Optimizing Athletic Performance by Exercising in 3 Planes of Movement

Optimizing Athletic Performance by Exercising in 3 Planes of Movement

Mobility is the key with any fitness plan. With the abundance of workout programs online, it is easy to get confused trying to choose the ideal program for YOU and your needs. Depending on the desired goal in mind, we can narrow down the scope of programs. Today, I’m going to give a little insight on program design for anyone who is an athlete looking to increase their strength, balance, and functionality both in-season and off-season to majorly step up YOUR game.

Here’s what we’ll be discussing today:

  • 1. Why you shouldn’t be following bodybuilding programs if you’re an athlete
  • 2. How training changes in-season
  • 3. How does this translate to my performance on the field?

I Play Football and Today I’m Hitting Arms

For anyone who’s ever played football, you know hitting biceps with the bros isn’t going to help you score touchdowns.It’s the heavy compound movements like Squats, Cleans, and Multi-jointed presses coupled with sprints, footwork training, and other explosive movements that will give you the competitive advantage for your sport. The problem with isolation movements such as bicep curls and leg extensions is that these movements are never replicated on the field/court.

While playing sports, you work in all three planes of movement – frontal, sagittal, and transverse. However, most exercises we find in the gym are performed only in the sagittal plane. The frontal plane (side to side) and the transverse plane (rotation) need to be trained just as much, if not more, than the sagittal plane (front to back). This is because in most sports we’re running side to side, twisting, using one arm or one leg predominantly, etc. For these reasons, it’s very important to choose our exercises wisely in the gym if we’re trying to improve our athletic performance.

The staple exercises would be the ones I mentioned above, and some accessory exercises would include the Split Squat, Kettle Bell Swing, 1 arm Dumbbell Press (Chest and Over-head), Man Makers, Barbell Bear Complex, Sledgehammer w/tire, Tire Flips, Side Step Ups, Lunge w/ twist, etc. There are many more to add to your regime depending on your sport/strength level as well as your particular weaknesses.

Here’s some examples of exercises in all three planes that you can start incorporating into your next workout:

Split Squats (sagittal plane)


Renegade Rows (Sagittal + some transverse)


Bear Complex (sagittal)


Pushup to Tire Flip


Side Step-Up Lunges (frontal)


Jump Step Ups (Sagittal)


Oblique Ball Toss (transverse)


One Arm Overhead Lunge (sagittal and frontal)


One Arm Kettlebell Swings (sagittal and transverse)


Practice Kills Me, I Can’t Keep Training Like This!

You’re not supposed to keep training like this! Training is strictly supplementary to your sport while in-season and should not be something that ends up decreasing your athletic performance. Most athletes will have a rigorous off-season training regime that will increase their strength and performance, followed by a tapered training regime that is very sport specific and meant for maintenance.

If an athlete tries to continually increase strength throughout the season, a few things can happen. First, this could lead to injury🤕 which would obviously impair the ability to perform at his/her sport to the highest level. Second, your training during the off-season is most likely not paired with anything else. This means once you add on team practice to it, you are simply failing to account that your body can’t take this added exertion.

Lastly, focus on your sport above all else! Put the decreased amount hours in the gym to the best use by focusing on movements you really need. So for example; even if your bench isn’t quite what you hoped it was when you started lacrosse season, now you need to shift your focus and put more time into keeping your shoulders healthy and mobilized with low weight, functional movements. As an athlete, you win by because you\’re the best at your sport – raw strength needs to be balanced with functional performance and skill.

Why Does This Matter?

Just to hammer🔨 the concept into your mind again, the movements used in your particular sport are going to be improved in the gym only IF you replicate these movements in the gym. There’s a reason baseball players are told to train their legs, back, and core; it’s because that’s what they use on the field! A baseball won’t be hit any further if you train your biceps, but if you train your back and core in fast, heavy, rotational movements, that ball will fly every time.⚾️⚾️⚾️

In order to optimize our athletic performance, we need to perform movements in the gym that are mimicking what what we do on the field/court. We also need to understand that increasing our strength in certain movements shouldn’t take up more focus than staying in the game injury-free. Your isolated Bi’s&Tri’s workout may give you a glorious arm pump, but raising the 1st place trophy over your head gives you a glory that lasts much longer.🏆


Pro-tip: Want to know what you can have in common with all the top professional athletes in football, baseball, basketball, or any other sport? Work with a personal trainer! Every single professional athlete works with a personal trainer to bring out the most in their athletic capability. Are you ready to take your game to the next level?

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