Three Planes of Motion Training for Masters Skiers

David Paulson

Deephaven, Minnesota, United States



Lately, I have been reading about masters cross country (Nordic) skiers who are engaged in strength training for improving ski performance. What I found to be missing in their training plans is any mention of the “three planes of motion.”


The Three Planes of Motion

Unfortunately, it seems that masters athletes are focusing primarily on the sagittal plane—for perhaps as much as 70% of their training. The sagittal plane trains the left and right sides of the body—single leg lunges, bicep curls, etc.



Another plane of focus is the coronal (frontal) plane—jumping jacks, side steps, etc. The plane that is rarely trained, but in reality should be as much as 30% of training, is the transverse plane—whole body chopping motions, medicine ball throws, etc.


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Neglecting the transverse plane is often responsible for many of the injuries that older skiers experience. Neglecting this plane is responsible for deteriorating agility and balance.


If a skier becomes stiff and inflexible in the upper and lower parts of transverse motion, moving smoothly through fast turns, and through the snow conditions that tend to throw a body off balance will become more difficult.


Use a Comprehensive Strength Program

Many masters skiers that I work with have been on strength programs, but their activities have mitigated against flexibility, agility, and balance in their effort to increase muscle mass. This is because they are afraid they are losing muscle development in advancing years, yet often that mass doesn’t lend itself to anything other than bulk.




In fact, muscle mass can overpower tendons and ligaments. It is a strange and confusing situation for an athlete when he or she has been working hard on strength and then while doing something relatively insignificant, pulls a tendon, tears a rotator cuff, snaps an Achilles, or develops lower back problems.


Strength training has to include all three of the planes of motion capable within the human body. Ignoring the planes of motion can exact a very high price, even while working with the best of intentions to remain healthy and strong.


I have seen many “strength focused masters athletes” who have lost flexibility, agility, balance, and even speed though they trained religiously with what they perceived as an intelligent strength program.


A comprehensive strength program focuses on balance between muscle groups. Appositional strength is another type of physical balance that prevents injury. For example, someone focusing on arm curls and develops massive biceps is actually neglecting the triceps, which can cause injury. The appositional strength between biceps and triceps should be in balance, as that balance also affects shoulder strength and lat strength.


Discover What Training Planes Can Do

As I am now in my late 70’s, I have focused on cross training and the three planes of motion throughout my athletic life. I have played many sports at fairly high levels and have been injury-free. I have friends who have been on similar training programs and they are also injury-free, with good joints, balance, agility, and flexibility.


We are all “experiments of one” and we need to figure out what works for us. We can do this by following good research and listening to intelligent mentors. Unfortunately, we may think we are doing the right thing and only when something breaks or fails do we realize we were on the wrong path toward physical fitness and health.


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