USING PLANES OF MOVEMENT FOR EFFECTIVE EXERCISE
With the wide variety of people coming to the pool the aim of every good fitness instructor should be to provide an effective program for the type of class advertized in their time slot. Simply using the same program for every class and adding “intensity” or “slowing” it down will not do. Regardless of the level of any program, it is important to offer exercises suitable to the participants’ needs and this is not hard to do as long as you understand the way the body moves – i.e. how one part of the body works with or against another by using the “planes of movement” effectively.
For the purposes of exercise design the body has basically three simple movement patterns whereby all major muscle groups are activated at some point:
The Sagittal Plane – or working the left side of the body against the right. An example would be jogging, walking or skiing forward or backwards . Illustration below show running and pumping the arms for cardio.
The Frontal plane: or working the front of the body against the back.
An example for this is stepping sideways with arms and legs reaching outwards and inwards simultaneously for cardio or leaning to one side for specific muscle conditioning. Ilustration show side jax and arms and legs abduct and adduct in oppostion.
The Transverse plane: or working the upper body against the lower using rotation of the torso.
An example for this is when reaching diagonally across the body for a diagonal cross country cardio move or kneeling with the shoulders pointed to the right and the hips pointed to the left for specific abdominal training.
The illustration below show a noodle exercise with the noodle behind the back. Right arm is push down to opposite or left ankle while flexing and rotating the spine then changing sides to have the left arm with noodle pushing towards the right ankle (spinal flexion and rotation to engage the external obliques).
In order to use these three planes effectively all that is required is to understand the best way to use them to achieve the desired fitness effect. First you need to decide which component of fitness you wish to target at some point during the program – cardio or muscle conditioning? – then put your “planes plan” to work. Always take into consideration that the length and intensity of any exercise sets you offer will be dependent upon the type of program and skill level of the people you are teaching. However the method remains the same.
For good cardio a mix of planes is needed because if the same muscles are used over and over with repetitive basic moves in the same direction they will become too tired to keep moving effectively, the participants will slow down and loose intensity. Therefore the “recipe” for success is to think of three simple ways to change the direction of body movement which will automatically change muscle groups frequently. The easiest way to do this is start with a simple forward-backward movement (Sagittal), change to a side to side move (Frontal) then segue into a criss-cross pattern (Transverse)). Give everyone enough time to get the moves then progress by changing working positions, adding travel moves to incorporate assistance or resistance to challenge intensity. Mix and match moves for an appropriate amount of time to allow everyone to get and keep their heart rate up for optimal cardiovascular training. Learn to be creative and offer a variety of cardio sets during the program. For example use a different basic move for each plane of movement or use the same basic move in all three planes. If you introduce some of these ideas within your warm up segment you will have a head start.
For effective muscle conditioning the planes of movement are used in a different fashion. As a general rule of thumb strengthening movements must remain in the same plane because the goal is to specifically target for muscle overload. The muscle group being targeted must feel enough work to achieve any training benefit. For optimal strengthening, allow an appropriate amount of time for participants to complete as many repetitions as they are able to do comfortably. Take time to stretch and relax the muscle group before repeating another strengthening set – the number of sets will depend upon the class. Offer a progression for any repeated sets to allow the same muscle group to be targeted in a slightly different manner. Because of time constraints concentrate on targeting the weaker side of each muscle pair since both sides of all muscle groups will get a good workout during the good cardio that you have supplied.
Now try combining planes such as side rocking ( frontal plane) while using an elephant trunk like figure of eight with the arms ( to actively stretch the rhoomboids and middle trapezius) upright – a great way to warm up or warm down.
For some fun cardio try JAX arms and cross country legs – or vica versa - even harder, and will get a few laughs. Then combine some cardio with muscle conditioning to maintain body temperature. For example: use a basic rocking move forwards and backwards (cardio) while using the arms in a frontal plane to specifically target the Rhomboids and mid Trapezius for upper back conditioning.
You don’t need “rocket” science to be successful in the water – just mix up a few planes.
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