Power lives in the Transverse Plane

It is a fact that movement is displayed on different axes. These axes in context to the body are the planes of motion. There are three planes of Motion: Frontal plane, Sagittal plane, Transverse plane.

– Frontal Plane – Consist of movement from side to side
– Sagittal Plane – Dominates up and down movement
– Transverse Plane – Emperor of rotational movement.

As you should know the body works as an entire structure to produce movement. More specifically, the body is broken down into several muscular subsystems A.K.A fascial slings that drive movement in a corresponding plane. Basically, different muscle groups function as a connected team (sling) to produce and reduce force depending on the movement and plane of motion.

These subsystems are primal components of how the body optimally performs. Deficiency in the functionality of these slings can lead to dysfunction and ultimately injury. Here is More info on the Sling systems:

Muscular Sling Systems

Posterior Oblique Subsystem (PSS)
– Assists in anti rotation of the pelvis during gait.
– Acts as an energy store “spring like effect” to create more efficient movement during gait.

Anterior Oblique Subsystem or Sling system (ASS)
– Provides stability during the stance phase of gait, also contributes to the pulling through of the leg during gait.
– Important in creating stability for acceleration, deceleration and change of direction.

Lateral System (LSS)
– Provides lateral stability (Not to be confused with lateral motion).
– Often used to create stability in the pelvis during walking, stepping, etc.
– Weakness in the sling linked to:
1) pain in the hip
2) poor knee tracking
3) possibly issues with ankle sprains and
4) increased ACL incidences

Deep Longitudinal System (SSS)
– Dominant in control of ground reaction forces during gait.
– Mechanism of propulsion during lower intensity walking and proprioceptive mechanism giving feedback about ground reaction forces during gait.

Most of life’s activities and most movements in traditional exercise programs are single planar dominant, resulting in less than optimal recruitment of the subsystems, dysfunction and/or injury along the kinetic chain. This tends to lead to a cycle of guessing what’s wrong and treating the injured area when in reality there’s probably nothing wrong with that area.

Remember the subsystems are a primal component to function, meaning as a human, if these systems are not functioning properly, you break! Break as in broken! This structural compromise can be exposed in many fashions including pain, weakness, and faulty movement. This is why training must incorporate all subsystems and planes of motion because the human body is a multifaceted organism that relies on movement, not muscle!

Now to clarify, it’s not that your body does not rely on muscle, of course it does, but its’ movement is initiated by your central nervous system that drives muscle. “Strength is not built, its granted by your nervous system”-Paul Mcllroy.

As a primitive impulse, utilizing integration of the entire musculature system has allowed our athletic abilities and potential to evolve over time. Hunting, fighting, escaping wild animals, throwing/lifting rocks, and just surviving, are all activities that require multiplanar/multi muscle movement that our body has evolved from.

Isolation of muscles and even movement have little to no transferability in the functional human movement spectrum. This brings me to “The Power Lies in the Transverse Plane.”

The transverse plane can be the difference you may need to cure overuse injuries, overcome plateaus, unlock power potential, and seal energy leaks. This is simply because you are probably not doing enough, if at all anything in the transverse plane.

Force transfer is the name of the game in performance and durability – from ground reaction forces on your foot strike up the movement chain to the central axis (core) and crossing over to the opposite side of the body. Rotation of the torso is controlled by the external obliques, internal obliques, and multifidi/rotators (spinal stabilizers). Understanding the role of the obliques is essential to hacking into transverse plane patterning.

Some basic facts:
– The external oblique is a contralateral (opposite side) rotator.
– The internal oblique is an ipsilateral (same side) rotator.
– Right thoracic spine rotation uses the left external oblique and the right internal oblique.
– Left thoracic spine rotation uses the right external oblique and the left internal oblique.

The obliques are part of the anterior oblique subsystem of movement (AOS) The AOS is a system of force transmission on the front of the body and is comprised of the abdominal obliques and hip adductors. You can functionally extend that line further up to include the pectorals. (Nicholsten, 2015)

So What . . .

Now with that little lesson above on the transverse plane and the subsystem primarily used in that plane, ask yourself:

What do you currently do in your training routine that integrates or recruits the transverse plane?
Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts, Cleans, Jerks, Push Press, Pull ups = Sagittal Plane
Side Lunges, Side Planks, Single arm Farmers Carry = Frontal Plane

Like I said before the majority of life activities and traditional exercise programs primarily use movements in planes other than the transverse. These planes are important, and definitely have their place, but when the majority of your movement is in these planes, your body provides adaptations to become more stable and safe in those planes.

Adaptations include strength, but that strength acquired is your body’s fight or flight instinct (central nervous system) to protect itself at all cost. This cost, which is supplied by your central nervous system, is the tightening up of some muscles in order to achieve the stability necessary to carry out the demands you place on the body.

For example, a Power lifter who does the majority of their workouts focusing mainly on sagittal plane movement (deadlift, Squat, Bench press) will be exponentially strong and stable in those environments due to the bulk and contractile tension of the musculature needed for success. However, powerlifters have difficulty with movement in other planes such as running, throwing, and rapid change of direction due to the lack of natural rotation around the spine.

On the other hand, this is the price powerlifters are willing to pay to be proficient and successful in their respective arena. For most people and the majority of the crossfit population, this type of training limits your movement which results in mobility problems, energy leaks, and increased susceptibility to injury from shear forces. (Shear forces= side to side/rotary, Compression forces= up and down).

Exercises in the transverse plane can provide a valuable component to your training, especially if your goal is injury prevention and enhanced performance. Not only does it allow you to attack muscle imbalances on either side of the body but the shear forces you introduce to your body from rotation will combat the effects of training with the majority of compressing forces.

This in turn, assists with increased mobility around the spine and recovery of highly compressed muscles. Also because your obliques and adductors are an anterior force transmission system, transverse plane training can assist in the development of power transfer. This is a high concern for those battling a plateau from a lot of posterior based power movements.

With crossfit being very uniplanar, it is important to try and supplement this type of exercise in your routine when you can. Your body works better in balance. Never take movement for granted, you are built to move, just don’t move the same way all the time!

Some examples of transverse plane exercises

Medball rotational wall throw variations

Banded Chops

Anti Rotational Palloff Press

Banded Twists

Transverse Lunge