One of my favorite studies illustrating the benefits of multiplanar training was published in 2013 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
I like this study because single-plane and multiplanar resistance training have each, independently, been shown to improve athletic performance, but this was one of the few studies to directly compare the two.
The research, titled, "Comparison of Integrated and Isolated Training on Performance Measures and Neuromuscular Control," found that integrated and multiplanar resistance training improves athletic and functional performance more than single-plane, isolated resistance training.
Prior to conducting the experiment, the researchers developed the following theory:
“Resistance training exercises usually target one primary muscle in a single plane using both concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. Most sport activities require multiplanar movements using multiple muscles together to dynamically stabilize, accelerate, and decelerate the body. Therefore, traditional isolated resistance training may not be optimal for eliciting gains in the overall functional performance."
To test their theory, the researchers had 30 participants (25 men and 5 women, all between the ages of 18-21) engage in different exercise programs.
One half of the group was placed on an "isolated resistance training" program. The other half was placed on an "integrated, multiplanar" training program.
The "isolated resistance training" included traditional, single-plane exercises including the back squat, bench press, and leg press.
By contrast, the integrated and multiplanar training incorporated multiple modes of exercise, such as resistance, plyometric, balance, and agility exercises, as well as multiplanar, functional movements of the entire body that mimic sport demands. Some of these exercises from the study included standing cable single arm chest press; step-up to balance; and multiplanar hop to balance.
Participants followed their prescribed workout programs, consisting of 45-minute sessions, twice per week, for eight weeks.
At the end of eight weeks, both groups' performance was compared according to a pre- and post-test assessment, which included a jump-landing test, sit-and-reach test, t-test, vertical jump test, sit-ups (total in one minute), and push-ups (total in one minute).
The results were quite striking: the group that followed the integrated, multiplanar exercise program improved upon ALL the performance measures assessed: movement quality, speed and agility, strength, endurance, flexibility, and power.
The group that followed the single-plane, isolated resistance training program only improved their power and flexibility.
Based on the results, the researchers concluded the following…
This is completely consistent with what I have found when training my clients, whether they are pro athletes, amateur athletes, or "everyday athletes" who simply want to improve their performance or move better through everyday life. Multiplanar training boosts performance and reduces the risk of injury.
And this is why I incorporate VECTOR resistance training with my clients whenever I can.
The VECTOR gives us a convenient way to incorporate some of the most beneficial multiplanar resistance training movements into our plan, movements that, frankly, I used to avoid because they previously took too much time and effort to set up.
And I must admit, while I try to push the scientific benefits of multiplanar resistance training, my clients often say it’s simply more fun and energizing using VECTOR more than traditional modalities.
They love the way the smooth resistance feels; they love the idea that they're working their core at the same time we're focusing on, say, their chest; and they love not being "locked in" to single planes of movement.
And when they see how the VECTOR can apply resistance to the same, three-dimensional movements they use on the field and off, their faces – and bodies – light up. It really helps us break away from the "routine" and it keeps things fresh, engaging and fun. With the VECTOR, the multiplanar training options are virtually unlimited.
Seth Forman (M.Ed., CSCS, IIN-HC, JKD-AI) is the head of education and training for the Kayezen VECTOR and the founder of Athletic Development Training, a New Jersey-based training consultancy for elite professional and amateur athletes. In addition to being a former NFL Combine preparation consultant, Seth holds a Master of Education degree in Applied Exercise Science; he is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist; he is on the board of advisors for Springfield College Graduate Strength & Conditioning Program; and he has earned certificates as an apprentice Jeet Kune Do Instructor and as a Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Lindsay J. DiStefano, Michael J. DiStephano, Barnett S. Frank, Michael A. Clark, and Darin A. Padua. Comparison of Integrated and Isolated Training on Performance Measures and Neuromuscular Control. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(4): 1083-1090, 2013.