One of the core tenets of Functional Patterns is the idea of three-dimensional, or 3D, training. When you look at training from other fitness systems, one of the things that you often see is a focus on two dimensions of bodily movement, but a total lack of regard for the third. However, if you look at professional athletes, some of the most physically fit people on the planet, you’ll see that they move in multiple dimensions simultaneously, always incorporating all three planes of movement. We’re going to talk about those three planes and why it is so important that your fitness program incorporate all three.

The Three Dimensions, or Planes

When you are talking about dimensional movement, you need to picture a box. The box has three measurements: it has length, from the top to the bottom. It has width, from side to side. And it also has depth, from front to back. These don’t quite line up with our own planes of bodily motion, but that gives you an idea of what we mean.

The three dimensions of bodily movement are sagittal, frontal, and transverse, and they relate to where the body is divided in half. The sagittal plane divides the body vertically along the spine, making our left and right halves two sides of a mirror. Movements that are performed in the sagittal plane include things like lunges or bicep curls. This dimension is the most overworked dimension there is, with almost all of the most popular bodyweight exercises relying on this type of movement.

The frontal plane divides the body in half vertically so that the front side and back side are two different halves. Any type of lateral raises are frontal plane movements. The transverse plane divides the body in half at the navel, making the torso, neck, arms, and head one side, and the hips, legs, hands, and feet the other side. These are not as overdone as sagittal plane exercises, largely because it’s difficult to gain the kind of coordination necessary to work these planes simultaneously.

Multi-Plane Ballistic Movement

The reason that working in 3D is so powerful is that it trains your body to respond to the random, unpredictable situations of real life and sports. Watching professional athletes who play competitive sports against another team, you’ll see pretty quickly that they are moving in all three planes, allowing them to move powerfully, but without sacrificing speed and agility.

This is important because our workouts are all about being functional. You aren’t training just to have a nice looking body, though that’s definitely a perk. You’re training so that your body can respond and succeed in any situation, no matter what that may be. You need to be confident that your body will be able to move quickly, powerfully, and with agility, regardless of where you are or what you are facing.

For athletes, this type of training is the true “cross training” that will give you the edge over the competition. When you’re able to respond to any movement your opponent makes, you’re able to blast past their defenses that much easier.

This type of multi-plane ballistic movement should only be attempted after you’ve mastered the basic foundations of Functional Patterns. You need to have your posture perfected, and you need to have an efficient gait and understand the core movements that make up a basic Functional Patterns workout. But once you’ve reached that point, you can begin using a cable machine, a kettlebell, or other tools to advance to these multi-plane, 3D workouts.