Exercises for the Frontal, Sagittal and Transverse Planes

Your body can be divided into top and bottom, right and left, and front and back halves by three specific planes of motion: frontal, sagittal and transverse. Functional activities and compound exercises normally consist of movements in more than one plane.

Jumping jacks work the frontal plane of motion. (Image: dolgachov/iStock/GettyImages)

Understanding these planes and incorporating exercises for each of them in your regular workouts will help you establish and maintain a balanced fitness plan that promotes muscular balance.


Movement occurs in three planes: frontal, sagittal and transverse. Include exercises in all three planes for a well-rounded workout program.

Put It in Neutral

Before you get started with exercises on the different planes of motion, it is important for you to understand the universal starting position, which is called "anatomical neutral" or "anatomical starting position." To assume this position, stand up or lie on your back with your knees straight, legs together, toes forward, and your arms by your side with your palms facing forward.

Frontal From the Side

The frontal plane divides your body into front and back halves. However, despite the plane's name, the exercises you perform on the frontal plane consist of side-to-side — rather than front-and-back— motion.

Movements of abduction and adduction occur on the frontal plane. Side leg lifts and lateral raises are resistance training exercises you can try on the frontal plane. Jumping jacks and side-to-side gallops are examples of cardiovascular exercises in the frontal plane of motion.

Activities that involve elevation and depression of the shoulder blade — including exercises such as shrugs performed with a barbell — also occur in the frontal plane.

The ankle also tilts side-to-side in the frontal plane — an important movement for keeping your balance during standing exercise activities.

Sagittal Plane Movements

The sagittal plane divides your body into right and left halves. Sagittal plane exercises involve flexion and extension, or forward and backward movement.

Biceps curls and squats are both examples of strength training exercises in the sagittal plane. Front deltoid raises, overhead triceps press and lunges also occur in the sagittal plane. Exercises such as toe raises also occur in this plane as the ankle moves from plantarflexion to dorsiflexion.

A simple forward or backward step, walking, using an elliptical, running, high knees and mountain climbers are all cardiovascular exercises that you can try in the sagittal plane of motion.

Transverse With a Twist

The transverse plane divides your body into top and bottom halves. When you perform movements of rotation, you are working in the transverse plane of motion. Exercises that involve twisting happen in this plane.

Try alternating oblique crunches or alternating cross jabs to include exercises in your routine that require you to work in the transverse plane of motion.

Forearm rotation exercises, such as holding a hammer and twisting from palm-up to palm-down, also occur in this plane.

A not-so-obvious movement that occurs in the transverse plane is horizontal flexion/horizontal adduction and horizontal extension/horizontal abduction. This movement is used when you perform chest flyes, with your arms raised to 90 degrees.

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