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  • Natalie Ruffe, PT, DPT

Multiplanar Training

We all identify with or as something.

I am a Runner. I am a Triathlete. I am a Baseball Player. I am a Surfer. I am a Weekend Warrior.

I am an Engineer. I am a Financial Analyst. I am a Doctor. I am a Caretaker. I am a Parent.

To identify with or as something give us meaning, provides us with purpose, and creates a sense of fulfillment and joy in our lives. Think about with what or whom you identify. Now think about the daily tasks required of you to “be.” Whether you chose to focus on athletic endeavors or occupations, every identity is associated with certain movement patterns. These movement patterns dictate our muscle function and mobility, or lack thereof if we don’t train correctly. Often times, individuals only train the movement patterns in which they perform which lends itself to muscle imbalance and dysfunction. While it is important to train in the plane and range of motion in which we function, it is equally important to train in the planes and ranges of motion that we do not to promote stabilization and motor control.

Unfortunately, time and time again in this profession, we see all too often the imbalance of single plane training contributing to injury. Sure, when we think of training we think of physical pursuits applying to atheltes…though the term training can apply to those who sit at a desk all day or those who chauffeur children to and from school and soccer practices. When you begin to “identify” with your movement patterns, you can begin to recognize the areas of strength and weakness in your body…you can recognize those areas that are all too neglected.

The Evidence

Research has shown that those who lack central stabilization at primary joints such as the hip, are more prone to injury throughout the distal kinetic chain. Essentially this means a lack of strength and coordination near the center of the body such as the hip, the core, and the shoulder, lends itself to an increased risk of injury further down, such as the knee/ankle or the elbow/wrist. How does this happen you may wonder? If the more proximal, or central joints, are not stabilizing and supporting a load or force as it should, then these forces are distributed along the kinetic chain, at joints and structures that are much smaller, with a decreased capacity for load absorption. This increase in load intuitively means an increase in stress, strain, and compression at these distal sites. Ultimately, the body compensates to reduce the misdirected load, promoting poor biomechanics and dysfunctional movement patterns. This is how injuries happen.

Take runners for example. A runner typically trains by running…speed work, tempo work, hill work, etc. While the format may be different for each run, the movement pattern is the same. The work occurs in the sagittal (or straightforward) plane. If a runner only trains in this plane, what happens when he/she starts trail running? *hint an unstable surface. Or what happens when this same runner is asked to help a friend move and needs to lift heavy boxes and transfer them to/from the moving truck? *hint bending, lifting, twisting. This runner may not have the strength and control to respond to these loads putting him/her at risk for an ankle sprain or a back strain.

Extrapolate this information to the work place. The same principles apply. If you find yourself sitting at a desk all day, falling into that rounded shoulder, forward head posture, the load is suddently distributed from the muscles in the upper back and core, to the base of the skull and the front of the neck. Sure the load is much smaller than that applied through running, but the load is applied 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, over the course of the entire year. Suddenly this small load becomes very large.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to single planar training. Begin to “identify” with different movements. If you are a runner, start incorporating lateral shuffles into your dynamic warmup, cross train your core with “Russian Twists.” If you are confined to your lap top, remind yourself to perform shoulder circles and neck circles, lean back over your chair or use a foam roller, or strength train with reverse pec flys and classic resisted external rotation exercises for the rotator cuff. By training the strength, stability, and motor control of your muscles and joints beyond the plane in which you move promotes a healthy, well balanced system; a system that will allow you to enjoy the activities that define who you are.

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