It is no secret that track and field is a sport that is dominated by linear movement. Besides shot put, discus, and hammer, every other event is done by running/accelerating in a linear or curvilinear fashion. To most people, it would only make sense to train these athletes in a way that matches what they do on the track. However, there are actually many perks to training track athletes LATERALLY as well. To be more specific, there are many perks for training in planes OPPOSITE the sagittal plane (transverse and frontal).
First off, it is important to understand that accelerating/running/sprinting is a full body movement and forces a lot of muscles to coordinate together. A great runner drives his/her knees, maintains a neutral spine and neutral hips, keeps a firm core, and correctly coordinates his/her arms and legs– among other things. With that being said, it is common to underappreciate what synergists and stabilizers do for us in sport. Synergists work along side our prime movers to reinforce the action being performed. Stabilizers provide the optimal environment for primary motion and help to maintain a desired body position.
But how do we train our synergists and stabilizers? If we continue to train in a linear fashion, those muscles will only ever reach synergist and stabilizer-type strength and power output. By training laterally, we are able to maximize the strength and power output of muscles such as our adductors, abductors, and glutes, therefore improving our ability to not only improve our running speed, but also improve our ability to stabilize.
Another reason to train laterally for track and field is to prevent injuries. In track, it is common to see a wide array of overuse injuries such as shin splints, tendonosis, and muscle knots. Most high school and collegiate track athletes train 6-7 days per week on their running along with 2-4 days per week of lifting during the season. That is a tremendous amount of linear stress that is put on an athlete’s body. That is why it is important to throw in some lateral training, especially in-season.
When programming in some lateral training, it should be most prevalent during the in-season and post-season because this is the time of the year that the most linear stress is being put on the body. Considering the wide array of demands that different sports can put on the body, the percentages of how much opposite-plane training should be done in the off-season and pre-season as opposed to the in-season and post-season can differ greatly. However, training more opposite-plane movements during the in-season and post-season will show a decrease in injuries and an increase in the athlete’s performance.