Does your training cover three dimensions?

This goes out to all you cardio machine junkies out there.

If your training focus is usually on forward motion, your training is one-dimensional, according to Michael Conlon, owner of New York City-based Finish Line Physical Therapy. For other high-priority numbers, click here.

The first number that pops into my head as a physical therapist is three, as in three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse). Three-dimensional movement is one of the key principles we utilize with our clients. Too many athletes only move or work out in the sagittal plane with little or no understand of the other planes.

Here's what I mean by three planes of motion: Dividing the body into left and right halves using an imaginary line gives us the sagittal plane, while any forward and backward movement parallel to this line occurs in the sagittal plane. With the same imaginary line, divide the body into front and back halves and you have the frontal plane; any lateral (side to side) movement parallel to the line will occur in the frontal plane. Lastly, we have the transverse plane, which divides the body into top and bottom halves. Movement parallel to the waistline, otherwise known as rotational movement, occurs in the transverse plane.

Here's the simplest explanation:

Sagittal—forward or backward movement

Frontal—side to side


Movement exclusively in the sagittal plane does not adequately train us for the sport of life. Whether we walk, run or jump our bodies (bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves, etc.) move in all three planes of motion. If we move in three planes then it makes sense that we train in all planes in terms of stretching, mobility, flexibility, strength and more, to prepare us for whatever sport or activity we choose.