Understanding Anatomical Planes of Motion 101 (Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse)

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Photo Credit: itsamarython.com

When it comes to performing exercises they can be done on three different planes of motion. Theses planes of motion are The Sagittal Plane, The Frontal Plane, and The Transverse Plane.

With regards to each plane of motion , several different movements occur at the body’s joints. It is important to understand the joint movements as it will help isolate the muscle actions that are being performed.

I will break these down to and try make it simple here.

The Sagittal Plane (The Coronal Axis)This is an imaginary line that divides the body into left and right halves.

Muscle fibers of a muscles will run along that plane of motion. So look at the bicep curl exercise, the muscle action (flexion and extension) and the muscle fibers (they run up and down also).

Movement Directions:  Any movement that happens in this plane or imaginary line will be forward (flexion) and backward (extension).

sagittal.jpg
Photo Credit: NASM Study Guide – 6th Edition

Types of Exercises for a visual: Bicep Curl, Triceps Pushdown, Lunges, Walking, Close Grip Pull-ups, etc.

Let’s look at this example of a Bicep muscle. These muscle fibers run up and down. if you were to extend the arm forward the muscle fibers would run in that direction. Same for the triceps.

biceps.jpg
Photo Credit: MuscleandMotion

The Frontal Plane (Anterior & Posterior) This is an imaginary line that divides the body into front and back halves. Any movement that happens in this plane is sideways. Think of having a pane of glass in front and back of you. What exercises can you do here without breaking this glass and hurting yourself??

Movement Directions:  Any movement that happens in this plane or imaginary line will be side to side (adduction & abduction, Lateral Flexion and Foot Eversion & Inversion).

Frontal.jpg
Photo Credit: NASM Study Guide – 6th Edition

Types of Exercises for a visual: Side laterals, side lunges, single leg front plane reach, wide grip pull-ups, etc

Remember having that pane of glass in front and back of you. We just have Adduction and Abduction or move to the side here.

delt.jpg
Photo Credit: MuscleandMotion

The Transverse Plane (Longitudinal) – This is an imaginary line that divides the body into top and body halves.

Movement Directions:  Any movement that happens in this plane or imaginary line will be  along that imaginary horizontal line. Any type of movement that performs Internal rotation & External rotation, Left to right rotation, Horizontal adduction &  abduction.

Transverse.jpg
Photo Credit: NASM Study Guide – 6th Edition

Types of Exercises for a visual: Pressing movements, twisting and rotational movements (side cable pulls), etc

Let’s take a look at this example of the Pectoral Major muscle (the muscles in red). If you notice the direction of the muscle fibers they run horizontally. If they run horizontally this must mean that they actions they perform also occur in that plane of motion too. Keeping that in mind imagine doing a pressing movement along that imaginary line.

peck.jpg
Photo credit: MuscleandMotion

Now your homework is to pick and exercise from each plane of motion and apply this concept. Try to write a list of exercises that happen in each plane 🙂

References:

  1. NASM Essentials of Personal Training Fitness – 6th edition
  2. MuscleandMotion.net
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