The importance of multiplanar functional training for endurance athletes

What does multiplanar functional training mean? It sounds like a very complex term, but once you understand what the three planes of movement consist of it will all make sense. Based on the anatomical position the planes that exists are sagital, frontal and transverse. The sagital plane divides that body in half vertically between left and right, so this means that any movement created that takes place on either side of that dividing line is done in the sagital plane. The frontal plane divides the body vertically from front to back and the transverse plane divides the body horizontally thru the hips. Endurance athletes primarily focus on performance in the frontal plane. Although it is important to “train the way you play” to improve performance, it is equally as important to incorporate some functional training in the other planes to avoid injury. Training in one plane will produce strength through that particular range of motion, leaving you weak in other areas. Since leading an active lifestyle can sometimes present unexpected obstacles that force you to compensate in other planes it is essential that you prepare for that in order to avoid injury. For example, a runner may have very strong psoas and gluteus maximus muscles  from forward propulsion, however most likely may have some weakness in the gluteus medius and minimus that assist in abduction at the hip (lateral movement). If lateral stabilizers are weak this is where the runner will be in trouble if their gaite is compromised by terrain or other obstacles. This is just one example of how incorporating multiplanar functional movement  can decrease the risk of injury in endurance athletes, by taking part in a program that strengthens the weak points through movement and resistance. The same holds true for cyclists, swimmers and most other endurance athletes.

As a trainer I have noticed that serious endurance athletes feel they do not have the time to incorporate strength as part of their training. My answer to that is periodization. By mapping out a clear picture of what your training will look like in the off-season and pre season you can carve out time to strengthen and troubleshoot for the weaknesses that may potentially exist in the coming race season.


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