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  Planes Of Motion And Fundamental Movement Paterns

We don't move in just one direction in everyday life.

Yet our workouts are often very one dimensional.

Think about the popular exercises out there...most of them are basically forward and backward and up and down movements.

But we are meant to twist and turn and move side to side too!

That is why our workouts need to include exercises that move us in every direction.

That doesn't mean you should just go add in a ton of rotational moves to every single workout you do.

But it does mean you want to consider including different movement patterns for each plane of motion in your workout progressions or schedules.

Why Is Training In Every Direction So Important?

I mentioned that imbalances are worse than inflexibility, which is why unilateral moves are so important to include.

But imbalances are also the reason why you need to include exercises that work your muscles from different angles and challenge you to move in every direction.

If we only work our body in one direction, we may become very strong at that specific movement pattern and mobile in only that ONE direction.

We are also creating an IMBALANCE by strengthening our body in one direction.

While we think about the strength we are gaining in that one plane, we also have to realize that, in contrast, that means we are WEAK in the other directions.

That "weakness" puts us at risk for injury.

We need to strengthen all of the muscles that act on a joint from every angle, and create stability and mobility in EVERY direction, if we want to prevent injury in everyday life.

Because while we may be training to run faster or lift more, most of us are truly working out so we feel and look good for LIFE!

To make sure we prevent those imbalances and build mobility and stability, we need to train in all 3 planes of motion and use a variety of movement patterns.

The 3 Planes Of Motion:

When we talk about moving in every direction, we are talking about including exercises from all 3 planes of motion.

The 3 Planes Of Motion are:

  • Sagittal Plane - Divides the body into right and left sides. Movements in this plane are generally forward and backward and up and down. Think about being in a narrow hall when performing these moves.
  • Frontal Plane - Also called the Coronal Plane, divides the body into front and back sides. Movements in this plane are generally done parallel to this plane and are side to side movements. Think about being sandwiched between two walls.
  • Transverse Plane - Also called the Horizontal Plane, divides the body into upper and lower halves. Movements in this plane are generally pivoting, rotating and horizontal abduction and adduction. Think about movements you could do with a pin through your joints from the top.

By moving our body in all three planes of motion, we can build full-body stability and strength.

But not only do we want to move in every plane, we also want to do so with a variety of different movement patterns - pushing, pulling, squatting and hinging in all 3 planes to create stability through a full range of motion.

Using Different Movement Patterns:

Often when we think about the planes of motion, we assign only specific movements to each plane.

A squat is always sagittal.

A push up is always transverse.

But we can push and pull and squat in more than one direction.

That is why, when we think about the basic movement patterns, we want to think about how we can use them in different planes of motion to build stability, mobility and even strength.

Because a horizontal push, like a push up, works our body in a different plane of motion than a close grip push up or even a vertical press like an overhead dumbbell press.

We can use all of these different moves to strengthen muscles in different ways and work them from different angles.

We can actually even use these variations to improve our weak points, which may not only prevent injury, but help us work toward our fitness goals more quickly than we would if we just replicated the exact movement pattern over and over and over again.

The four fundamental movement patterns, it seems that everyone can agree upon, are:

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge

Others that are also often included when people talk about fundamental movement patterns are:

  • Lunge
  • Twist/Rotate
  • Carry
  • Gait/Walk

When you select exercises, you not only want to think about moving in different directions, but also the type of movement you want to do.

All of these basic movement patterns can be done in multiple planes of motion to get you the best, and fastest, results possible while helping you prevent injury.

It's Not Just About Rotation:

It is also important to note that strength, stability and preventing injury isn't just about the movements we can perform and the forces we can create. It is also about the forces we can RESIST acting on us.

That is why I think it is important that, while we consider rotation one of the fundamental movement patterns, we also recognize the importance of ANTI-ROTATIONAL exercises.

What are Anti-Rotational moves?

Anti-Rotational exercises are moves that help you build core stability so that you can resist outside forces acting on you and causing you to move in a way that leads to overload or injury.

They strengthen your muscles so structures like your spine don't get loaded and injured.

They are moves where your body wants to rotate or lean with a resistance, but you fight the urge to and maintain proper posture.

Anti-Rotational moves can be a squat, hinge, push or pull done with an uneven or unilaterally-loaded weight. They can also be unilateral movements where you try to maintain the same alignment you had during the bilateral position.

You are performing a move where your body wants to rotate but you don't allow it to!

For example, you could do a plank with a shoulder tap. While your hips and shoulders may want to rotate as you raise one hand to touch your opposite shoulder, you fight to maintain the plank position as if you were still on both hands!

These anti-rotational moves can be key to building that stability we need to prevent injury. They can also build that foundational strength we need to improve our primary or main lifts!

Using It All In Your Workouts:

Remember you don't have to move in every direction or use every type of movement pattern in every workout.

You just want to make sure you are moving your body in every direction, using different movement patterns, over the course of your workout progression.

Especially if you have specific fitness goals, you will want to include those moves, or moves that strengthen those movement patterns, first. For instance, if you want to improve your deadlift, you will want to make sure that is your primary lift.

You can then use your accessory lifts to make sure you move in every plane of motion!

Plus, not only can including movements in different planes of motion help us prevent injury, but it can also keep things interesting and provide us with some variety to keep things fun!