The body exists on a three-dimensional plane, but so often we only move in a one-dimensional way, sometimes two if we’re trying. When you roller skate, you’re incorporating all three planes of movement into your body’s movement patterns, thus increasing your range of motion, injury prevention, and providing greater stability to your body’s mechanical repertoire.
The Sagittal Plane
The sagittal plane divides the body into left and right. Think about a flat sheet passing through your body from front to back. When we move along this plane, we are using the strength of our muscles to move parts of the body forward or backward. The bulk of your body’s extension and flexion happen along the sagittal plane. Most recreational activity movements make use of this plane, including walking, running, biking, rowing, and lifting. For example, when running, both hips and knees synchronously move from extension into flexion, and back into extension, while the ankle, out of phase by about 180 degrees (opposite phases of knees/hips), also moves through extension and flexion. Similar patterns take place with walking, but obviously not to the same level as running.
One area of the body we often forget to extend? The neck. Every time we look down – think looking down at your phone, or looking at any digital screen – we flex our necks (the upper spine). Many of us can go through an entire day without ever taking the upper spine into extension. Skating, especially in a crowded rink, relies on looking forward, or up if the rest of your spine is in flexion (i.e. you’re bent over). Finding time to extend your upper spine on a daily basis, even by simply looking up at the ceiling when you’re sitting or standing around, can leave you feeling as if you have more room in between your vertebrae. This is due to your spinal discs being avascular, which means they rely on movement to circulate blood. Believe it or not, proper movement is the key to health.
The Frontal Plane
The Frontal (or coronal) plane divides the body into front and back. Think about a flat sheet passing through your body from left to right. When we move along this plane, we are moving toward or away from our midline (left or right). Adduction and abduction are movements along this plane, where the former involves bring our legs together, and the latter is spreading our legs apart. Most of our daily and recreational movements involve very little abduction, which is a major problem. As you get older, the use it or lose it principle kicks in, and your ability to balance diminishes (think of older people falling). On a day-to-day basis, we tend to stay pretty tucked in toward the middle (unless you play an action sport that involves changing direction using lateral shifts).
Roller skating takes your body through abduction every time you stride, shuffle laterally, or come to a stop using your edges. Pulling your legs away from the midline helps to both functionally strengthen and open the abductor muscle groups of the hips. When you crossover on skates, or perform gliding shears (repeated spreading and closing of legs), your body adducts. Developing strength and endurance in your hip adductors leads to improved balance, stability, speed, and agility on your skates. Watch any speed skater or high level derby player, and notice how much of their power is derived from the leg on the side of the direction they are moving towards (the under push).
To integrate abduction and adduction into your daily life, slap on a pair of skates and stride it out and cross over for thirty minutes or so (laps in CW and CCW will achieve this). At the very least, make it a point to move sideways throughout your day. Your body will thank you.
The Transverse Plane
The transverse (or horizontal) plane divides the body into top and bottom, but it is a little less straightforward. Think about it as a sheet that is parallel to the ground, and can pass through any part of your body. Any time we rotate a joint we are moving along the transverse plane. In daily life, this is the action we do least frequently, particularly with the large joints in the hips, shoulders, and spine.
Roller Skating incorporates a lot of twisting and rotating. Every time you propel yourself in any direction on your skates, you will move through at least one spinal twist (even if it’s simply to keep your body from rotating). Spinal twisting, where the torso rotates, provides a large host of benefits: it relieves muscular pain in the back by lengthening the long muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi (lats); it provides length between the vertebrae and restores movement along the spine (remember avascular!); and, it compresses the organs, stimulating them to do what they’re meant to do, remove toxins from the body.
Incorporate transverse movement into your body every day by putting your body through some twists (think 80’s style aerobic videos), learn some thoracic extension movements, or slap on roller skates and stride it out. Spins aren’t necessary, especially if you’re not comfortable skating backwards yet, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing the hokey pokey. That’s what it’s all about!
If you’re not twisting or rotating your body, you may be limiting your ability to truly increase, or at least maintain, your range of motion. Most of our major muscles groups exist in more than one plane. A shining example, the glutes, drives spinal extension, and abduction and external rotation of the hips. This massive muscle group takes a part in all the planes of movement. Roller skating maximizes your body’s utilization of the gluteal muscle group, when you change levels (spinal extension), stride it out and crossover (abduct and externally rotate).
Reference: (Modified from orginal post)