Fitness vocab: planes of motion

Take advantage of all three to improve stability and mobility.

Consider this Furthermore series further education for fitness. Here, we help define the terms that all athletes should know.

TERM: Planes of motion

DEFINITION: The term planes of motion describes the three distinct manners in which the body and its joints move: sagittal, frontal, and transverse.

Think of each plane as an imaginary pane of glass that separates the body into two parts. Any movement that is parallel with that line occurs in that plane. The sagittal plane extends forward and backward, the frontal plane from side to side, and the transverse is parallel to the waistline.

Everything you do, in or out of the gym, involves a combination of these three types of movement. But most exercises tend to be sagittal-plane-dominant: squats, forward and backward lunges, deadlifts, hip thrusts, horizontal rows, biceps curls, and triceps extensions, to name a few.

Weaknesses in the frontal and transverse planes can introduce muscular imbalances and joint instability, even limiting your performance during sagittal feats of strength like running, jumping, and deadlifting.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about trends or fads but fundamental exercises in all three planes performed with a high level of skill,” says Craig Liebenson, DC, Los Angeles-based director of L.A. Sports & Spine and a member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board.

It pays off to regularly move from side to side and rotate. Lateral squats and lunges, side shoulder raises, and the hip abduction and adduction machines get you moving in the frontal plane while Russian twists, oblique twists, and cable chops occur in the transverse plane. Regularly incorporate these exercises into your routine to improve overall stability, mobility, and performance.
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