Now that we have a better understanding of the musculature of the core from the core anatomy post by Molly, and why a strong core is important to begin with, let’s discuss the core in relation to the planes of motion and a functional training program. Functional training is training for movements that we do in everyday life – carrying heavy grocery bags, going up and down stairs, getting up and down off of the floor, etc.

We have three planes of motion that the body moves in, and in a functional training program we should be doing exercises in all three of them. This includes core training! Before we discuss training the core in all planes of motion, let’s define the planes of motion and give a couple examples of typical exercises you’d see in each one.

What are the planes of motion?

The body doesn’t move in just one dimension. In fact, it moves in three dimensions, which is what enables us to move our arms and legs to the front, side, and behind us.

Three Planes of Motion Defined

The Sagittal Plane divides the body into right and left halves – picture an imaginary line that dissects the body. Any movement forward or backward that occurs parallel to this line is happening in the sagittal plane. Flexion and extension occur along this plane, which means that many exercises like running, cycling, and rowing make use of this plane. Some strength exercises that utilize the sagittal plane are forward or reverse lunges, or a bicep curl.

The Frontal Plane divides the body into front and back halves, therefore any lateral movement (side), occurs in the frontal plane. Adduction (moving toward the body) and abduction (moving away from the body) exercises use the frontal plane. A couple of exercises that occur in the frontal plane are lateral raises, and lateral lunges.

Finally, we have the Transverse Plane, which divides the body into superior (upper) and inferior (lower) halves. Any movement or rotation done parallel to the midsection is done at the transverse plane. A great example of an exercises completed in the transverse plane is a horizontal wood chop.

Why should we train the core in all three planes of motion?

A great training program should utilize all three planes of motion, which will help us to continue to be able to move and function at our best.

Many gym-goers fall into the trap of only training the abdominals through spinal flexion movements (ex. crunches). Unfortunately these types of exercises don’t always target our deep core stabilizers which are the ones that can help prevent injury and increase performance.

Core specific training should include the following:

Extension and anti-extension – exercises where the purpose is to resist extension at the spine (sagittal plane exercises).
Rotation and anti-rotation – exercises where the purpose is to resist rotation at the lumbar spine (transverse plane exercises).
Lateral flexion and anti-lateral flexion – exercises where the purpose is to resist lateral flexion (sideways bending) at the spine (frontal plane exercises).

Our next segment will include more examples of specific core exercises that will get all of the types of movements described above. Until then, challenge yourself by identifying which plane of motion you’re working in the next time you complete an exercise at Hyatt Training!


Hyatt Training personal trainer Erin Moussallem Author Erin Moussallem is a personal trainer at Hyatt Training. She believes it’s important to create health and balance in all areas of our lives, and incorporating a consistent training program is an integral component of that. Erin holds a bachelor of arts from Biola University and is a NASM certified personal trainer. Learn more about Erin, or get in touch with her by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com.

Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. To read more exercise-related posts like this one, follow this link.