Everyone is encouraged to “move” for fitness, whether it’s a walk in the park, doing push-ups or climbing mountains. Being involved with physical activity on any level is at the core of any kind of fitness regimen.
But you do need to think about your range of motion in different directions — up and down versus side to side or front to back. Instability in any one of these planes of motion can lead to joint injuries or falls that, in some cases, turn into major setbacks to your pursuit of fitness.
Everyone needs to maintain their range of motion in all directions as they work out, either on their own or by choosing well-rounded routines that do it for them.
The three planes of motion are defined by mentally separating the body into sections:
Sagittal plane (forward and backward movements): Cuts the body into left and right halves.
Frontal plane (side to side movements): Cuts the body into front and back halves.
Transverse plane (twisting movements): Cuts the body into top and bottom halves.
The majority of exercises are built predominantly on the sagittal plane; running, walking, squats, jumps, curls, downward dog in yoga, etc. These are an essential part of any workout, but they don’t address movements to the left and right or rotating the body, which put different demands on the same joints and muscles.
Any weaknesses along any plane of motion can cause trouble.
Workouts need to incorporate plenty of motions along the frontal and transverse planes to strengthen three-dimensional movements. Here are some examples:
Frontal — Lateral arm and leg raises, side lunges, side shuffles, standing side bends, triangle pose in yoga and inversion and eversion of the feet (important in balance training).
Transverse — twisting lunges, side plank, pushups, swinging a golf club or baseball bat, revolved triangle pose in yoga.
Daily life requires many complex combinations of movement, often in rapid succession (such as bending down to pick up a shopping bag, then twisting to put it in your car). Exercises that incorporate movements along different planes are called compound exercises and are becoming much more common for training.