In “Real Life,” we often find ourselves stuck in repetitive postures and movements, most of which involve sitting (driving, eating, typing, couch surfing). If we looked at the percentage of time we’re in a seated position as a portion of our daily lives we’d probably be appalled. As a result of this behavior we are curled in on ourselves and have a very limited range of movement. It’s no wonder back pain is a common complaint.
In addition, if you think about the direction your body moves when it does move, it’s consistently forward and backward (otherwise known in the business as the sagital plane. See image below.) When we walk, jog, bike, climb stairs, etc… we do so front to back. If we add a little variety to our movements and go ice skating or dancing we can sometimes we get a little side motion in. Side to side motion occurs in the (confusingly named) frontal plane (ignore the images “coronal” plane). Rarely do we get an opportunity to do a lot of motion in the 3rd and final plane of motion, the transverse plane. You can think of the transverse plane as twisting. If you reach into the back seat for something, open your garage door (manually), play softball, or take groceries out of the car you are moving in the transverse plane.
I’d like you to think about raking leaves or shoveling snow. Got the image? Good, now imagine the day after you’ve shoveled or raked. What are you feeling? My guess is your back is speaking to you – perhaps loudly. Because transverse plane motion isn’t something we do often it really affects us when we do. It’s also the movements wherein we are mostly likely to injure ourselves. Weekend warriors take on a yard project and hoist a bag of mulch on their shoulders or clean the basement. All that unusual lifting and twisting will reak havoc by the time Monday rolls around. Sound familiar?
As a trainer, I try to put together programs to help move clients out of those hunched over seated postures and open things up in all three planes of motion. You can do the same. To alleviate hunching, do rowing and pulling moves and also stretch your chest. To move in the frontal plane do lunges to the side, raise your arms (palms down) straight out, shuffle, do grapevines, or even jumpingjacks.
Working in the transverse plane isn’t only good for injury prevention but also great for core strength (i.e. your abs) and joint mobility. Think about the moves you’d do if you played golf, tennis, snowboarding or even belly dancing. All of these can be replicated to some level without weights or using pieces of equipment such as exercise bands or a Functional Trainer. (See below.) Note: It’s called a “Functional” trainer for a reason – it allows you to do moves that are actually functional i.e. something you’d potentially do in real life. I don’t know about you, but the last time I was trapped under something heavy and needed to do a bench press was…well, never. It’s a great exercise but it’s not exactly something you’ll use in daily life. However, a twist, press, or pull will be.
So, as you put together a fitness routine, think not just about weight loss, cardio vascular fitness or the size of your biceps but about how you move (or don’t). Fitness is about more than just how fast or far you can run or how much you can lift. It’s also about how quickly you can jump out of the way when a car is coming at you, how you can keep your balance if you slip on ice, or how easily you recover from a day lugging kids and their paraphenalia around town.
Go forth and get moving.