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Balance Your Workouts
Working Across All Three Planes of the Body
Part 1 of 2
By: Jackie Wright

There are three planes of the body, the sagittal, which divides the body into right and left sides, the frontal, which divides the body into front and back sides and the transverse, which divides the body into top and bottom segments. A balanced exercise program takes into account all three of these planes and incorporates exercises that emphasize each plane individually, as well as working all three planes together. Before beginning any exercise program, consult your physician.

Sagittal Plane

  • Working the right and left sides of the body equivalently seems like common sense. However, make certain during cardio/aerobics classes and workouts that you are performing the same number of repetitions on both sides of the body and changing the lead leg equally throughout the workout.
  • When performing muscular strength training exercises, make certain to perform the same number of repetitions on each side of the body, and whenever possible, use the same amount of external resistance. Due to most of us having a dominate side of the body, that side may be stronger, but strive for balance by challenging the non-dominate side as well.
  • This dominate/non-dominate side issue is also usually present during flexibility training where one side is more flexible than the other. Focus upon creating as much balance between the sides as possible. However, when stretching, stretch only to your point of tightness, never pain.

Frontal Plane

  • The frontal plane is probably the area where some of the greatest imbalances occur. This is due in part to most of the anterior muscles being utilized more often during our daily activities and to the focus placed upon exercises that emphasize the anterior (front) of the body.
  • Working on the pectoral muscles without performing exercises for the upper/middle of the back, may create tight pectoral muscles which may lead to stretched upper back muscles. This imbalance may create poor posture causing a plethora of structural/muscular problems.
  • The same is true of the biceps, which tend to be stronger than the triceps and the quadriceps, which tend to be stronger than the hamstrings.
  • Therefore, make certain to train the anterior and the posterior muscles of the body regularly. Additionally, train muscles in opposition to one another (i.e. work the anterior/ posterior muscles; lateral/medial muscles, etc.) as this creates better balance between the front and back of the body.
  • The abdominals and core muscles are another area of concern when discussing the frontal plane. Remember, your core muscles include both anterior and posterior muscles, both of which support and flex/extend/rotate the trunk. The posterior and lateral aspects of the core muscles are critical in trunk stability. Consequently, rather than performing a hundred crunches, include a variety of exercises for the trunk by flexing forward and laterally, rotating and extending.
Click here to read part two of the series on Balancing Your Workouts.
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