In order to create movement, muscles must contract or extend. In order to create the most efficient movements, muscles have to be strong, flexible and create the most effective range of motion for those particular movements. If you are involved with athletic competition or simply engaging in a trot around the neighborhood, it’s important for you to ensure that the exercises that you are performing are helping you to achieve your optimum fitness level. Below are are the different planes of motion and muscle actions that are important to consider when working out.
PLANES OF MOTION
There are three planes of motion; the sagittal plane, the frontal plane and the transverse plane. Why is knowing the planes of motion important to resistance training? Because your body doesn’t just move in one direction. Your body can move in multiple directions, so it’s important for you to strengthen all your muscles equitably. And for those who are training for specific sports, it’s even more important to know the planes of motion, so that you can improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles that you will use the most for competition.
The sagittal plane divides the body into half, vertically, creating a right and left side.¹
Exercises like squats, curls, triceps extensions, leg curls, and leg extensions, help to strengthen muscles that are used for running, biking, jumping and rowing.
The frontal plane divides the body into half, vertically creating a front (anterior) and back (posterior).¹
Exercises like the side lunge, adductor/abductor machines (or cables), speed skaters, military shoulder press, lateral raise, upright rows, or side lying leg lifts. These exercises can be used to strengthen muscles that help to move the body side to side (laterally). Sports like baseball, basketball, tennis, and hockey depend on good and quick lateral movements.
The transverse plane divides the body, horizontally, creating an upper half (superior) and lower half (inferior).¹
Exercises like the Russian twist, rotating onearm cable, rotational medicine ball throw, one arm dumbbell bench press, three point dumbbell row. These exercises can be used to strengthen muscles that help to rotate the body. Sports like tennis, baseball, badminton, ping pong and even javelin throwing rely heavily on the ability of the body to rotate.
There are three basic muscle actions; Concentric, Eccentric and isometric
Concentric Muscle Action
A concentric muscle action involves shortening of the muscle. This action occurs when the force exceeds the external resistance, resulting in joint movement.2 A typical exercise that demonstrates a concentric muscle action is a single arm dumbbell curl. In the start of the movement, the arm is extended and as the force exceeds the weight of the dumbbell, the muscle shortens and the dumbbell is curled.
Eccentric Muscle Action
An eccentric muscle action involves lengthening of the muscle. This action occurs when the external resistance exceeds the force given by the muscle. While performing a dumbbell curl, when the dumbbell is lowered, this is an example of an eccentric muscle action. This muscle action is often called a “negative”. A muscle can generate more force during an eccentric muscle action than in a concentric muscle action.2
Isometric Muscle Action
In an isometric muscle action, the muscle neither shortens or lengthens, but still generates force. An isometric muscle action occurs when the external resistance is too heavy to move and the force supplied by the muscle is not enough to move the external resistance. A good example of an isometric muscle action is to make an attempt to lift an object that weighs well over your one repetition maximum. A muscle can generate more force during an isometric muscle action than in a concentric muscle action. Strength gains can be achieved from isometric muscle actions, however the strength gains are mainly static.
WHICH MUSCLE ACTION IS BEST FOR ME?
All of the muscle actions are good for you, but each one serves a specific purpose. Research has shown that isometric muscle actions can increase muscle strength and size quicker than eccentric or isometric muscle actions.1 However, the strength increase only occurs at the point of where the muscles are being trained. For instance, if you train isometrically on a bench press at the lowest point, strength gains will be realized at the lowest point and not through the entire range of motion in a full bench press movement. Eccentric muscle actions best meets the resistance training principle of overload. Research has also shown that eccentric muscle actions cause more muscle damage.
When developing a resistance training program it is best to incorporate all three muscle actions in your program to ensure you achieve the maximum results from your program.
- “Anatomy and Biomechanics.” American College of Sports Medicine’s Certification Review. Ed. Khalid Bibi. Third ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2010. Print.
- Stoppani, Jim. “Training Essentials.” Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2006. Print.