Planes of Motion: What are They And Why You Should Know Them.


The body doesn’t move in one dimension.


If it did, we wouldn’t be able to bend over, step to the side, or turn and grab something off the top shelf.


The body moves in many directions and dimensions, and movement programs should reflect that. Considering planes of motion in program design is one way movement professionals can offer more functional experience, or in other words, programs that support the body in the same way it will move it real life.


In each plane several different movements occur at the joints.


Let's explore the Planes of Motion through the lens of joint actions in those planes.


Sagittal Plane


Imagine the body divided with a line down the middle into left and right halves without the ability to deviate from the midline. Forward and backward movement along this line occurs in the sagittal plane.


Example of actions & poses in the sagittal plane:

  • Walking, Running

  • Squatting

  • Lunging

  • Forward folding

  • Backward bending


Flexion: Decreasing the angle between two bones


  • Spinal Flexion

  • Hip Flexion

  • Shoulder Flexion (arm raises forward)

  • Elbow Flexion

  • Knee Flexion

  • Ankle Dorsiflexion (moving the top of the foot toward the shin)

  • Ankle Plantarflexion (pointing the toes)


Extension: Increasing the angle between two bones.

  • Spinal Extension

  • Hip Extension

  • Shoulder Extension (arm draws back)

  • Elbow Extension

  • Knee Extension


Frontal Plane

Imagine the body divided with a line down the middle into front and back halves without the ability to deviate from the line. Side to side motions occur in the frontal plane.


Example of actions & poses in the sagittal plane:

  • Side Steps

  • Jumping Jacks

  • Extended Side Angle to Reverse Warrior

  • Standing Side Bends

Abduction: drawing a limb away from the midline

  • Hip Abduction

  • Shoulder Abduction

Adduction: drawing a limb towards the midline

  • Hip Adduction

  • Shoulder Adduction

Lateral Flexion: side bending at the spine

Elevation: lifting shoulder blade up

Depression: drawing shoulder blade down



Transverse

Imagine the body divided with a line down the middle into top and bottom halves without the ability to deviate from the midline. Rotational movement along this line occurs in the sagittal plane.


Example of actions & poses in the sagittal plane:

  • Standing Twist

  • Bicycle Crunches

  • Chair to Prayer Twist

Rotation- Internal (inward) or external (outward) turning about the vertical axis of the bone

  • Spinal Rotation

  • Shoulder Internal Rotation

  • Shoulder External Rotation

  • Hip Internal Rotation

  • Hip External Rotation

Additionally, horizontal flexion & horizontal extension of the shoulder (arm across the chest and out to the side).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julia Lopez (ERYT500, YACEP, CPT-NCSF) is the Founder of Practice Everywhere and considers herself a lifelong student of Yoga, movement, and meditation practices. Julia's movement classes blend Yoga philosophy, modern movement science, and offer a heart-felt approach to enriching and joyful daily rituals rather than simply checking off the exercise box. Enjoy classes with Julia by tuning in here.