As I write this post, a few of the headlines regarding the NFL
“lockout” read, “NFL sides meet for 2 hours, to return
next week”, “Lockout could create limited free agency window”
and another writer saying that Ochocinco needs something to do besides riding
shotgun in a race car.  I just wonder how this is affecting the player’s
mindset in preparation for next season.  The “Lockout” regarding
contract negotiations stirred me to think about athletic performance and what
“locks out” or shuts down a pro’s skill on the field.  Beyond doubt, without question, undeniably, the answer is………. the TRANSVERSE PLANE.

The transverse plane is the plane of ROTATION.  If this plane is not trained, then there will be diminished performance and the athlete will have a greater chance of injury.  Let me say it again, if the transverse plane is neglected and not strategically designed into a training or rehab progression, then it’s going to be a “Lockout.”

So what’s the big deal with the transverse plane in regards to athletic
performance?  It’s gravity eliminated, meaning it’s the only plane of
motion that you have to work for.  Gravity naturally influences, or
“feeds”, the sagital plane (straight up and down movements).
When a lineman gets in a 3-point stance and has to come up out of it, he
has to fight gravity to come up into a stance position, or better yet, he’ll be
fighting extra gravity as he battles another 300 pounder.  Gravity feeds
the sagital plane, it’s part of the package.  Same for the frontal plane (side
to side movements).  When a running back cuts, which usually involves
a lateral movement, or when a forward has to quickly get across the paint
(again, lateral movement) gravity feeds that plane of motion.  Your muscles
react to and fight against gravity to keep you on your feet, they have no
choice.  That’s why astronauts have to worry about muscle atrophy and
joint problems because gravity isn’t stimulating the tissue.

Not so with the transverse plane.  Gravity does not have a direct influence on
the rotational plane.  Again, this is huge.  You have to work for it;
it must be planned into all aspects of training, rehab, and skill
coaching.  If not, it’s a “lockout” and you will not have the
necessary power and will even be more susceptible to injury.  I’ve seen
it over and over again in athletes.  How do you develop performance in the transverse plane?  By constructing a transverse plane system that addresses lengthening the tissue, an agility series that drives the hips and core in the transverse plane, an explosive progression that’s rotational, by getting out of the box of the sagital plane and driving the athlete beyond his limits into rotation.  And that’s only the the the beginning!

For example, step 1 would be constructing an eccentric loading (notice I didn’t
say stretching) sequence targeting the transverse plane.  The muscles move
in all 3 planes of motion and you need to lengthen them in all 3 planes of motion, especially the transverse plane.  Not a granny style stretch sitting on the ground in some type of Yoga position and holding it for 30 seconds.  I’m talking a sport specific position that lengthens and loads (with resistance) the tissue to prepare it and enhance it to do what it’s about to do in sport.  The hamstring has a hefty transverse plane component to its function on the field.  Why just do traditional sagital plane stretches.  Attack it in the transverse plane, standing up, add a load, and get that puppy going.  Maybe your back or your knee would say, “Thank you!” I have a gazillion other examples, examples of transverse plane agility, explosive, power, high intensity progressions to enhance performance and address the cause of injuries, and this is just one example.  Do not neglect the transverse plane.

Another mammoth element of the transverse plane is that it is the POWER PLANE for
athletes.  It’s the dynamite for the QB.  It’s the driving force for
the golf swing.  It’s the detonator for the batter at the plate.
It’s the core accelerator for the baller to dunk on his defender.  It’s
everything.  Think about it.  Just about every sport movement involves some type of rotational component.   Because of all the mathematical complexities of
torque such as levers, angular velocity, force, and power, an athlete
is able to use this plane to his advantage.  Or……to his disadvantage.

It is also the PLANE of INJURY.  Most injuries have a transverse plane
element involved.  You “twist” your knee or ankle, you
“roll” this or “torque” that.  It’s the plane of injury because it’s the weakest plane; the plane athletes have the least amount of training in.  It’s also the plane of motion where athletes are the tightest and the weakest.  Bar none.  If they are tight then they are
weak.  If an athlete cannot eccentrically lengthen or rotate through his
hip, then he will be weaker in generating rotational power with a
rotational squat, rotational lunge, and especially swinging a golf club or a bat,
as well as throwing.  He’s “locked out.”  Once it’s been determined that an athlete has a restriction in the transverse plane, say at the hip, then you don’t just stop there and have him do “rehab” or an exercise program.  It must be determined “WHY.”
Usually an athlete doesn’t just get tight a hip in a vacuum.  There is
usually a driver or a CAUSE.  For example (sorry, I’m going to get biomechanical on you for a minute), an athlete can have a forefoot valgus that throws him to the lateral border of his foot (can be a cause of chronic ankle sprains) where he can’t evert through his subtalar
joint (the torque converter mechanism of the lower extremity) which “locks out” internal rotation through his leg and his hip doesn’t get turned on or eccentrically loaded in the transverse plane and, bam, it gets tight. The foot shuts down the hip and is the cause.  Address the cause then attack the compensation; the tightness in the hip.

It’s an unfortunate situation that most rehab programs are still locked into dated
protocols and exercises that are Neanderthal.  Check this ACL protocol
out (I just Google “ACL Protocol” and picked #2).  I picked the “7-12 weeks after surgery” section where it should be getting higher level since it is 3 months after surgery:

Exercise Program:

1. Quadriceps – straight leg raises (10 sets of 30
repetitions each), and quads
sets (10 sets of 30 repetitions each)

2. Hip muscle groups. May progress by adding weights above
the knee. Hip abductors, flexors, abductors, extensors (10 repetitions, 4 sets daily). An isometric variation can be performed by pushing down
on the hip being worked on and sustaining a contraction for 10 seconds.

3. Hamstrings curls – may add weights around the ankle (10 repetitions, 4 times
daily).

4. Calf raises 3 sets, 10 repetitions – fast and slow sets (each).

5.  Accelerated program – start with sand bags on tibial tubercle. Perform straight
leg raises (10 sets, 10 repetitions each) and progress fulcrum distally one inch per week).

6. Sissy squats. Stand facing the edge of a door and place hands on the door
knobs on each side of the door. Feet should be shoulder width apart. Perform
a half-squat (never past 90 degrees) and slowly rise to a starting position. Build up to 100 repetitions per day.

I highlighted all the “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME” exercises/concepts
in red.  Seriously, I can’t believe this is still in existence.  This just infuriates me to know this is being done to pro athletes or even desk jobbers.  In just a sec I will begin to completely shred it.  After just a brief look at it, do you notice the elephant in the room?  What’s missing?  Yes, you got it, the TRANSVERSE PLANE! Nowhere, nada, on the DL list. This is outrageous.

Point by point: Straight Leg Raise:  Are you seriously going to
have an athlete, even a granny, do these at 3 months.  I wouldn’t have
anyone do it, period.  It’s artificial, non-functional, not sport specific, it’s done lying down (see my previous blog on the calf http://bit.ly/kMDXLS) and has nothing to do with sport.  10 Sets: Why 10 sets?  What’s the point?  If you can do 10 sets of 30 reps, maybe, just possibly, it’s too light.  Insufficient load for an athlete.  Adding Weights
Above the Knee
:  Assumed that this exercise is done lying down.  You might as well put weights on your head because it doesn’t matter.  All the points as above complete waste of time.  If you want to load the hip then do it standing up man. Isometric Variation:
May sound fancy but is so far on the other end of the spectrum of sport
specificity.  Again, all the points as above.  Granny would laugh at these.  Hamstring Curls and Calf Raises: My blood is starting to boil when I see these.  I will be doing a written and video post on the hamstring.  The hamstring does not flex the knee when a back
is running on the field.  Why train the hamstring to do something it rarely if ever has to do in sport? Slow: Why do anything slow?  I want speed.  Acccelerated Program: This is anything but accelerated for all the reasons above.  It’s done lying down.  Hello!   Finally, an exercise that describes the truth of this protocol.  Need I say more?

If the transverse plane is neglected it will show up in decreased performance on
the field or court and predisposes the pro athlete to injury.  If the transverse plane is overlooked then it can slow down the recovery of a pre-existing injury.  It just takes longer or the athlete may not see full recovery because the transverse plane deficits are showing up.

This is at the heart of what I do as a performance consultant and using biomechanics
to find the deficits and get to the cause.

If you want to negotiate a better deal for all parties involved in the lockout
then just get more out of the transverse plane.  Then everybody wins.  Everybody is happy.  The hip and the foot can get along and aren’t beatin’ each other up and the knee starts to have less symptoms and everybody is playing so well together that, as a team, there is more power, more agility, and better chances for a W.

Michael Griffith PT, CSCS

www.3dperformancesystems.com