Increasing strength in the weight room does not necessarily mean an athlete will utilize that strength on the playing field unless it is developed properly. There is a difference between being strong and being sport strong. Every athlete has to be strong in 3 planes of movement. These 3 planes are the frontal, transverse and sagittal planes, thus we get the term tri-planar. The frontal plane divides the body from front to back, the sagittal plane divides the body from left to right and the transverse plane divides the body from top to bottom. Thus, a good strength program will address all 3 planes of movement in the design and application of the program. Let’s look at an example of tri-planar strength.
When an athlete strikes the ground in sprinting, kicks a ball, jumps in the air, hits someone or throws a baseball, some joints have to stabilize while other joints are moving. In sprinting or cutting for example, when the foot strikes the ground, the lower back joint (SI joint) has to stabilize while the knee joint flexes and extends. The tri-planar loading on the ground leg is tremendous so therefore; it is vital to strengthen all the muscles that stabilize the ankle, knee, hip, lower back and shoulder joints so the athlete can better withstand these forces for improved sport performance and decreased injury risks. This is done by choosing strength exercises in the weight room that address all 3 planes of movement.
If an athlete strength trains on machines, the body usually only works in 1 plane of movement. If an athlete does a lot of crunches, the body is working in 1 plane of movement so there is little value to truly preparing an athlete for the demands of their sport by doing this. Sport requires tri-planar strength and speed so why are athletes still doing crunches and training on machines? In addition, we routinely have athletes bring in their strength programs from school that look like this, Squat, Romanian Deadlift, Bench Press, Row, Step Ups, Shoulder Press, Bicep Curl and Tricep Extension. It looks good on paper, but it’s not building sport strength because all the lifts are designed to work the sagittal plane and lack development in the frontal and transverse planes
Many sports injuries can be attributed to lack of strength or a poorly designed and applied strength training program that causes imbalances. Take the sprinting and cutting example. If the athlete is weaker in the other planes of movement, there is an increased chance the athlete will get injured and will not be as fast in sprinting and cutting movements. Building sport strength in athletes requires a well balanced design and delivery of a program that addresses all 3 planes of movement.