Athletes generally move in all three planes of motion during their sport. Jumping, running, hopping, throwing, spinning, almost any motion you can imagine occurs during sports. With that said, this needs to be taken into account while training.
Three planes of motion:
When training we need to keep all planes of motion in mind. A large part of working out is done in the sagittal plane. I’m sure you can rattle off plenty of these exercises, but may have a more difficult time naming frontal and transverse exercises. Although a majority of the "best bang for your buck" exercises are done in the sagittal plane, we need to make sure movement in all planes is strong and efficient.
In this article, I am going to speak to each plane of motion and how you can incorporate it into your training.
Sprinting to the net, backpedaling to catch the punt, and jumping for the rebound are just a few examples in sport where sagittal plane comes into play. Arguably people put the most emphasis on sports in this plane. Whether it is a full out sprint or max vertical jump, coaches and athletes tend to think about this plan of motion the most in sports.
Clearly, this is an important part of sports. Therefore, a lot of time needs to be spent here. A few resistance training examples of this in exercise are squat, deadlift, and press. When training the speed/agility aspect, performing running mechanics, vertical jumps, and broad jumps can help enhance the sagittal plane performance of an athlete.
Sliding on defense, juking and shuffle to steal a base are some of the few true front plane movements in sport. Athletes are constantly shuffling and laterally hopping in-game without thinking about it.
Since this is a plane of motion that goes neglected often in training, it is important to include it in your programming. Cossack squat and hip abduction/adduction exercises are a few good resistance exercises to implement. Shuffling, lateral hops, and skater jumps are all ways to train speed/agility of the frontal plane.
Pitching the ball 90 mph, pinning right corner, and hitting the spin move are all great examples of transverse plane movements in sport. The ability to rotate the body efficiently in a powerful fashion will carry over into many parts of an athlete’s game.
Transverse exercises can be tricky while training due to the demands of the body. I prefer to use lighter loads with an emphasis on power. Med Ball work, rotational lunges, and rotational presses are great exercises to use to build transverse strength. With speed/agility, heiden jumps, rotational sprints, and pro-agility drills all work on the transverse plane of motion.
It is important to know that each sport has different demands. Golf and lacrosse are very different sports - the way you train one is not the same as you would train the other. And let’s not forget each athlete is unique; they all have their own natural ways of performing a task. A coach must take that into consideration when prescribing the exercise to that athlete. So, have many tools in your pocket to put the athlete in the best position to succeed. The exercise does not have to be a new innovative crazy exercise, it just needs to be the right stimulus that will increase performance with a low risk of injury. Train the person, not the exercise.
Now that you have a good idea of each plane of motion and how it relates to sports, plug these movements into your training. It is important to note the synergy of these motions. Without the ability to perform one well, it will hinder the others. You never just shuffle side to side in a sport or rotate, you always need the other two to be successful. Train all three planes of motion well and often to increase your athletic performance.
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