Exercises For Advanced Movement (Lower Body)
Planes of movement.
To move through life and it’s variety of environments, the human body goes through a complex series of interactions that involve the coordination and communication of your muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems.
These movements can be broken down into 3 planes or axis. Sagittal, horizontal, and frontal planes.
Bisects the body from front to back, dividing it into left and right halves. Flexion and Extension movements usually occur in this plane.
Bisects the body laterally from side to side, dividing it into front and back halves. Abduction and Adduction movements occur in this plane.
Divides the body horizontally into Superior and Inferior halves. Rotational movements usually occur in this plane.
3 Dimensional Movement
The physical world is 3 dimensional and so is our movement. It’s not just in sporting situations that we are required to rotate from the trunk (horizontal plane), drive our legs up and down (sagittal plane), and push our arms out (frontal plane) at the same time (eg fending in rugby). Even daily activity like putting on clothes require the use of many planes, occurring simultaneously or at least in quick succession.
Your body is capable of so many different movements in so many different directions, that it can be hard to train for all of them optimally. The exercises below are a good start for training the lower body in more than one plane of movement.
Keep in mind these require advanced levels of end range mobility, stability, and strength.
1. 12 O’clock - Sagittal Plane
In the pistol squat; the hips, knees, and ankles all move from extension to end range flexion and then back to extension to complete the movement. The spine is also flexing and extending in the sagital plane to help you stay stacked over the centre of your support.
Learn how to pistol squat here.
Learn how to work on ankle dorsiflexion here.
Learn how to work on squat mobility in the hips here.
2. 3 O’clock - Frontal/Sagittal Plane
A sliding cossack squat involves the same elements of sagittal plane movement on one side as the hips, knee, and ankle on the supporting side performs a squat mechanic (same as the pistol squat), except the other leg is reaching out to the side, going to end range abduction. The more you can be strong in these end ranges the more likely your body will keep this range. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
Remember that for gaining flexibility and mobility. Once you’ve stretched, you must also strengthen at those ranges.
3. 6 O’clock - Sagittal Plane
Another sagittal plane movement, except instead of end range flexion in the hips, the supporting leg has to maximise end range extension. The front leg extending at the knee stresses the need for strong hamstrings at length. Again, training end ranges to be strong means you are more resilient to injury in these positions and you’re more likely to keep this range of movement if you use it actively.
4. 9 O’clock - Horizontal/Frontal/Sagittal Plane
Curtsy lunge with a long reach requires your trunk to rotate in the horizontal plane while simultaneously reaching into end range adduction in the frontal plane and also demonstrating a deep squat mechanic in the sagittal plane. The emphasis in this exercise is maintaining stability and optimising position as much as possible.
The knee will go into valgus as you twist your body around, which is often viewed as a poor position to be in, but it’s important to realise that in life valgus forces will act on the body and if you never train for it, it will never get stronger.