Planes of Motion, By Mark Elmasry
Moving an object requires a force and acceleration in a specific direction. We can vary any of the factors that go in to this formula. According to the laws of physics, power is force multiplied by velocity. Velocity is mass times acceleration. Force can be applied at many different speeds and over different periods of time resulting in the range of power produced. The beautiful thing about human biomechanics is that we have the ability to play with any of these elements in any direction we choose at any time, speed, force, power, and for however long our body is conditioned to.
Moving the human body is detailed and highly articulate. There are muscles aiding in the force production, called synergistic muscles, and muscles that support the force in the opposite direction, called antagonistic muscles. Just as Sir Isaac Newton mentioned that for every force, there is an equal and opposite force, so is the basis for musculoskeletal movement of the human body. When the human body moves in a certain direction, the muscular system is working equally as hard to support the force created as well as stabilize our skeletal structure. The three essential movements our body can do is pushing, pulling, and rotating.
Creating a pulling force requires us to draw our musculature from distal segments towards proximal segments. We base all pulling motions off contracting and retracting the Posterior Oblique System. This muscle system is comprised of the thoracolumbar fascia and the Latissimus Dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles as for the dominant torso movers. POS lower body movers are the contralateral gluteus maximus and medius, which predominately are responsible for pulling the femur straight. Pulling forces the posterior chain to stabilize the body dynamically as well as transfer energy from the lower body to upper body.
Generating a pushing force requires us to produce a force from proximal musculature and radiating the energy outward to our distal segments. We make all pushing motions by contracting the Anterior Oblique System. Pushing motion requires the turning inward of the anterior kinetic chain. Pushing also demands the resisting of supination. Anterior Oblique System is comprised of external obliques, adductor group opposite to the external obiques. Pushing muscles are also the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, pectoralis muscles. These muscles help in throwing, force absorption as in sports collisions, and swinging motions as well. When the correct function of the AOS is not activated, the obvious compromises are hip hiking to one side, rotating, lateral flexion, and possibly anterior/posterior pelvic tilt. Pushing motions demand a stiff and rigid core with no rotation and can allow energy to be transferred across the body or from the ground up or even slow down force acting on the body.
The last major muscle system that allows us to push, pull, and/or rotate is the Deep Longitudinal Subsystem. This helps keep the lumbosacral joint stable and eccentrically decelerates the leg during the forward part of the swing and controls pronation and supination of ankle and foot during the heel strike in walking and slow running. Comprised of the erector spinae, biceps femoris, tibialis anterior, and the peroneals this muscular system allows our body to contact the floor correctly and produced any degree of force. These three muscular systems work with each other to move our bodies in any plane of motion.
The three simple planes of motion are frontal, sagittal, and transverse. Moving in the frontal plane can be a variety of pushing exercises, for example, military press and lateral lunging. Pulling exercises in the frontal plane can be a pull down or by any shoulder adduction movements under resistance. Moving in the sagittal plane uses more slightly more advanced muscular system recruitment. Pushing exercises in the sagittal plane are narrow push-ups, squats, step-ups, and pulling exercises are rows, narrow pull-ups, and deadlifts. Lastly the transverse plane uses almost every single muscle system and requires the most muscle recruitment of any plane of motion exercises. Transverse plane movements are the most complex; such as anything from the chest fly to a shot put. There is no movement that does not fit nicely into these three planes of motion.
Every specific and individualized body can produce a variety of force with a variety of degrees and in a variety of force vectors. Different muscle systems allow us to remain stable and strong through any movement. The direction of body movements can be categorized into three planes of motion; frontal, sagittal, and transverse. The beauty in human movement is that we all have a certain talent as to how we can move a certain way efficiently which can be much more difficult for anybody else. Depending on our level of muscle activity on a daily basis, and the ability to recruit specific muscles when needed for specific movements either shows that we are average or can put us on a world class stage if we train hard enough.