Multi-Planar Training. The World’s Greatest Workout?

The saying is that you can only count on death and taxes. Obviously in April we unfortunately know that the latter is true, but there is at least one more certainty in life when it comes to human movement.

As fully functioning human’s, we have the capability to perform a wide range of actions in multiple directions from numerous starting positions at varying speeds carrying loads of differing volumes for wide ranging durations.  Ok that’s a mouthful but here is a list of the ten different variables in which human movement can be observed. and manipulated.

  1. ACTION-what movement is being done
  2. ENVIRONMENT-where the movement is performed (stable vs unstable. etc)
  3. POSITION- position in which the movement begins versus finishes
  4. DRIVER-what initiates the movement
  5. DIRECTION-which plane is movement occurring in
  6. HEIGHT- vertical displacement in which action occurs
  7. DISTANCE-horizontal displacement in which action occurs
  8. LOAD-volume or mass that is displaced during the action
  9. RATE- speed at which action takes place
  10. DURATION-time or repetitions in which action takes place

With that being said our focus of todays short blog and accompanying workout will be direction.

What is mean’t by “multi-planar?”

Number 5 of our list for the 10 observations for human movement is direction. As a practitioner of fitness, we interpret direction as “plane of movement.” Essentially this means, what path is the action taking place. There are 3 different planes in which anatomy and movement can be defined. The Frontal plane slices the body into front and back. The sagittal plane divides the body into right and left sections. The transverse plane cuts the body horizontally. Take a look below, for quick reference.


Within these planes there are traditional movements that occur. In the frontal plane you will see abduction and adduction of the arm or leg. This is seen when doing a lateral arm raise or lateral leg lift. The sagittal plane is where bending and extending occurs. We see this when flex our elbow or straighten our leg.  In the transverse plane we see rotation occur. When we see a baseball player swing a bat this occurs in the transverse plane.


The Problem with Exercise Machines

If I were to ask you to close your eyes and ask you to describe human movement, your answer would likely be very dynamic. Maybe you have a picture of daughter’s first step or a surfer catching a wave. As an assignment in Biomechanics, students are routinely asked to describe movements that they would see. Quickly we realize something that we already know….MOVEMENT OCCURS IN MULTIPLE PLANES AT THE SAME TIME.

Take bending over to pick up your kid who is trying to run away from you.  You will need to bend over (sagittal plane) and rotate (transverse) as they try and evade your reach. Quickly we realize, that human movement is THREE DIMENSIONAL.

That being said, traditional weight training machines are not the best way to prepare your body to face the challenges that the real world and gravity place upon us. Modern physics allow this type of equipment to alter gravity through the use of cams, levers and pulleys. Essentially they allow us as the exerciser to take a seat and “isolate” a muscle  (or group of muscles) and take away the smaller muscles. Which, if your goal is to get stronger at that particular machine, then this an awesome idea. If not, if your goal is to use exercise to become  better at being you outside the gym, then machine-based training is not a good idea.

Prepare for the “Real World.”

In the movie “The Matrix,” there were two worlds. One in which people lived part of a make believe place in which they were very robotic. Day in and day out they lived part of a computer program, repetitiously going  about their day. Amongst them were a few hackers who learned that there existed a real world beyond this computer programmed place. With that knowledge they would be able to hack into the Matrix to give themselves the ability to perform superhuman feats such as flying and moving at tremendous speeds.

My point is that, starting in the late 90’s our research into exercise and human function has allowed to grow slowly from the gyms of the matrix that were bound to weight-training machines.  More and more you will find “gym’s of the future,”  that are full of space rather than cluttered with stationary equipment.

This change in atmosphere allows our body to express itself in an infinite number of ways using our “10 variables of human movement.” Using equipment that we can grab and hold, we are able to mimick and get better at the things we do in the “real world.”  The things include lunging, squatting, jumping, lifting, reaching, pressing, pulling and walking (jogging, running). Again, all of which we can program into workouts.

Today’s Workout

The focus of today’s workout is to introduce you to concept of three dimensional training. We are using dumbells as our implement of load. The actions that we are performing will be somewhat traditional. We will perform presses, pulls, lunges, and some reaches. What will be new for most is that we will do them in all three planes of motion and in a very rhythmical fashion.

Workout Variables

When it comes to the specifics as to when you would do this type of workout and reps-sets schemes, I will let you decide. Below is traditional guidelines.

muscle building-use moderate weights, rep ranges up to 12, sets up to 4

muscle endurance-use lighter weights, rep ranges up to 20, sets up to 3

muscle power-use heavier weights, rep ranges up to 6, sets up to 5

If you are looking more something that will make your metabolism just jump up, try this:

Set a time limit of 30 minutes. Follow the exercises in the demo, starting with one repetition of each. After each completed round, add one more repetition. Your goal will be complete as many rounds as you can during the 30 minutes. Rest when you want and need, but don’t stop the clock. Record your results, and repeat the workout once a week or when desired.


Categories: better movement training

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