3-Dimensional Movement: Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse Planes

To the left! To the left
To the right! To the right!
To the front! To the front!
To the back! To the back!
Dip, baby, dip!
Dip, baby, dip!
Dip, baby, dip!
Dip, baby, dip!
-69 Boys, Tootsee Roll 
Who remembers the song Tootsee Roll? Well, I can’t vouch for all the lyrics in the song, but they may have been on to something with the lyrics listed above. What I mean is, we need to incorporate more rotational movements, left to right movements, as well as backward movements to compliment all of our movements anteriorly or forwards!
Think about all the movements you do on a daily basis. Your legs and arms rarely leave the midline of your body, unless they are swinging forward…and that is a problem for our bodies because we are designed to move in 3 planes of motion! If we neglect to move laterally (side to side) or rotationally, we are limiting our body’s ability to function effectively, while increasing your chance of injury.
Are you excited to learn about the 3 planes of motion? Here we go:
Sagittal Plane is the most utilized plane of motion, as it is the plane of motion that includes flexion and extension or forward and backward movement, like walking. Even though this is the most common motion, there is room for us to improve how we move in the sagittal plane! When we move in the sagittal plane, it is usually to stand or walk in an attempt to propel us forward. Get creative by changing some variables of movement in the sagittal plane. For instance, if you want to challenge yourself when walking, which occurs in the sagittal plane, vary your walk by taking bigger steps, walking on different surfaces (ie beach, stones, grass, etc), jumping (1 feet or 2), get lower when walking or incorporate some backward walking! We tend to ignore backward as a direction to move on the sagittal plane. We walk around all day, but never really go backward. I mean, occasionally we move backward, maybe in an elevator to make room for more people, the line at the grocery to grab groceries or when a magazine catches our attention out of the corner of our eyes, or possibly a celebratory moonwalk over a promotion at work. But that’s it! We need to get creative moving forward and start to move backward, friends!
Frontal Plane is the plane of motion we move in when we do a lateral movement called abduction and adduction. Ya know, the part of the song that promotes movement “to the left, to the left, to the right, to the right…”! These movements have us moving side to side. Some real-world examples of movement on the frontal plane are getting in and out of your car, reaching away from the midline of your body, putting your hair up or deodorant on. With new technologies and less diversity in our life, we are required to move less and less on the frontal plane. However, the less that we do move in this range of motion, the less range of motion we have, and the harder it becomes when we do need to move in this plane. In my career, as a physical therapist, I have seen many people lose the ability to move their legs away from their midlines, making it very difficult and often painful to get in and out of the car. It is imperative to diversify movements in your daily routine. Start working in some movements that require your arms and legs to travel away from your trunk. You don’t have to be in a gym to move laterally. Think of ways you can add lateral movements to your daily routine,  maybe when you’re wiping up the floor, doing dishes or folding laundry. Steal moments of movement back!
         Example: jumping jacks, lateral lunges
Transverse Plane is the plane of motion that is neglected the most. This plane of motion is one that is associated with a rotation or twisting motion. The most common day to day example may be turning to look over your shoulder as you are backing up. But with backup cameras, the only rotation you may be getting is when you’re trying to hand your kids something in the back seat (or if you’re daughter is like my oldest and wants her hand rubbed while she falls asleep in the car). Now that we have chairs that swivel for us and backup cameras that serve as eyes in the back of the head, turning isn’t always necessary, but it is essential for our spine health and proper functioning of our bodies! There are many exercises that you can incorporate into a home exercise program, but a great start is the one demonstrated below. No, she is not doing yoga-again she is scrubbing the floors! But, she is being intentional with how she moves-and really, it doesn’t add any more time to the task. Plus, you’ll get an up-close view of how clean your floors really are.

Have someone snap a photo of you moving intentionally in all 3 planes of motion this week, then share them in the comments or send them to  permission2move@gmail.com to be featured on our Move Moments page!

~This concept of movement in 3 planes can get convoluted, but we will keep it simple so you can start integrating it immediately. Recognize just how wonderful your body feels when you move it the way it was intended to move.

Enjoy moving 3-dimensionally this week! And for the sake of the Tootsee Roll song, add a dip in there ;0)


Leave a Reply