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Multi-Plane Movements: How Many Planes Do You Train In?

Do you train in one, two or three planes?

For too long, getting fit has meant picking an activity you like and then doing it over… and over… and over again, without paying much attention to variety or training the body evenly.

The human body is made to travel through three planes of motion and when it comes to learning to move optimally, you need to include all of them in your program.

We’ve all done it before – you decide to enter a marathon and so naturally you run as much as you can each week, forsaking all other forms of exercise. You join a gym to ‘tone up’ and all of a sudden you’re hitting the weights room every day to pump out your standard routine of squats, lunges, pull-ups, curls and crunches, without realising all of these exercises are only training your body to move in one direction and for a singular outcome.

The problem with doing the same, repetitive training on a regular basis, or indeed with carrying out a training regime you think has variety (squats, crunches, etc) but actually contains multiple movements working in exactly the same ‘plane’ is that you end up creating imbalances in your body, leading to things like injury, an inability to effectively and fluidly move in multiple directions, impeded sports performance and agility, as well as aesthetic imbalances.

The most forward-thinking fitness and sport-specific training programs now have a big emphasis on multi-plane movement. But what does this mean exactly?

Well, there are three specific planes of motion the body moves in and each of these are essential to include equally in your exercise program:

  • SAGITTAL PLANE: Moving forward or backward (basic squat, bicep curl, forward lunge, crunch, close-grip pull-up)
  • FRONTAL PLANE: Movements from side to side (side lunge, jumping jack, lateral shoulder raise, skaters, lateral agility drills)
  • TRANSVERSE PLANE: Rotational Movement, or horizontal abduction and adduction (woodchop, baseball swing, Russian twist crunches, suspension and cable training that allows for rotation).

By shifting your focus from training specific body parts (biceps, quads, hamstrings) to creating your programs around various joints and the movements they are capable of performing, you’re training the body to move effectively in the way it’s biologically evolved to – forward, backward, side-to-side, twisting, turning, jumping, balancing, etc. Your reaction time will improve, core strength will skyrocket and you’ll create a natural, symmetrical body that looks good, feels more agile and is not injured as easily

The plane of motion most often ignored in training programs is transverse, which drives all your rotational movement. And when you think about it, this is an incredibly functional way to move. We use rotation in most competitive and leisure sports, as well as in everyday life, in ways as small as looking over our shoulders, or playing with our kids, to big dynamic movements, like performing a turn in surfing, or passing a ball.

The message? Train for life and to move fluidly in every direction. Make sure your joints and spine are used to moving multi-planer, so that when you perform rotation in sport, your body responds automatically and comfortably, rather than incurring injury due to moving in a way it isn’t used to.

Check out the Cross Core – one great way to introduce multi-plane training into your workout.

Article by Libby Babet

Libby is the Founder of AGOGA, as well as one of Bondi’s most recognised group training businesses, Bottoms Up! Fitness. She is the resident Fitness Expert for Women’s Fitness Magazine and is a regular contributor of Fitness and Nutrition features for major online portals and magazines such as Yahoo!7, LifeStyle YOU and Prevention. She also runs Bottoms Up! Health, an online health and fitness magazine for women, and is a proud Lululemon Ambassador. Other qualifications include Certificates III and IV in Fitness from the Australian Institute of Fitness, Master Trainer, REVIVA First Aid and a range of specialist certifications including Punchfit, MMAXFIT, Nutrition and Postnatal Fitness. Libby’s passion is all things health, fitness and nutrition… and her newest love is surfing! Follow Libby on Instagram or check out her personal website.

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