The Importance of Moving in all Directions

It’s time for a mini lesson:

There are 3 main planes of motion that humans are capable of. (1) Sagittal, or, front and back; (2) Frontal, or, side to side; (3) Transverse, or, upper and lower halves of the body allowing you to twist.

These planes can also be combined together to create an extremely wide variety of motion for the human body. And because we stand on 2 feet, this makes us extremely dynamic, mobile, and athletic creatures. But it also has the potential to make us very unstable by design if imbalances are created due to overtraining certain planes and under-training others.

With this in mind, it’s time for some reflection.

In life, think of all of the daily activity you participate in. Walking to work, sitting at a desk, sitting on the couch.

In the gym, think of all of the activities you probably partake in. Biking, running, squatting, deadlifting, crunching, pulling, pushing.

What do all of these things in life and in the gym have in common?

They all work in the sagittal plane of motion.

Almost everything we do requires us to use our anterior and posterior muscles – antagonistic and protagonistic – in just one plane of motion.

But as we just learned, our bodies can move in 3 planes!

It is extremely important to remember that we must train to be useful bodies. Because a useful body is always a good looking one, but a good looking body is not always a useful one.

The flashy, sexy muscles like the quads, biceps, triceps, pectorals major, all mainly function in the sagittal plane of motion, where they provide the most strength. But other muscles of the legs and arms (adductors and abductors of the leg; deltoid, teres, and infraspinatus muscles of the shoulder) are designed to move in the frontal plane – laterally – away from the midline of your body.

Not only should we be training these muscles in isolation as well as the big, flashy ones, but we should also be training them together and at the same time.

Our bodies are capable of a wide variety movements, and many of life’s tasks that cause injury involve using one or more plane of motion at one time. Think about the last time you picked up something heavy off of the floor to put it on the counter. Twisting, bending, and extending were all probably a part of that action. And because your body becomes unfamiliar moving in different planes at once, you become very unstable, and very prone to injury. 

We should all train just like this from time to time, instead of isolating muscle groups and working them in one direction.

So next time you’re in the gym, take note of the planes of motion you exercise in. Are you using compound, multidirectional exercises in your routine? Or are you overloading in the sagittal (front and back) plane of motion causing imbalances that can lead to injury?

Let’s remember to train our bodies in the dynamic fashion in which they are designed, all to live an even stronger, healthier, and happier life.

Leg day needs to be everyone’s favorite day

You heard me. It’s time to break down the barriers and have everyone who lifts or is thinking about lifting appreciate the wonders of leg day. Here are 4 reasons why everyone needs to train legs at LEAST once a week.

1.Legs are the Foundation of Strength

Your legs are like the trunk of a tree. It’s the foundation, the base, and the reason why certain trees are huge, grow tall and people go to admire, and it’s also the reason why certain trees are skinny, easily sway in the wind and uproot. Don’t be a tree with a skinny trunk. Your body works from the ground up – everything your body does begins with the contact your feet make with the ground, and energy is translated from the ground up through your body. Having a solid and strong base makes your overall strength improve and makes you a more balanced person. Everything you do starts with your legs, and that’s the mentality you need in the gym as well.

2. Muscular Imbalances Create Injury

Neglecting your legs will only lead to injury and muscular imbalances. If you don’t work out your legs, you’ll be as unstable as a house of cards. It also creates a lot of imbalance throughout your entire body which can lead to injury in your hips and knees, as well as diminish your growth and strength potential for the rest of your body. Squatting and training legs will improve your deadlift numbers, and even your bench. Ignoring any muscle is bad for your body, and since the legs are your biggest muscle group, this is a huge mistake and can have long term repercussions.

3. Improve Overall Strength

Partially explained above, training your legs helps grow your entire body and make you stronger everywhere else. Almost every exercise involves making contact with your feet and the ground. This means your legs are used, to some extent, in every single exercise in the gym. On top of this, squatting and compound exercises for the legs use other muscle groups as well including your back, shoulders, and core. So you’re missing out on extra training for the muscles you love by skipping leg day.

4. Athleticism

It’s not hard to convince and athlete to train legs, because almost every athlete understands the importance of leg strength. But even if you aren’t an athlete, you should train like one. Gaining power and strength in the legs helps daily life – it makes moving furniture easier, walking up the stairs becomes no problem, and almost any other daily activity is benefited from training your legs. Gaining explosiveness and power in your legs makes you athletic and more functional, and a functional and useful body is always an attractive body, an attractive body is not always a functional and useful one.

Just because we can’t see our legs as often as the rest of our body does not mean it should be ignored at all. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Those upper body muscles that we all love to train are often times the less useful and functional ones. Great, your biceps help elbow flexion (hint, elbow flexion is one of the least functional uses of the body. Sarcasm intended) and look sexy, but training them twice a week instead of using that second day to train legs needs to stop.  You’re not doing yourself any favors.

Here’s a little program to follow and to be performed once a week. It’s great if you currently don’t train legs, or if you want to take some of these moves and drop them in your normal routine.

These moves are to be performed in this order, with rest intervals of about 1 to 2 minutes in between each set. (Each of the exercises below are linked to YouTube videos to demonstrate and instruct on each of the moves.)

1. Squat – 5×5

2. Dumbbell Step Ups – 3×8 (that’s 8 for each leg)

3. Leg Press – 3×8

4. Single Leg Split Squat – 3×8 (8 each leg)

5. Neutral Calf Raises – 3×15