Strengthening The Transverse Plane For Running

Medicine ball twist. Photo: John David Becker |

Run more efficiently by focusing on your transverse plane.

Since running is all about continuous forward motion, we often forget that certain parts of the body are moving in other directions. This dynamic system comprises three planes of motion: sagittal, frontal and transverse. The sagittal plane includes front-to-back movements, playing a major role in running forward. The frontal plane is all about side-to-side motion—think side bends or jumping jacks. The transverse plane involves rotational movements, like swinging a golf club. The muscle groups related to the transverse plane also happen to be the most neglected by runners, often leading to injuries and performance deficits.

“Running is really a series of hops from one foot to the next, but for running to be both balanced and possible, the body needs to be able to move specific amounts on all three planes,” explains Ryan Bair, a sports physical therapist and owner of Flash Sports Physical Therapy and Performance Center in West Chester, Pa.

Indeed, a runner can display too much movement on the transverse plane or too little. These deficiencies are often linked to some of the most common running injuries, such as iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome and Achilles tendonitis. “Without sufficient rotation, we cannot move adequately on the other planes without compensating,” Bair says.

By increasing both strength and proper movement on the transverse plane, you help ensure the entire system functions soundly. Implementing several exercises, such as the three listed in the box above, a couple of times each week can make all the difference when it comes to building a fully functional kinetic chain.

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