May 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm EDT | by Bucky Mitchell
Mixing up the motion

Keep your muscles guessing by mixing up the kinds of movements you do in your workout. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Whether you’re doing bicep curls, squats or crunches, the direction your body moves in is essential to how much muscle you can potentially gain or how much fat you can potentially lose. It’s important to recognize and incorporate all the body’s planes of motion into your fitness routine.

Breaking down the three planes:

  1. The front to back plane, also referred to as the sagittal plane, includes exercises like jogging, chest press and rowing.
  2. The side-to-side plane, also referred to as the frontal plane, includes exercises like jumping jacks, side lunges and lateral raises.
  3. The twisting plane of motion, also known as the transverse plane of motion, included exercises such as medicine ball wood chops, Russian twists or rotating cable pulls.

When I’m training at the gym, I often notice people who consistently repeat the same exercises in the same plane. Unfortunately for them, moving in the same plane is not helping them reach their fitness goals as effectively as they could if they were moving in all three planes of motion. Here’s why.

The body adapts very quickly to the movements we create for it and therefore, it doesn’t have to do as much work or exert as much energy to the rip the muscle (tearing the muscle fiber) or to burn the fat during exercise.

For instance, do you do traditional dumbbell bicep curls in the front to back motion every time you come to the gym? If so, you’re probably not working the muscle as effectively as you could be. After a few weeks your body will adapt to this pattern and your muscle will stop growing as quickly. Therefore, you should mix up your bicep curls by doing them from the side or by rotating your wrist outward at the top of your bicep motion. In addition, you could mix up your cardio and burn more fat and calories by adding in some jumping jacks at a fast tempo for two minutes without stopping.

A great way to get yourself out of your comfort zone and to get yourself moving in these different planes of motion is by writing down your exercises before your workout and labeling each exercise with the planes of motion listed above. For instance, bicep curls would be labeled with front to back plane, while jumping jacks would be labeled with side-to-side plane and medicine ball wood chops would be labeled with twisting plane. The visual of you having to write it down will help you increase your likelihood of trying and integrating new movements into your workout.

I’ve included a great set of sample exercises for you try in all three planes:

  • Torso rotation machine (twisting plane) — four sets, twisting on each side for 20 reps, start with 20 pound plate
  • Weighted alternating side lunges (frontal plane) — four sets, 10 reps of each side, start with 10 pound dumbbells
  • Barbell chest press — four sets,10 reps, start with the weight of the bar

So the next time you venture to the gym for a workout, what plane will you move in?

Bucky Mitchell grew up in Pennsylvania’s Amish country and says many of the exercises in his regimen are derived from the kinds of movement Amish men and women use in their daily chores. Mitchell, who’s gay, believes in a fun, challenging workout that results in weight loss, more muscle and a stable core. Find him online at

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