edge pre-workout products continues to grow.

In years past the only option athletes could utilize to get more out of their workouts was coffee, but today that has all changed because pre-workouts have become the go-to drink of choice for anyone looking to squeeze more out of their workouts.