Sagittal Plane Exercises and Their Benefits

Sagittal Plane Exercises and Their Benefits

The Benefits of Training the Sagittal Plane

The sagittal plane gets a bad rap for being overemphasized in fitness. But this hasn’t always been the case and OPEX Fitness Founder, James FitzGerald, argues that it deserves more recognition than it gets.

What is the Sagittal Plane?

The sagittal plane is an axis that runs parallel through the body extending through the head and tail. It is also the plane that most exercises in functional fitness take place. Over time though it has gotten a bad rap as coaches realized the majority of exercises they were programming took place only in the sagittal plane. 

The Sagittal Plane

Why the Sagittal Plane Got a Bad Rap

As an overcorrection, many coaches limited the number of sagittal plane exercises in a workout and started incorporating more multiplanar exercises. These exercises incorporate multiple planes of movements, typically adding the frontal and horizontal planes. Examples of these include diagonal chops and medicine ball lunges with a (literal) twist.

While sagittal plane movements only take place in one plane, James argues that they have the most carryover to everyday life for the average client. But to understand which plane of movement is best, coaches must first understand why the initial shift to multiplanar exercises occurred.

Why Multiplanar Exercises Gained Popularity

The shift to multiplanar exercises happened for three reasons:

  1. Avoiding Pain
    • A reason why coaches moved to multiplanar movements was to avoid pain. However, this is not a long term solution to why a movement is causing a client pain and is only a temporary bandaid. Learn to assess your clients’ movement abilities here.
  2. The Athlete Manifesto
    • Like many trends in the fitness industry, the move to multiplanar movements was inspired by athlete-style training. Athletes are viewed as the pinnacle of health and their practices usually drip down to general population clients. However, the kicker is that most clients should not train as athletes do because their function does not warrant it. 
  3. Social Stigma & Scaremongering
    • Multiplanar exercises have received a large amount of hype on social media, while some prominent fitness influencers have labeled sagittal plane exercises as bad.

What is the Best Type of Exercise for a Client?

Before jumping on the multiplanar bandwagon coaches should ask themselves, “What is the best type of exercise for my clients?” As James puts it, “Most general fitness clients just need quality strength training and long slow aerobic work. And a great way to train this is with the sagittal plane.” Get the skills to determine what type of exercise is best for your clients in this free course.

Support for Training the Sagittal Plane

To support training the sagittal plane, James first brings up the function of humans. “We [humans] are set up to do two things, move light loads for extended periods of time and to move heavier loads for shorter periods of time. The best way to train in this manner is with primal patterns which include the squat, lunge, push, pull, bend, and isometric hold (core) all of which can take place on the sagittal plane.”

The second reason that James favors training the sagittal plane is its efficacy for building strength. “When clients train higher intensity activity (heavier slow lifts) with great form they will get better at lower intensity activity as well. I’m not saying never train a multidimensional system but good training with intensity and intent will have good carryover.” The complexity of multiplanar exercises means they can never be loaded to the same intensity as sagittal plane exercises, meaningless bang for your buck for the time-poor client. Learn how to build your client’s strength in this course.

The Right Type of Training for Your Client

While it’s important to understand the basics of the sagittal plane and multiplanar training, what’s more important is knowing how to determine the right type of training for your client. To do this you need an education grounded in principles. One that prepares you for a career in the ever-changing landscape of the fitness industry. Enter the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP), the gold standard of education for individualized coaching and program design. 

CCP is developed and taught by James FitzGerald, a 25-year coaching veteran, who has educated over 10,000 coaches worldwide. This education not only bridges the gap between the classroom and the gym floor but also gives you the opportunity to develop your own coaching flair under the mentorship of James himself. 

Get introduced to the fundamental coaching principles found in CCP when you sign up for the free Professional Coaching Blueprint.


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