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by Jason Lakritz, PT, DPT, FAFS

Posted in Blog.

April 7th, 2020

3-Dimensional Motion

How do you look at movement?  Athletes are always trying to find the most efficient ways to move to increase power, strength, become more resilient to injury or rehab an injury faster.  As a physical therapist, my profession is looking and analyzing movement. As I analyze movement I look at it in three ways.


  1. How are the joints moving in the 3 planes of motion (3D),

  2. What are the specific requirements of the task being performed (Specificity),

  3. How are the muscles loaded leading to the explosion of the task (load/explode)? 


Defining the three-planes of motion:


  • Sagittal Plane

    • The forward-and-back plane. Think Bicep curl. You are flexing (bending) your elbow and then extending (straightening your elbow)

  • Frontal Plane

    • The side-to-side plane. Think side lunge. You are moving away from our midline (abduction) and then moving toward your midline (adduction)

  • Transverse Plane

    • The rotational plane. Think golf swing. You are rotating inward during one part of the seeing and then rotating outward in the other half of the swing.


The tricky part is that all joints and muscles move in all three planes of motion. You can take each of the examples above and put them into all the categories. Doing a bicep curl in primarily a sagittal plane motion, however, there is small about of transverse plane and frontal motion being controlled by your brain because of how the muscles attach from one part of the arm to the other part of the arm.  We can use running as a great example of how all 3 planes are being used. This happens at all joints, but we will use the hip joint because it has the greatest amount of motion in all the planes. When landing during running the hip will flex as your body moves over your leg, it will adduct as your hips move across the midline to the side you are landing on, and it will rotate toward the side you are landing on.  So even though the result is running in a straight line, a sagittal plane movement, there is a ton of action going on in all the planes.


Understanding how each joint moves in each plane during the activity that you choose will be key in creating a program to help you get stronger, more efficient, decrease the risk of injury, and improve performance overall. My next post will focus on the specificity of movement.

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