Get stronger with frontal plane exercises

Most of us spend most of our day moving in just one direction. In the gym you will find most traditional strength training programs and exercises doing the same with lunges, squats and using machines for rows and curls; all things which move you front-to-back. However, in our daily life we move our bodies in all directions.

So it’s important that while in the gym, we also train our bodies in all directions and different planes of motion to include lateral movements.

woman doing a standing lateral raise which a frontal exercises

Frontal plane exercises are a great idea to help with any muscle imbalances and move more efficiently in real-life situations.

The three different planes of motion

There are three planes of motion: frontal, sagittal and transverse. To understand the planes of motion is to think of an imaginary line bisecting the human body into different halves. 

The frontal plane divides the body into the left and right side.

The sagittal plane divides the body into the front and back.

The transverse plane divides the body at the waist so here is an upper and lower portion of the human body. 

Your daily movements and activities require your body to move through all of these planes throughout the day. You move your body forward and back, side to side, up and down as well as rotate your trunk.

Individual movements in the body can occur in a single plane of motion or in multiple planes. 

What are frontal plane movements?

Frontal plane movements are side to side. They include moving a limb laterally away or towards the midline of the entire body. 

woman doing side lateral lunge with dumbbells

Some frontal plane exercises include side shuffle, side lunges and lateral shoulder raises.

The frontal plane of the human body means taking an imaginary line and bisecting the body to the front half and the back half.

What are sagital plane movements?

Sagittal plane movements are things that happen in front and behind us. We spend most of our day doing activities and movements here. Everyday activities include walking, running, texting and reaching forward. 

You will find sagittal plane exercises that involve flexion and extension. You will find forward or reverse lunges, running, high knees, bicep curls, mountain climbers, squats and deadlifts are all in the sagittal plane of motion.

What are transverse movements?

Transverse plane movement usually involves rotation. Activities in this plane of movement include swinging a bat or hitting a golf ball.

Transverse plane exercises typically you will find rotational exercises like Russian twists and chest flyes

Common frontal plane exercises

Lateral lunges or side lunges

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a big step with your left leg, then bend your left knee, push your hips back and lower until your left knee is bent in 90-degree angles. Push back to starting position. 

If you want to add weight, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and use them to frame your bent leg. 

Lateral raises 

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. Lift the dumbbells out to the side with straight arms, not going higher than shoulder height. Pause and then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

Banded walks

Place a resistance band just above your ankles with your feet shoulder-width apart. The band should be taught, not stretched. 

Bend your knees slightly and move into a half squat position to activate your gluteus medius. Step sideways with one leg. Move the other leg in keeping the band taught. Repeat for 8-10 repetitions then go the other way. 

Workout with lateral movements

It’s important to include different planes of motion in your exercise program. It will help you with injury prevention. By incorporating different movements, you’ll build the kind of functional strength that not only boosts performance in the gym but also helps you move more powerfully in daily life.

Perform 3 sets of each exercise for 10-12 reps.

Lateral lunge with front raise

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. Step out with your left leg into a side lunge bringing the knee into a 90-degree angle but keeping the right leg straight. As you lower into the lunge lift the dumbbells to shoulder height in a front raise. Step back to center, slowly lowering your arms and repeat the other side.

Reverse lunge with lateral raise

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. Step back into a lunge and lift the dumbbells out to the side with straight arms, not going higher than shoulder height. Step back to center lowering your arms and repeat the other side.

Hip abduction

woman sitting on bench doing banded hip abductor exercises

Sit up straight on a bench with a resistance band above your knee. Slowly push your knees out to the side and then bring them back, in a control motion. Do not rush the exercise and maintain an upright posture. Repeat.

Upright row/forward lunges

Hold both dumbbells at waist level. Lunge forward with your right foot and simultaneously pull the dumbbells to chest level. Lower the dumbbells back to your waist and lunge forward with your left foot while raising them to chest level.


Hold a medicine ball with your arms extended at chest level and your right foot atop the bench. Simultaneously push down with your right foot and lift your left foot off the floor while rotating the med ball and your upper body to the right, then switch sides.

Squat with lateral step up

Grab a bench or box and stand one step back on the side of the step or box. Start with a squat. As soon as you reach the top, take a diagonal step up onto the box with the foot that is closest to the box. Push yourself up through your heel with knee, shin and ankle in a straight line. Once you have reached the top, step down in a diagonal down and back into a squat. Repeat in the other direction. That’s one rep.

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