Oct 26, 2022
Training in All 3 Planes of Motion

Your movements can be categorized into three planes of motion: the sagittal (aka longitudinal), frontal (aka coronal), and transverse planes. In order to determine which plane of motion you’re moving in, imagine plates of glass running through your body, cutting you into different halves — left and right (sagittal), front and back (frontal), and top and bottom (transverse).

A recent article from Yahoo! Life spoke with Bethany Cook, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, Kirsi Cochell, CPT, CES, about accurately training in all three planes of motion.

motionBelow is an excerpt from the Yahoo! Life article.

Sagittal Plane of Motion

The sagittal plane divides your body into left and right halves and involves forward and backward movements, says Cook. In this plane of motion, you’ll practice movement patterns such as flexion (bending a joint so the two bones are closer together) and extension (extending a joint so the two bones are farther apart), according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

That means many of your major movement patterns — squatting, hinging, pushing, and pulling — take place in the sagittal plane of motion, explains Cook. “Basically all the things that you do on a daily basis with your huge muscle groups, they all are primarily [occurring] within the sagittal plane,” she says. Walking and running also take place in the sagittal plane, so it’s one of the most commonly used planes of motion, she adds.

Examples include reverse lunges, biceps curls, and push-ups.

Frontal Plane of Motion

To envision the frontal plane, imagine the plate of glass dividing your body into front and back halves. In turn, any side-to-side (read: lateral) movements take place in this plane of motion, says Cook. Specifically, adduction (movements toward the midline of the body) and abduction (movements away from the midline) exercises occur in this plane of motion, adds Cochell.

IRL, moving in the frontal plane might look like stepping to the side of a sidewalk to avoid a big crack or waving your arm up from your side to hail a taxi.

Examples include side planks, cossack squats, and lateral raises.

Transverse Plane of Motion

In the transverse plane of motion, your body is split into top and bottom halves at the waist, so it involves twisting movements, says Cook. “Whether it’s spinal rotation, limb rotation, or shoulder and hip rotation, that will all be within the transverse plane of motion,” she explains.

Curtsy lunges, wall ball slams, Russian twists, and wood chops all take place in the transverse plane of motion, according to the experts. And anti-rotational moves — such as renegade rows and bird dogs — also occur within this plane, adds Cook. “Any time you’re resisting the rotation, it’s going to be an isometric contraction,” she explains. “So your muscles are contracting but they’re not necessarily moving — that’s still gonna be considered within the transverse plan of motion.”

Examples include Russian twists, kettlebell rotational deadlifts, and rotational medicine ball slams.

To read the full story from Yahoo! about training in all three planes of motion, click here. 

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