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Exercises for the Sagittal Plane

author image Patrick Dale
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.
Exercises for the Sagittal Plane
The bench press is one of many sagittal plane exercises. Photo Credit: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

The sagittal plane divides your body vertically into left and right sides. Any exercise that involves movement straight forward or backward without crossing over the mid-line of your body can be considered a sagittal plane exercise. The sagittal plane is the most common plane of movement. The other two planes -- transverse and frontal -- involve rotation and lateral or sideways movements, respectively, and are much rarer in both exercise and everyday movements. Walking, standing up from a seated position and running upstairs are all examples of everyday sagittal plane movements.

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Leg Extensions and Leg Curls

Leg extensions and leg curls target your quadriceps and hamstrings, respectively. Movement occurs only at the knee and forward and backward in the sagittal plane. Leg extensions and leg curls are isolation exercises as they only involve movement at a single joint. Although these two exercises target different parts of your thigh musculature, they are performed similarly. In a seated position, extend your legs against the resistance for leg extensions or bend your legs down and back against the resistance for leg curls. Leg extensions and leg curls are strength-training machines found in many gyms.

Front Dumbbell Raises

Front dumbbell raises target your anterior or front deltoids and is a popular exercise with bodybuilders looking to develop their shoulders. As your arms do not cross the mid-line of your body, front dumbbell raises are a sagittal plane exercise. To perform this movement, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Start the exercise with your hands resting on your upper thighs, your palms turned toward you and your elbows slightly bent but rigid. Raise one arm up to shoulder-height and then lower it back to the starting position. Immediately perform another rep with your opposite arm. Continue alternating arms for the duration of your set. You can also perform this exercise raising both arms at the same time.


Despite being performed in the supine or lying position, crunches are performed in the sagittal plane and target your rectus abdominus or abs for short. These muscles, located on the front of your abdomen, flex your spine forward. To perform crunches, lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your temples, across your chest or on your thighs. Exhale, contract your abs and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold the top position for a second and then lower your upper body back to the floor. You can also perform this exercise using a stability ball for a greater abdominal challenge.

Barbell Biceps Curls

Barbell biceps curls are a common gym exercise -- especially with men looking to increase the size of their upper arms. To perform this exercise, grasp a barbell with a shoulder-width underhand grip and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Starting with your arms extended and the bar across your upper thighs, bend your elbows and curl the weight up to your shoulders. Keep your upper body still and your elbows tucked into your sides at all times to maximize the work performed by your biceps muscles. Lower the weight back to the starting position and repeat.

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