How plane is your training?

Before I get emails complaining about my grammar, no that wasn't a misspelled title.  Today I'm going to be talking about different planes of movement, and how sometimes we get stuck training in one plane more than the rest.

But first, why do we care about different planes of movement?  To understand why they are important, you should first know what they are.  Bear with me for a second while I nerd out a little.

There are three planes of movement in the human body: frontal, sagittal and transverse.  The easiest way to describe these planes is this - the frontal plane cuts the body into two even halves front and back, the sagittal plane cuts the body into two even halves left and right, and the transverse plane cuts the body into two even halves top and bottom.

Now that the nerdy bit is out of the way, why should you care?

Well, quite often people get into the habit of doing the majority of their training in one plane of motion.  Often, this is the saggital plane.  This is the plane of motion which is used for things such as squatting, pushing, pulling, walking and running.  Often (with the exception of walking and running obviously) we have both feet firmly in contact with the ground as well.

Now don't get me wrong, I love giving my clients exercises like squats, push-ups, rows and shuttle runs - they all have their place in different training programs, it's when we end up solely training one plane of motion that we end up with less then optimal programs.

As humans we move in all directions, and as such we should be training our bodies to be able to handle this better.  Especially if we are involved in sport (even if it's just at a social level).  Think about how many sports (or even real-life movements) involve having both feet shoulder width apart and firmly planted while you move up and down, or push and pull.  If we are talking sports, there are really only three that I can think of - Olympic weightlifting, 
powerlifting and rowing.

So shouldn't we train ourselves to work in multiple planes?  Well, the short answer is yes we should.  But how?

The key is variety.  Not necessarily changing your training program entirely from session to session but including a variety of movements in your training.  This includes training not just in various planes of movement but in various loading or base of support patterns also.

Take a look through your training program.  Is it all two feet on the ground, moving up and down vertically?  Is it all pressing or pulling with two hands?  Do you always train your core in a similar fashion?  Maybe it's time to try and change that up a little, but how do you do that you ask?

Well here are a few ways:

Instead of performing regular squats, try adding in split squats to vary your foot placement and challenge your stabiliser muscles a little, or even go to step-ups onto a box where you are working one leg more than the other.  This not only helps you get stronger, but works on your balance and challenges your core at the same time.  Take it a step further by holding the load in one hand rather than having an even load such as holding two evenly weighted dumbbells.

Or, if you already do regular lunges as part of your training, how about changing the plane of motion and performing lateral lunges instead where you step to the side instead of stepping out in front.  This challenges your body in a slightly different way while still getting a similar training effect on the same major muscle groups.

If you usually perform regular push-ups as part of your training, how about adding an anti-rotation component to challenge your core by doing one-leg push-ups.  You will be amazed by how adding a simple adjustment can make a big difference to how an exercise feels.

What about your core work?  Is it all planks and crunches?  How about mixing things up and performing bird-dogs instead.  Or performing lateral medicine ball throws against a solid wall (if your gym has one).  This works your core rotationally, as well as being a full body rotational movement.

There are a huge variety of exercises that you can include in your training programs to work your body through multiple planes of motion.  It not only keeps your training interesting, but it helps to work different muscle groups, and almost always improves your core engagement too.  

So take a look at your workout program and see if you need to add some more planes to your routine.


If you would like some advice about how to add in multi-plane movements into your program simply head to my website and ask me how.


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