- We move forwards or backwards, such as walking, running, or biking, along the sagittal plane. This plane is responsible for flexion, extension, dorsiflexion, and plantarflexion.
- The frontal plane is responsible for adduction, abduction, inversion, eversion, and movement occurs in this plane when we move towards and away from midline of the body. For this one, I like to think of when I was a kid making snow angels—this movement of the limbs is happening in the frontal plane.
- The third plane, transverse plane, consists of rotation, such as spinal twists or making circles with the wrists, and generally occur in the larger joints of the body.
The body is astonishing in its ability to move, and keeping that mobility becomes more pressing as we age. Prioritizing mobility can help in a lot of aspects of life’s journey, such as being able to pick up an item that was dropped on the floor, playing with kids/grandkids, being able to do the yard work or gardening, getting in and out of the car, looking behind you, or reaching for a glass in the cupboard. All of these things, and many more, may seem very mundane, but get increasingly difficult when mobility practices are neglected.
So what does the three planes of movement have to do with this?
When we only move the body in one plane, we limit the strength and flexibility of the muscles. Muscles grow stronger only in the range of motion we use them in, so if we are consistently just running, lunging, doing bicep curls, and pushups then we are only building up the body in the sagittal plane. In doing so, we can probably push/pull things really well, but motions like pivoting, turning around, etc., become challenging as time goes on due to the lack of motion in the other planes.
A noticeable one for a lot of bodies is that most of us can stretch our arms out front like zombie arms fairly well since our society tends to work and live in the sagittal plane, but bring the arms back down to the sides and then lift them up straight out to the sides like a bird and the shoulders tend to lift up to the ears, making it difficult to keep the proper shoulder alignment due to lack of strength building and movement in the frontal plane. Balance is another great example of a movement that can be affected when we limit our movement.
Intentionally moving the body through each plane helps increase strength and flexibility throughout the full range of motion of the joints, and helps keep the body moving with less stress and pain. So building a fitness practice that incorporates all three planes of movement is a holistic way to approach the body, and honor the three-dimensional being that you are.