Are You Training Your Planes?

Are you using all of your movement capacity? Human movement happens in three directions or planes. They are the frontal (also called coronal), sagittal and transverse planes. Knowing about these planes can make it easier to plan a workout, or help recover from an injury.

We are moving in the frontal plane when we do a jumping jack. We move in the sagittal plane when we bend forward to touch our toes. When we twist or rotate our head from side to side when saying no, we are moving in the transverse plane. If we are less mobile or stable in one of these planes, we could start to notice decreases in our function, or develop an injury.

What If you are Mostly working in one plane?

A common example I see as a physiotherapist is a runner who has developed knee pain* and does all of their training on a treadmill and the road – in other words, moving mostly in a forward direction. This person moves predominantly in the sagittal plane, repetitively using the tissues on the front and back of their body, neglecting the tissues involved in the other movement planes. To help their knee start feeling better, we likely need to train movement in those other planes, and not rely only on the sagittal plane tissues to support their knee.

In this case, it is the frontal and transverse planes that need mobility and stability improvements, to help the knee accept the side to side and rotation forces placed on it while running. A great option for our runner could be trail running on uneven ground, as this allows them to continue running while adding a side to side (frontal plane) component as they move around obstacles such as tree roots on the trail. Body weight exercises like one arm or one leg planks, and single leg deadlift or squat based exercises work on rotation control as well as lateral mobility and stability.

In Conclusion

It is common for us to not be aware we are lacking mobility or stability in particular areas of our bodies. It is often not until we develop a symptom that we start paying attention. If you participate in a sport or activity that tends to move your body predominantly in one direction, it may be helpful for your performance (and injury prevention!) to think about the movements that you may inadvertently be missing, and start incorporating new activities and exercises as necessary. Mobility and stability in all planes is a great way to augment your body’s performance. 

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Julia Mitchell, PT, Rocktape Instructor & Ambassador