Get Lateral! The benefits of non-sagittal loading and how to multi-plane your program
There are 3 foundational planes of movement that the body utilizes for movement. These are the sagittal plane, the frontal plane and the transverse plane.
Most of the “big rock” movements (squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench press, pullups, rows, etc) are all done in the sagittal plane, and rightly so. This plane allows for the most progressive overload and force production; requires less overall stabilization and shorter learning curve; and is basically the plane we all live in (walking, sitting, texting).
This is all fine and dandy for the most part, but it’s a completely isolated plane of motion, and if we spend all our time here, ignoring the other two planes (frontal and transverse), it can lead to injury (knees and low back) due to decreased balance and stability and a decline in the ability to change direction; not to mention it’s leaving some untapped muscle growth on the table.
Read that list of one more time—knee and back pain, decreased balance, inability to quickly change direction—and it sounds like a lot of the symptoms we’d chalk up to just “getting old”. The upside is that these downsides can be addressed by adding more stimulus in the training program.
Once you have an established base with those big rock movements, it’s a good time to add in some other movement plane work, challenging motor patterning and stimulating some muscles that may have been omitted for a long time.
Listen, it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of your current program to incorporate these planes; just send a little time here to reap the benefits: reduced overuse injuries and increased feelings of capability and athleticism.
These movements can be done in your warmup as a primer, added as “fillers” between major movements to sharpen the overall movement pattern, take the place of some accessory work, or be added as a more “athletic” off day instead of spending another cardio session counting the minutes on a stairmill or bike.