If you truly want to bring out the absolute best movement you are capable of, you have to experience movement in all three planes of motion. In the gym, we often get stuck in the sagittal plane. Exercises like Deadlifts and Squats are amazing, but they don’t offer much help for moving rotationally or laterally. If you’re an athlete, or want to look or move like one, you must do both of those things well.
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The plane of movement that probably gets the least love in the weight room is the frontal plane, in which the body moves laterally with actions such as abduction and adduction. Arguably, this plane of motion is as or more important than the others for athletes and people who want to embody great mobility. The ability to own the frontal plane unlocks lateral movement, which is key for changing directions, lateral speed and power, overcoming force and fully using the hips in athletics.
Unfortunately, Dumbbell Chest Flys won’t help you acquire those athletic attributes, but I do have a few exercises that will. They will help you get strong in the frontal plane.
Kettlebell Box Cossack Squat
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I love the Cossack Squat. I just kind of suck at it. I suck less at this variation, so I figured I’d share it.
In the Cossack Box Squat, you have an end range of motion, which is the box. One of the major issues I see with people performing the standard Cossack Squat is extreme mobility, which forces them so deep into range of motion (ROM) that their ankles, knees and hips get completely misaligned. This is one of those rare cases where extreme mobility may be more harmful than helpful.
If you let your hip sway way out laterally beyond your knee, it creates a weird angle between hip and knee, and knee and ankle. Your knee may cave in. Your heels may lift off the floor. Over time, it may cause pain. We want absolutely none of that.
Adding the box gives you a nice end ROM without sacrificing any of the benefits of the normal Cossack Squat. Follow a protocol similar to the Barbell Box Squat with a subtle rock back onto the box while maintaining tightness in your core and lower body. Then explode up to the starting position.
This exercise works wonders for developing frontal plane strength, single-leg mobility, control and strength, and it has a huge carryover to the field, court—and probably even the grocery store.
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Bottoms-Up Side Plank
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This Side Plank variation is another great way to train the frontal plane. It involves holding a kettlebell in the bottoms-up position. I know, it looks like a circus trick, but try it out. It obviously works the core, but more importantly it works the deep internal core muscles that aid in rotation and change of direction.
Start with a standard Side Plank, progress to adding the leg lift, then finally add the kettlebell. You will develop a core that is ready to take on the lateral demands of any sport you can imagine.
Lateral Sled Drag
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Going back to a lower-body focus for the final move, we have the Lateral Sled Drag. There are a million-and-one ways to rig this up. All you need is an object of mass, something 4-6 feet long to attach it to and some way to hang on to it. It doesn’t have to be a strap and sled; it can be a band and a sandbag. It could even be a rope and a rock. Just find something heavy to pull.
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As the name suggests, you drag the load laterally with one hand attached to it and the other creating momentum through arm drive. It’s important to keep the working arm nice and tense all the way up to the stabilizers of the shoulders. Your steps are also important. You want your initial trail leg to come “up and over” when you step. With each step, put as much force into the ground as possible and really push yourself away from the sled.
This is a great option for anyone who may not have a Side Lunge or Cossack Squat in their arsenal yet. Or it could be used by someone looking to add a conditioning component to their lateral movement abilities.
In addition to training the transverse and sagittal planes intelligently and consistently, use these three exercises to train your frontal plan. They can be game changers for many aspects of your training.