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How to Increase Exercise Difficulty | Move Through 3-Planes of Motion

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

We live in a three-dimensional space and have the ability to MOVE through a three-dimensional space. Let's start with the basics and "move" onto something a little more complex. If you move your body in any direction you will be moving through one of three planes of motion: sagittal, frontal, and/or transverse. For most people this information is irrelevant until you start exercising. Knowing this information and how to apply it can help you maximize the efficiency of your work outs and target muscles you never knew existed. To better understand planes of movement we will have to use our imagination and visualize.

Sagittal Plane

Forward & Backward

Flexion & Extension Movements

Frontal Plane

Left & Right

Abduction, Adduction, & Lateral Flexion Movements

Transverse Plane


Rotational Movements

how to increase exercise difficulty

There are a few movements that can get a little convoluted so if it doesn't fall into one of these three categories specifically, do not panic. One example would be circumduction which is something we have all done before in the form of arm circles.

Fitness equipment has a tendency to limit our movement to one singular plane of motion during an exercise. Think about any weight machine you have used: knee extension, leg press, bicep curl/tricep extension, shoulder fly, ect. They are all limited to one single plane. This is great for beginners who are discovering their abilities and familiarizing themselves with equipment but can become limiting if we never progress to integrated movements.

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Coordinating a combination of sagittal, frontal, and transverse plane exercises into your routine can pay dividends in terms of efficiency. However, it is pivotal to understand that performing multi planar movements is an advanced concept that should never be underestimated. It requires self-discipline and a great sense of body awareness to perform consistently and properly without the assistance of a personal trainer. But do not fret, there are plenty of progressions to accomplish first.

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