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Mastering the 3 Movement Planes: Sagittal, Frontal, Transverse

By Greg Brookes
3 Planes of Movement when kettlebell training

Incorporating different planes of movement into our exercise programs helps enhance overall strength, mobility, and daily activities in real-life and athletic endeavours. 

Understanding and mastering the various movement patterns will help decrease the likelihood of getting hurt and enhance our ability to move more effectively.

This blog post will look into the different planes of motion and explore sagittal, frontal, and transverse plane exercises.


Sagittal Plane Exercises

The sagittal plane is a theoretical line that divides the body into two equal halves, left and right. This plane of movement includes forward and backward movements also referred to as flexion and extension.

Some popular examples of sagittal plane exercises are:

Benefits of Sagittal Plane Exercises

Sagittal plane exercises target various muscle groups in both the upper body and lower body. These movement patterns aid in daily activities such as walking, picking up objects, and climbing stairs.

Additionally, sagittal plane exercises help to improve balance, coordination, and posture.

With a basic understanding of the sagittal plane, let’s explore how it benefits our overall fitness:

1. Enhanced Functional Fitness

Sagittal plane exercises offer significant enhancements to our functional fitness.

Everyday activities such as walking, sitting on the toilet, and climbing stairs are all sagittal movements.

Through targeted sagittal plane exercises, our movements become more efficient and balanced, contributing to improved functionality in everyday life.

2. Versatility and Range of Motion

Whether a simple forward bend or a challenging kettlebell swing, sagittal plane exercises are as varied as they are beneficial.

They engage in multiple muscle groups, contributing to a rounded workout.

3. Improved Posture

The sagittal plane is instrumental in promoting a good posture.

Many sagittal plane exercises target muscles that contribute to our upright stance, significantly improving our anatomical stance and gait.

The Kettlebell Effect: Multi-directional workouts

Of all the tools at our disposal, kettlebells embrace the three planes of movement better than most.

The rounded weight with a sturdy handle is well-designed for multi-plane movements, allowing us to explore the different planes in new and exciting ways. 

Here are some sagittal plane exercises that utilise kettlebells:

1. Kettlebell Swings

This whole-body exercise is an excellent example of a sagittal plane activity.

While holding the kettlebell with both hands, the movement initiates from the hips, swinging the kettlebell forward while driving up to a standing position.

As the kettlebell descends, the hips are pushed back in a seamless backward movement, mimicking the sagittal plane’s powerful forward and backwards directions.

Two handed kettlebell swing
Kettlebell Swing

2. Kettlebell Deadlifts

The kettlebell deadlift is an effective sagittal plane exercise that encourages good hip hinge motion, impacting most muscle groups, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

Starting in an upright position, hinge at the hips, lowering the kettlebell downwards while maintaining a straight back, then returning to the initial position.

3. Goblet Squats

Holding the kettlebell close to your chest – in a “goblet” position – you push your hips back and bend your knees, lowering into a squat.

This affirms the sagittal exercise as it involves a forward and backward motion. Besides building strength, this exercise also improves balance and mobility.

Kettlebell goblet squat
Kettlebell goblet squat

When you think about the possibilities of the sagittal plane and how kettlebells are versatile and effective, it’s clear that using them in our workouts is a smart, flexible, and powerful way to improve overall fitness and help with everyday movements.


Frontal Plane Exercises

The frontal or coronal plane splits the body into front and back halves. This plane of movement involves side-to-side movements or lateral movements. 

Some noteworthy examples of frontal plane exercises are:

  • Lateral raises
  • Side lunges
  • Side shuffles
  • Hip abduction
  • Side planks

Benefits of Frontal Plane Exercises

Frontal plane exercises work on various muscle groups, including core muscles and the medial and outer thighs.

These side-to-side movements improve stability, balance, and lateral strength.

Frontal plane exercises are crucial for everyday life and sports that require swift side-to-side movements, such as basketball or tennis.

With a basic grasp of the frontal plane, let’s address how it benefits our overall fitness:

1. Improved Lateral Stability

Frontal plane exercises are crucial for enhancing lateral stability. These side-to-side movements improve our balance, coordination, and overall physical stability, preparing us for lateral challenges in sports or daily activities.

2. Engaged Core Muscles

The frontal plane fosters strong engagement of our core muscles. Many frontal plane exercises require stabilising the core to maintain balance and control during lateral movements, improving overall core strength.

3. Injury Prevention

Strengthening muscles in the frontal plane aids in injury prevention, as these muscles are often under-trained. A well-rounded workout routine that includes the frontal plane can help support joints and prevent imbalances that could lead to injury.

Kettlebell Frontal Plane Exercises

Kettlebells serve as an excellent tool for frontal plane exercises. Here are some kettlebell exercises within the frontal plane:

1. Kettlebell Side Swing

A variation of the traditional kettlebell swing, the side swing involves swinging the kettlebell in a lateral arc from left to right.

This movement effectively targets the oblique muscles and fosters core stability and lateral power.

2. Kettlebell Overhead Press

This upper-body exercise enhances shoulder strength. Starting with the kettlebell in the rack position at the chest, press the kettlebell directly overhead.

Interstingly, lateral stability is required to maintain balance during the movement hence why this exercise is classed as frontal rather than a sagittal plane movement.

Overhead Kettlebell Press
Overhead Kettlebell Press

3. Kettlebell Lateral Lunges

Lateral lunges with kettlebells combine strength and balance, stimulating several muscle groups.

Hold the kettlebell with both hands at chest level, take a big step to the side, and bend the corresponding knee while keeping the other leg straight.

Push off from the bent leg to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side.

The beauty of the frontal plane and the incredible versatility of kettlebells create a great formula for enhancing workouts and overall fitness.

Embrace frontal plane kettlebell exercises to improve lateral stability, core strength, and injury prevention


Transverse Plane Exercises

The transverse plane, sometimes called the horizontal plane, divides the body into two halves, top and bottom.

This plane of movement involves rotational movements, such as limb rotation, spinal rotation, and hip rotation.

Some common examples of transverse plane exercises are:

  • Medicine ball throws
  • Hip rotations
  • High-to-low chops
  • Reverse lunges with a twist

Benefits of Transverse Plane Exercises

Transverse plane exercises develop rotational strength, improve core stability, and enhance mobility in daily activities that involve twisting motions.

These exercises also play a significant role in injury prevention and overall athletic performance.

Before diving into the unique blend of kettlebell exercises and the transverse plane, let’s explore the influence of these exercises on your overall fitness:

1. Enhanced Rotational Strength

Transverse plane exercises are paramount for enhancing rotational strength. This muscle strength improves athletic activities like golf swings, basketball pivots, and more, where rotational power is vital.

2. Improved Core Stability

The diverse range of rotational movements engages and strengthens our core muscles. This overall boost in core strength improves the stability and balance of the entire body.

3. Injury Prevention

By fine-tuning the small muscles involved in rotational movements, transverse plane exercises help prevent injuries. This practical approach to injury prevention ensures sustainable fitness and athletic performance.

Kettlebell Transverse Plane Exercises

Kettlebells are an exceptional training tool for transverse plane exercises due to their compact design and versatility.

Here are some transverse plane exercises using kettlebells:

1. Kettlebell Turkish Get Up

Here’s a brilliant exercise that not only uses the transverse plane but the frontal and sagittal planes too!

Starting with the kettlebell in one hand above your chest while lying on the floor, stand up following a series of 7 deliberate movement steps.

This full-body exercise targets multiple muscles while enhancing balance, coordination, and core stability.

2. Kettlebell Woodchops

This more advanced power-packed exercise mimics the action of chopping wood.

Start by holding the kettlebell with both hands, swing it from a low position on one side of your body to a high position on the other, engaging your core and mimicking a diagonal swinging motion.

3. Kettlebell Windmill

This full-body exercise enhances core strength, shoulder stability, and rotational flexibility.

Starting with the kettlebell held overhead in one hand, hinge at the hip, and bending sideways to touch the ground with the other hand.

Keep looking up at the raised kettlebell, ensuring your core is engaged as you perform the rotational movement.

Kettlebell windmill
Kettlebell windmill

Whether you’re aiming to develop your core, enhance rotational power, or augment injury prevention, embracing kettlebell-enhanced transverse plane exercises is a strategic approach to achieving these goals. 


Conclusion

Incorporating sagittal, frontal, and transverse plane exercises into your training programs will create a well-rounded fitness routine that benefits everyone, from athletes to everyday individuals.

By understanding and mastering the different ways our body moves, we can improve overall health, strength, and daily activities.

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