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If you're unfamiliar with the concept, "triplanar" sounds like I'm writing in a different language.

How long has it been around?

Is it for you?

What does “triplanar training” mean?

The word triplanar is a quick and simple way to describe the 3 planes of motion that our bodies move through.

Forward and backward movements happen in the sagittal plane. Side-to-side movements occur in the frontal plane movements. And rotational movements happen in the transverse plane. Triplanar training essentially combines all three of these motions into an exercise plan that enhances the effect of training and improves motor skills.

What are motor skills & how do we get them?

A motor skill put simply is the ability to perform a physical action with an intention or goal in mind. As I sit here and write this, I am performing the motor skill of typing, as well as a decent amount of head-scratching and deleting!

These motor skills begin to develop in humans even prior to birth as fetuses in the womb. Ask any woman that has given birth about how much that little unborn miracle moves and rolls, kicks, and punches, or just generally wiggles around while still in utero. Even before you took your first breath, you were learning!

Flash forward to infancy. There is extensive research showing the order of development for motor skills is almost universally sequential. Basically, babies learn to lift their head first, then roll, then scoot, then crawl, before walking. As we continue to develop from infancy to toddler to young adulthood these motor skills progress from such skills as rolling over and crawling to balancing, running, jumping, throwing, catching, writing, typing, reading and the list goes on! As we grow and mature, motor development skills vary widely. Some develop skills quickly, some slowly, and some never develop skills at all.

When it comes to athletic performance, common motor skills that need to be developed are as follows:

  • Balance (both static and dynamic),

  • Rolling

  • Hopping

  • Leaping

  • Galloping

  • Sliding

  • Dodging

  • Skipping

  • Swimming

  • Reaching

  • Throwing

  • Catching

  • Kicking

  • Trapping

  • Dribbling

  • Striking

We can broadly divided these motor skills into 3 categories:

  1. Body Management - what is your body doing in space

  2. Locomotion - how to get from one place to another

  3. Object Control - manipulating an external item

Looking back at this list of motor skills, it is very apparent that all 3 cardinal planes are represented in most of these skills. Very rarely in life as in sport are we limited to a single or even 2 planes of motion.

Try this Test!

The exercises below will test your ability to move well in the 3 cardinal planes.

McGill Big 3

Get 5 reps on each side with 10-second holds for each exercise:

Modified Curl-up: Sagittal plane

Side-plank: Frontal plane

Bird Dog: Transverse plane

These three exercises grouped together are commonly prescribed for individuals with acute or chronic back pain due to lumbar instability. They can also be used as a simple diagnostic tool to see what planes of movement are strengths as well as what planes of movement might be weak.

Get 5 repetitions on each side

This exercise is one of the best exercises for triplanar training as it challenges nearly every joint in the body to work in all three planes of motion. If you are unfamiliar with how to perform the Turkish Get-Up, click the video above to view how to do it step by step.

Wrapping Up

From before childbirth to this moment, 3-D movements are skills that should be practiced and developed. This can apply to the highest level of professional athlete as well as a weekend warrior or even a person that is looking to stay healthy and pain-free as they age gracefully. I challenge you to think about these questions:

  • Are you constantly battling injuries?

  • Are you avoiding compound movements?

  • Do you regularly perform movements from the motor skills list above?

  • Are you plateauing in your performance?

  • Are you becoming bored with your workouts?

If you have answered “yes” to one or many of these questions, triplanar training could be the solution!


Not sure how to get started? You can schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with us by clicking on the “Inquire Now” button above. You can also try a 7-day free trial of one of our team training programs and start down that path of improving the way you move through life!


Blog: Why We Train by Dr. Tim Cummings

Blog: The Training Template by Dr. Tim Cummings

About the Author

Dr. Patrick Chandler brings a diverse skill set to the Restore/Thrive team.

In addition to his training as a doctor of physical therapy, Patrick is the former head strength and conditioning coach for Rockhurst University, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and a CrossFit Level 1 certified coach.

Patrick sees clients at Restore/Thrive's satellite location, inside the Kansas Athletic Club in south Overland Park, Kansas.

Patrick and his wife, Sadie, along with their dogs Wilbur and Goose, live in Overland Park.

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