Strength & Conditioning

8 Sagittal Plane Exercises For An Improved Physique

Sagittal Plane Exercises

When it comes to movement patterns of the human body, these are broken down into what’s known as anatomical planes of motion. These different planes of motion are categorised in three ways.

These are the transverse plane of motion, the frontal plane of motion and the sagittal plane of motion.

The different planes of human movement are performed for many daily activities.

But how do each of these differ?

In this article we will discuss some effective sagittal plane exercises as well as the differences between each plane of movement

The Different Anatomical Planes of Motion

Sagittal Plane Differences

Transverse Plane

The transverse (axial) plane of motion involves twisting or rotational movements.

Imagine dividing the body up into two sections, the top and bottom.

Transverse plane exercises include the wood chop exercise, throwing a ball or even twisting your head, this is going to involve rotation of the body to some degree.

Frontal Plane

The frontal (coronal) plane of motion involves the limbs moving laterally, that is out to the side and away from the midline of the body.

In this case, the body would be divided up between front (anterior) and back (posterior).

When it comes to frontal plane exercises this would include movements such as the curtsy lunge which involves stepping out to the side or the dumbbell lateral raise, lifting dumbbells up and outwards.

Sagittal Plane

The sagittal (longitudinal) plane of motion is when the limbs of a body move either forwards or backwards. They do not rotate and nor do they move laterally (out to the side).

The imaginary line would run from top to bottom dividing the body in to right half and left half.

Sagittal plane movements include elbow flexion and extension, knee flexion and extension and hip flexion and extension.

Examples of exercises would be bicep curls, bench press or the reverse lunge.

What is the Main Body Plane?

The most common plane of movement undertaken by most people on a daily basis is the sagittal plane, comprising of forward and backward movements.

Everyday body moves such as walking and bending forward would be considered a sagittal plane motion.

As sagittal movements are encountered by most in their daily lives, this article will look at specific exercises and how to perform them.

Benefits of Sagittal Plane Exercises

Improved Flexibility

Most functional exercises tend to be sagittal plane movements and this is beneficial as it can improve mobility and flexibility to your joints.

This helps to keep common aches and pains at bay.

Increased Strength

Sagittal plane exercises include some of the popular compound movements such as squats, forward lunges and deadlifts.

These target large muscles groups allowing you to lift more weight resulting in an increase in strength.

Increased Muscle

Sagittal plane exercises allow you to lift more weight when compared to frontal and lateral movements which typically target smaller muscle groups.

This allows for a better muscle hypertrophy resulting in increased muscle growth.

8 Practical Sagittal Plane Exercises

Anterior Lunge with Biceps Curls

When undertaking the bicep curl start with no weight and simply allow yourself to get used to the movement. You can introduce a light weight later on.

This is a good exercise to target muscles of the lower body.

How To Perform The Anterior Lunge Exercise:

  1. Start by standing upright with your feet around shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your head and chest up so your spine remains neutral.
  3. Retain a slight bend to the knees so they are not locked out, this will help to prevent injury to the knee joints.
  4. From here, take a large step forward allowing the back knee to drop towards the ground.
  5. Stop when both knees are at approximately 90 degrees.
  6. Once at this position, curl both arms up towards your chest and return back to the starting position.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row

For this exercise, you’ll need a dumbbell (go light to start with) and a weight bench.

This is an excellent movement to activate muscles to the upper body, especially the back.

How To Do The Single Arm Dumbbell Row:

  1. Place one knee on the bench and take hold of the front with the hand of the same side.
  2. Extend your straight leg out to the side a little.
  3. Keep your back straight throughout with your head in line with your spine.
  4. Take hold of the dumbbell with your free hand.
  5. Slowly draw the dumbbell up towards your armpits and ensure you keep it tucked in to your body.
  6. At the top, pinch your shoulder blades together.
  7. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat.

Front Dumbbell Raises

This exercise will work the muscles of the deltoids, biceps and the upper chest (to a lesser degree).

To ensure proper form don’t be tempted to go too heavy.

If you find you are using your legs as momentum and swinging the dumbbells, drop to a lower weight.

How You Should Perform The Front Dumbbell Raise:

  1. Start by taking hold of a dumbbell in each hand, your palms should be facing towards you.
  2. Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and face forward.
  3. Start to bring the dumbbells up and out in front of you to around chest height.
  4. You should rotate your wrists inwards as you go so when your arms are parallel to the floor your palms also facing down.
  5. Briefly pause at the top before lowering the dumbbells back to the start position.

Banded Prone Hamstring Curl

You’ll need a resistance band for this exercise and you’ll want to attach it something stable such as the leg of a heavy chair or table.

If you start to find this exercise too easy, use a heavier weight band to increase the tension.

To Do The Banded Prone Hamstring Curl Exercise:

  1. Once the band is securely fastened, sit on the ground and hook it over both feet behind the ankle.
  2. Turn over so your are now face down on the ground, ideally you’ll be on an exercise mat.
  3. Pull your body away from the chair / table so that you create some resistance in the band.
  4. Slowly bend your knees so your feet raise up towards the ceiling.
  5. You should feel a stretch along the hamstrings.
  6. Hold at the top before slowly lowering back down and then repeat.

Abdominal Crunches

A crunch exercise is a great way of strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Building a strong core is vital for a good posture and co-ordination and can help alleviate common issues such as low back pain.

A common mistake with this exercise is when people use their hands to pull their head upwards. If you tend to do this, extend your arms in front of you.

How To Perform Abdominal Crunches:

  1. Start by lying down, face up on an exercise mat.
  2. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  3. You can either outstretch your arms in front of you or place your hands behind your head or ears.
  4. Lift your upper body off the floor until it’s around 45 degrees. Avoid tucking your chin in.
  5. Pause at the top for a couple of seconds before lowering back down and then repeat.

Dumbbell Step Up

A step up exercise is a functional movement that activates the quadriceps and gluteal muscles.

You’ll also stabilise yourself by bracing your core, giving your abs a good workout.

To perform this exercise you’ll need a step up box or other suitable platform of at least 30cm high.

By adding in a pair of dumbbells will provide some resistance making your muscles work even harder.

The Best Way To Carry Out A Dumbbell Step Up Exercise:

  1. Stand in front of the box whilst holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Raise one leg and place your foot flat on the box. The top of your leg should be roughly parallel to the floor.
  3. Ensure your back leg remains engaged to give you some stability.
  4. Inhale and drive through your front foot so that you straighten up your leg.
  5. Make sure to keep your back leg extended throughout.
  6. Once both feet are on the platform, take a brief pause.
  7. Exhale and then lower your leg back down to the original position. Perform your desired number of reps before repeating with the other leg.

Hamstring Ball Curl

The hamstring ball curl exercise will activate your hamstrings whilst putting minimal stress onto the lumbar spine.

You’ll also use your glutes and core muscles to stabilise your torso.

For this exercise you’ll need an exercise ball which has a diameter of between 55cm to 65cm.

To Perform The Hamstring Ball Curl:

  1. Start by lying on the floor with your arms to the sides and palms facing downwards.
  2. Position your lower leg and heels on the exercise ball.
  3. Engage your core and glutes and raise your body into a bridge position, keep your spine neutral. This is your start position.
  4. Flex your knees and roll the ball towards you whilst keeping your hips off the ground.
  5. Pause briefly before rolling the ball back to the starting position. Repeat.


Squats are a popular exercise that will work many muscle groups of the whole body.

It’s important to remember that squatting is quite a technical exercise that requires good mobility and core strength.

If you’re new to squatting, start with a lighter dumbbell before moving over to barbell squats.

The squat variation described below is the dumbbell goblet squat.

To Perform A Dumbbell Goblet Squat:

  1. Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell with both hands just in front of your chest and underneath your chin.
  3. Your wrists should be straight and forearms almost vertical.
  4. Push your hips and glutes back and bend the knees to descend into the squat position.
  5. Stop when your upper legs are approximately parallel to the ground.
  6. Pause and then drive through your heels back to the standing position.

Common Mistakes When Doing Sagittal Plane Exercises

The most common mistakes when performing most exercises including sagittal exercises are due to poor form and limited range of motion.

When people are new to training, it can take some time for people to adjust and for their bodies to get used to different movements.

When performing compound exercises, a number of major muscle groups are engaged and form is essential to reduce the risk of injury.

For isolation exercises, these typically work smaller muscles individually and if you go to heavy this can result in incorrect form as well as putting unnecessary stress on to joints.


Sagittal plane exercises are certainly the most common when considering different exercise programs.

However, it’s important to incorporate a wide range of movements into your workout routine to enjoy all the benefits including increasing lean muscle, improving flexibility, alleviating muscle aches and pains and making day to day activities easier to undertake.

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