Application of the Flex … ion (Applying Lessons on Joint Action and Planes of Motion)

This post is built upon my previous post on joint actions and the planes of motion. If you haven’t read that then I’d advise you do so, otherwise this might be a bit confusing (unless you’re familiar with anatomy and kinesiology … that’s right, we get ‘sciency’ this week). You may be thinking ‘Great, now that I know how my joints and muscles move, but what do I do with this?’. We apply it to exercise is what we do with it! We use it as a means of finding variation in our basic routines so that we are never bored, restricted based on gym equipment availability, or due to a busy or rudimentary gym. Let’s apply together.

Taking into consideration the planes of motion and the actions of the joint, we can begin to apply this knowledge to the individual muscles as we work them. For the purposes of this lesson we will take the legs and the deltoids (shoulders) as our two examples.

Starting with the quads, if we were to apply the former lesson we can start with the basics of flexion and extension. Think in your head about extending your quads outward and then bringing them inwards. This is a pretty basic motion right? Now we need to translate this into an exercise. The first two immediate exercises that come to mind (whose primary movement utilizes the motion in question) are leg extensions (for extension) and squats (for flexion). Both of these involve the increase and decrease of the angle of the quad in comparison to the rest of the leg.

Leg Extension full

Squat full

To expand now that we have a basic example, we can also think of additional alternatives such as lunges (flexion) and leg press (extension). The same can be done with the hamstrings which sit on the opposite side of the quads. Thinking of flexion we can think of lying leg curls, seated leg curls, and glute ham raise. In thinking of extension we can think of romanian deadlift variations.

Lunge full

Leg Press full

Romanian Deadlift full

The interesting thing about anatomy and kinesiology is that in all of the analysis that we just did we were only considering flexion and extension, however as part of that came abduction and adduction. This is when we bring the weights away from our bodies and back, up and down. Just like that we added in two additional factors without even realizing it!

Transitioning into shoulders, or deltoids, it is a little easier to imagine abduction and adduction being incorporated into the mix. If we break down a lateral raise this involves abduction as we raise the weight upwards and away from the body, then as we lower the weight down we transition into adduction. The same can be said for front raises as well as rear delt flys, these are just on different planes.

Lateral Raise full

Front Raise full

Rear Delt full

We can do raises all day every day and build a decent amount of size, however this can get boring. To add variety we can start to focus on our hands (remember the lesson on supination, pronation, and neutral position?). Typically when we think of a front raise we think of someone holding a pair of dumbbells, hands facing downwards (pronated), raising upwards and then downwards. A variation of this utilizes a supinated grip, sometimes performed with a barbell. This variation adds greater stress to the anterior (front) deltoid, which can be advantageous to building that three dimensional effect that many are looking to achieve.

This same principle can be applied to most exercises for most body parts. Simply changing the hand placement can significantly change how and what muscles are being stressed, adding an easy source of variety to our everyday routines. In knowing the primary function of the equipment at your disposal, basic anatomy and kinesiology concepts, and an overview of how our joints are meant to function along with the planes of movement we have an unlimited resource of exercise options no matter the situation. Busy gyms, low equipment, no equipment, etc. should no longer be an issue if you can leverage the aforementioned tools. Happy remixing!

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