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.