Demystifying Movement

April 16th, 2021

Read ahead to learn more about demystifying movement so you can get the most out of it!

If you’ve ever been turned off by exercise because it seemed too complex or intimidating, or gotten bored with a routine, looking at movement a little differently may help.

We have probably all come across a workout video, or peeked in on a class and have seen people doing all sorts of different types of movement. You may have wondered, “How do people come up with this stuff?” or “Why are they doing that?” Well if you come to understand some of the basic concepts of human movement, it all may start to make more sense. Once you understand some of these concepts, then you can use them to help you design your own, more complete workout routines, or realize where there could be some holes in your current regimen.

First off, the easiest thing to learn about are the planes of movement. There are three of them in total, which makes sense given that we live in a three-dimensional world. What you need to know most is that any routine worth its weight will challenge you to move in each of them.

The first is called the sagittal plane. It is defined by and imaginary line that divides the body into left and right halves. Any movement that you do in front or behind yourself takes place primarily in this plane. Examples of movement in this plane would be forward, or back bends, squats, lunges, overhead presses, sit ups, and chin ups.

The next is called the frontal plane. It is defined by an imaginary line that cuts the body into front and back halves. Any movement that takes you sideways occurs in this plane. Usually to challenge it, we end up doing variations of the movements listed above. Things like side-steps, lateral lunges/squats, side bends, pull ups and presses with arms open take place mostly in the frontal plane.

The last one is called the transverse plane. It is defined by a line that separates your body into upper and lower halves. When we move in this plane, we rotate or twist. Examples of movement in this plane are things like chops, throws, punching/kicking, and bicycle crunches.

So as you are making an attempt at moving in each plane during a workout, chances are it will be much more complete than one that doesn’t. In reality, we never move in one plane completely, but we can bias our workout to one plane over the others, which is helpful in gaining usable strength and coordination for taking on real world tasks.

Take walking and running for example. Based on what I have told you above, gait should happen mostly in the sagittal plane, right? Not entirely.

The truth is that in addition to moving ourselves forward , gait requires rotation in the hips trunk and shoulder to propel yourself, and stiffness in the frontal plane to keep you from collapsing to either side. Which brings us to an important point.

While we need to do exercises that challenge us to move in each plane, we should also work on ones that force us to resist movement in each plane as well! Planks are a good example of an exercise that does just that. In a traditional plank, we use our muscles to resist forces in the sagittal plane. If you lift an arm, or a leg, or even both, now you’ve added an element of force that needs to be resisted in the transverse plane. Do a side plank and you are resisting movement in the frontal plane, you see?

For the sake of simplicity, we will end this discussion here, as it should give you food for thought about how to get more well-rounded intentional movement through exercise. I hope that it helps inspire you to get more variety in your movements as you try to get a bit of work in each plane, because that above all else is crucial. The world is an unpredictable place, and the more ways we challenge ourselves, the more things we will be prepared to overcome.

Move in every way, every day. Stay resilient.

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