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Performance Lacrosse: Multiplanar Training: The Sagittal Plane

Post by:
Brian Paris, DC, CBP Fellow, NASM-PES & Colin Cooley, MS, NASM-PES of Performance Lacrosse

Sagittal plane movement is the dominant plane of training in the exercise and conditioning world. The training world is filled with open chain exercise machines that stress unidirectional movement in this plane. Chest press, shoulder press, leg press, and lat pull down machines flood gyms and training facilities across the world. Their prevalence stems from the training origins of body building and the fact that these movements can be easily observed in a mirror. Anyone with an interest in training cannot forget its origins but research dictates that we must move beyond the world of open chain hypertrophy training. Understanding how the brain and body function synergistically helps the lacrosse player become more effective on the field and avoid injury.

During your last lacrosse game, did you press a heavy load slowly off your chest while sitting with your feet off the ground or did you press a heavy load slowly while sitting with your legs in the air? Well, if you answered yes then you are not playing the fastest game on two feet. These sagittal plane exercises/machines are designed to create muscle hypertrophy (increase in size) and strength based on the anatomical origins and insertions of specific muscles or muscle groups. In order to move fast in the sagittal plane on the lacrosse field one must train the muscles, more specifically the muscle groups that produce force in this plane of motion. One must also prepare the nervous system (brain) and body to fire off synergistically during these movements. Hard work AND smart work is required to perform better on the lacrosse field-train smart, train hard. The lacrosse player must be concerned with becoming stronger, faster and smarter.

In order to move effectively and produce force in the sagittal plane one must focus on training movements in the sagittal plane. When the brain and body coordinate to move, the muscles that create that movement are trained. So don’t fret that you may not get a pump or feel like you did not work out if your focus is on training movements, not muscles. The easiest example of a sagittal plane movement is sprinting forward or backpedaling. However, for this article we will focus on training methods as opposed to conditioning and/or running. Traditional lacrosse training and conditioning stresses sagittal plane movements such as sprints, backpedaling, burpees, etc. It is less common to see teams including transverse or frontal plane movements in their training and conditioning, however, most of the game of lacrosse involves explosive movement in these overlooked and under trained planes of motion.

The intention of these articles is to provide a training platform of full body movements in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes, starting with stability, and then adding strength and power or explosive exercises. Using full body movements in training engages the core and prepares the nervous system for the variety of movements in lacrosse. A training program should always first center on stability. Training without stability is like shooting a cannon out of a canoe. Many athletes are ‘functionally dysfunctional’ and end up injured or immobile later in life. These movements must be integrated in the training and conditioning of lacrosse prior to engaging in strength and power movements. Stability can be broken down into static and dynamic. Static stability is also known as posture. This is where all movement begins. Abnormal posture in any plane starts the athlete with an asymmetrical platform for movement. It alters the length tension relationships of muscles and ligaments. Abnormal posture also alters joint position sensors (mechanoreceptors) which diminishes the brain’s ability to feed back and feed forward information for effective movement. Dynamic stability is symmetry of movement through all degrees of freedom. Abnormal static posture will lead to abnormal dynamic abilities.

20090410_sagittal-postureSagittal Posture
Sagittal plane posture is your posture from the side. For reference points, your ears should line up over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips and your hips over your ankles.

The picture to the right  illustrates frontal and sagittal plane ideal

Dynamic Flexibility
Dynamic flexibility has been proven to be more effective in preparing the brain and body for the movements of sport.   So what is wrong with old school static stretching? Numerous studies are showing the same finding: Static stretching before an

athletic event notably impairs the capability of our muscles to produce peak force output. It has been studied in specific sports: lacrosse players cannot sprint as fast, basketball players cannot jump as high, rugby players can’t push as hard, when they do a static stretching routine before these events. Why? Well static stretching does not raise your core temperature at all, so your body is not becoming any more ready to go into full drive. You are stretching your muscles past their normal flexibility and this decreases the force capability of the contraction thereafter. In some cases, hyper extension injuries were shown to be higher when an athlete followed a static stretching regimen prior to an event. Static stretching is not bad; it just has no place in the realm of preparing athletes to play a dynamic, multi-planar athletic event. Dynamic warm ups get our bodies ready to do what we need them to. They increase our range of motion dramatically, warm up our bodies significantly, stretch all core muscles including the legs trunk and upper body and can be made to be sport specific. Below are some dynamic warm up examples (sagittal plane).

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Strength Exercises
Strength is the body’s ability to produce force against resistance. The exercises below demonstrate using body weight and gravity as resistance. The affect of gravity is enhanced by performing these movements from a suspended position. Suspended pushups and pull ups are great starter exercises for building full body strength in the sagittal plane.

20090410_strength1 20090410_strength2

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Power/Explosive Exercises
In physics, power is defined as the amount of energy required or expended for a given unit of time.  In other words, power and explosive movements are strength over a period of time. To move fast on the field, training must  encompass using strength in shorter periods of time. Improving power and explosiveness requires altering the time variable.


Starting Position


Hip rotation with eccentric loading of the posterior chain


Explosive contraction of the posterior chain posterior chain

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