Multiplanar Movements: Getting the Most out of Your Gym Workout

Multiplanar Movements: Getting the Most out of Your Gym Workout

As a Licensed Massage Therapist and NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with over fifteen years of experience, I have observed many patterns when it comes to people and how they exercise. Often fitness enthusiasts get trapped into a comfort zone and gravitate to one type of fitness routine, rather than stepping outside of the box and adding variety to their regimen. It is not uncommon to see people in a cycling class five-plus days a week.

Repeating the same movement patterns over-and-over again multiple days a week can lead to overuse injuries such as patellofemoral syndrome/knee injuries, hamstring strains, and sciatica/piriformis syndrome at the hip.

An unwavering dedication to one specific recreational activity is common with runners and indoor cyclists. Indoor cycling is a wonderful cardiovascular activity; however, it tends to neglect the core and upper body and relies mostly on the legs moving repeatedly in one circular plane of motion.

A dedication to mastering skills in one specific activity is praiseworthy. However, trying to implement other cross-training strategies that utilize multiplanar movement patterns can be tremendously beneficial long-term, and can improve overall sports performance.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the three planes of motion: The sagittal, coronal, and transverse planes.

Sagittal (Longitudinal) PlaneSagital plane of movement for exerciseEdoarado [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Sagittal (Longitudinal) Plane: The sagittal (longitudinal) plane divides the body into the left and right hemispheres, allowing for front-to-back movements. Sagittal plane movements include forward/backward bending, traditional sit-ups, and bicep curls.

Coronal (Frontal) Plane

Coronal plane of movement and exercise

Edoarado [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Coronal (Frontal) Plane: The coronal (frontal) plane divides the body into front and back sections, allowing for movements away from the side of the body. A good example of a sagittal plane exercise is jumping jacks, lateral shoulder raises, and side-bending at the torso.

Transverse (Axial) Plane

Coronal plane of movement and exerciseEdoarado [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Transverse (Axial) Plane: The transverse (axial) plane divides the body from superior (top) to inferior (bottom), allowing for rotational movements such as turning your head, woodchoppers, and Russian twists.

The dancer below provides a beautiful example of the three planes of motion.

Dance and the three planes of movement

The upper left is a clear picture of the coronal (frontal) plane. The dancer has her arms outstretched to the side and over her body.

Upper right displays the transverse (axial) plane movement. The dancer has her torso rotated right, her hips rotated left, and her head slightly turned to the right.

The bottom two images are good illustrations of the arms moving through the sagittal (longitudinal) plane. The dancer has one arm outstretched in front of her, while the other arm is outstretched directly behind.

What are multiplanar movements? Multiplanar movements are movements that utilize your arms, legs, and torso in multiple directions, utilizing all three planes. It is important to design a training program that utilizes multiplanar movements to prepare the body for unexpected obstacles that can happen in everyday life (a slip on the ice), as well as sport (a quick change in direction on the soccer field or tennis court).

multiplanar movement and exercise

Navigating everyday life can be a multiplanar workout, and this becomes even more evident when you live in a metropolitan environment like New York City. Let’s take a rush hour in NYC as an example of how we utilize multiplanar movements every day.

It’s 5:30 pm in The Big City. You are beaming because you managed to make it through the line at Trader Joe’s in less than ½ an hour, and you realize you have just 20 minutes to catch your train at Penn Station. With grocery bags in both hands, you attempt to run to the train station, which ends up being a brisk walk through the crowd of people [sagittal (longitudinal) plane].

Like the frog in the classic video game, you side-step back-and-forth aggressively to navigate the oncoming onslaught of pedestrians coming at you from every direction [coronal (frontal) plane].

To protect your valuable groceries, you have to twist and turn your shoulders and torso as you shuffle through the masses to arrive at your destination [transverse (axial) plane].

As you can see, navigating a city crowd can prove to be quite a sport. If you are a city dweller, you have likely become conditioned to these challenges. However, imagine your friend from a smaller suburb joining you for this trip. Given that they are not used to these spontaneous movements, this trip can lead to potential injury.

The same can be true for sports; the athlete must train their mind and body off the field to adapt to unexpected movement patterns on the field. This illustrates the importance of multiplanar conditioning and functional fitness when designing your workout. Functional fitness is the training you do to prepare yourself for the activities of real-life.

Take a moment to watch this beautifully done video demonstrating 24 Multiplanar and Transverse Plane Exercises. Kai Simon demonstrates, with great form and technique, a multitude of functional exercises. Many of these exercises require minimal to no equipment.

* It is imperative that you seek a professional fitness trainer to make sure these exercises are performed properly to reduce the risk of injury.

Stay tuned for a future supplement to this blog discussing the benefits of implementing primal movement patterns to your workout.

Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS

Compliment Your Body, LLC has been providing In-Home and Corporate / Event chair massage to New York City and the surrounding boroughs since 2004. Commitment, compassion, connection, and charity are the pillars of our company. Experience the CYBNYC difference!

Compliment Your Body has chosen  Food Bank For New York City as their 2019 and 2020 charity of choice. Every chair or table massage session for the remainder of 2019, and throughout 2020 will provide three meals to a New York City resident in need.

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Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS, owner and CEO of Compliment Your Body, LLC has over fifteen years of experience in the health and wellness field. During his career he has worked in a multitude of settings, including spas, chiropractic offices, and on the field at IronMan competitions. Richard was hired in 2005 with the United States Tennis Association as a Massage Therapist and provided therapy to the professional athletes at the US Open Tennis Championships from 2005 - 2010. Richard graduated in 2004 from The Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. He is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He also completed the Plant Based Nutrition course at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a Level 2 Nutrition Coach with Precision Nutrition. Compliment Your Body has been providing corporate / event massage therapy, and in-home massage therapy to New York City and the surrounding boroughs for over fifteen years, and has been the corporate massage provider to the New York Times throughout this time. Commitment, compassion, connection and charity are the pillars of our business. Experience the CYBNYC difference!

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