I often get asked what the best exercise or the best form of training is. My common answer, “It Depends”, frustrates the hell out of most people. Most people just want you to tell them that the best thing to do is what they are already doing or what they already love to do in the gym. For most people coming from the traditional training approach, that means lifting heavy shit in the classical bodybuilding and powerlifting movements. Squats. Bench. Deadlifts. Bicep Curls. Shoulder Press. Bro-y goodness. Let me introduce the concept of three dimensional training and its insane benefits.
There are two problems with this approach. First, if you are only training what you are already good at, you are only furthering the distance between your strengths and your weaknesses. If I am a big strong guy, naturally I am going to gravitate towards lifting heavy things and wanting to feel like a beast in the gym. While strength is king and has innumerable benefits, mobility is another very important factor and at a certain point only focusing on strength will catch up to you. You won’t have the mobility and range of motion to take full advantage of all of that awesome strength you worked so hard to get.
The second and more important reality here is that life doesn’t take place within the safe confines of the squat rack with your two feet planted a shoulder width apart. Performance on the field on play doesn’t transpire while sitting on a bench that is bolted into the ground. Real life, whether it is on the field of battle, on the field of play, or even just moving some heavy furniture or running around trying to keep up with your kids, all takes place in a dynamic three dimensional space. This means forward, sideways, up down, and turning all around!
Move In All Planes
All of the movements that I mention above (squat, deadlift, press, etc…) happen in what is called the Saggital plane of motion. This means forward motion, in front of the body. Even motions above the head like an overhead press or pull up are still happening in the saggital plane. Saggital plane exercises comprise most of the classical movements, the bread and butter, which are great in themselves; BUT they aren’t everything. It’s time to step out of that squat rack folks.
The next plane of motion to consider is the Frontal plane. This refers to any lateral or sideways motion. Whoever thought it made sense to call something the FRONTal plane when it refers to side motions must have been a very, very, very smart scientist. Lateral motions are incredibly important to help create stability and balance. They are also important for helping to manage offset loads. Remember when suitcases had handles and not wheels and you had to pick up something heavy with one hand and walk a long distance with it without falling to pieces. Well lateral stability will be a big help here.
For movements in the frontal plane think about Side Lunges, Side Planks, Lateral Raises and all of those lateral walks that the ladies on Instagram like to do so much with the booty bands. Beyond providing stability and balance in the body (which may be more important when you are 80 then right now, but better to get a heard start…), think about athletic performance. Think about side stepping someone to avoid a tackle. Juking, dangles. Hockey itself is pushing off laterally on the outside of the metal blade attached you foot. You need lateral strength and power to be a good hockey player! You need dynamic and useful strength in this plane of motion to be a badass athlete in any sport, to have quick feet and move with agility and grace.
The final plane of motion to consider in your training is the Tranverse plane. Here we are talking around rotational activities. Mace Swings, Band Twists, Rotational Lunges, and all kind of other badass rotational exercises. Have you ever swung a baseball bat? Hockey slapshot? Golf swing? Kicked a soccer ball? Thrown a punch? All of these movements involve rotation. The function of the ‘core’ abdominal muscles and isn’t just to help stabilize the spine and stop the body from falling into a pile of mush; your abdominals are used to generate and transfer force and power! If you never train these muscles in a rotational context, how can you hope to be effective in these movements.
For the modern warfighter rotational strength and stability through your movement is going to be essential to keep you healthy. You are going to be constantly carrying and movement offset loads, from your pack, to your firearms and ammo, and all of the awkward objects and loads that you are going to be transporting and moving. If you are not able to move efficiently under load through all of these plans of motion, you are in trouble. Not only are you going to be more prone to injury, you will be slow and your movement will be labored. The field of battle is not a place to find out about these limitations.
So what do you do about it?
Make sure that all three of these planes of motion are being addressed in your training sessions. Am I telling you to drop the barbell and start to ONLY do rotational twists on a bosu ball? Hell no. Your training should depend on your goals and the demands of your job. Athletes, tactical or otherwise, need to include dynamic forms of training that are going to challenge their body and address the needs of their job.
Your training will have to build robust and functional strength that works in multiple planes of motion.
MIX IT UP.
Include some saggital plane movements like deadlifts and presses to build strength. Have some lateral stability drills in the frontal plane. Include some explosive rotational movements. Variety is the spice of life! The end result will be a high quality of movement and a body that can respond when the demands are being place on it, whether it be smashing a long drive, breaking a tackle while keeping the legs moving forward, or running with an ammo box in one hand and a back on your back. How you train is how you perform. Time to take that statement seriously folks.
Train Hard, Fight Easy
Check out my episode on Episode 1 of The HRD2KILL Podcast about how to become a better prepared tactical athlete.
Patrick Burkhard is the a Level 2 Agatsu Kettlebell Instructor, the Director of the Mace and Indian Club program for Agatsu Inc. and the head coach at the Agatsu Montreal Gym. He competes in both kettlebell sport as well as mace sport. He has had a passion for health and fitness since his youth and his mission is to inspire others to lead a healthy and active lifestyle and use exercise as a means to better all aspects of their lives, making them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually stronger. You can connect with him on agatsumontreal.com or on instagram @coach.burkhard and @agatsumontreal.