Traditional gym exercises may help you look like a swimsuit model, but they do very little to help you win your tennis or beach volleyball match. Because these exercises focus on muscles rather than movement, they only move one set of joints and muscles in one direction. Multiplanar exercises, however, spice up your workout by working many muscle groups together while moving your body gracefully in different directions.
Planes of Motion
Human movement can be sliced into three planes of motion: sagittal, frontal and transverse. The sagittal plane refers to moving to the front and back, frontal refers to moving side to side and transverse refers to rotational movements at various angles. A lunge and a squat would be examples of sagittal plane exercises, while the cable wood chop is a transverse plane-dominant exercise. Your body is built to move in all three planes of motion without being confined by exercise machines or straight-line movement patterns. For example, tennis players move in all planes on the court with constant changes of direction. Their training program should mimic movements that they would use during play, such as lateral shuffles and torso twists.
Your brain recognizes movement patterns -- not individual muscle movements -- like software that coordinates which muscle groups fire first and which direction you're moving at a specific rate. Therefore, multiplanar exercise improves the connection and communication between your brain and your muscles. This allows for better coordination, reflex and power than training your body in one direction, says sports coach Brian Mackenzie. Multiplanar training can trigger your nervous system to create and refine movement patterns that can be applied to sports and daily life by moving your joints in all planes of motion. For example, soccer and softball players who train only in one plane of motion -- usually in the sagittal plane with traditional gym exercises -- would likely have difficulty moving well with their hips in other planes of motions that are needed in the sport, such as cutting, turning and shuffling sideways.
Train Hard Now, Torch Fat Later
Maximize your fat-burning furnace in your body by blending multiplanar exercises with traditional exercise strategies. In a 2005 study published in "European Journal of Applied Physiology," women who performed a bout of circuit training -- doing several different exercises without rest between sets -- burned more calories within 30 minutes after the workout than those who performed treadmill exercises at the same intensity and duration. If you want to build leaner muscles, use the superset method in which you perform two exercises that train different muscle groups without rest in between. For example, perform a set of squat and shoulder press combo with dumbbells followed by a set of medicine ball chops.
Create Your Own Masterpiece
With hundreds of different multiplanar exercises, mix them together like creating your own colors in your artwork. You can combine two or more planes of motion into your exercises. For example, you can do a squat, arm curl and one-arm press with a body twist that targets the sagittal and transverse planes. You can also do a lateral lunge and arm reach to the floor with a slight turn in your torso to address the frontal and transverse planes.
- IDEA Fitness Journal: The Planar Training Method
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Benefits of a Multi-Planar Movement Exercise Program
- American Council of Exercise: Training Movement, Not Isolated Muscles
- Better Movement: The SAID Principle
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Creative Total-Body Exercises
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Association: The Metabolic Costs of Reciprocal Supersets Vs. Traditional Resistance Exercise in Young Recreationally Active Adults
- European Journal of Applied Physiology: Acute EPOC Response in Women to Circuit Training and Treadmill Exercise of Matched Oxygen Consumption
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.