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a woman performs the supine arm swing

Want full-body, head-to-toe fitness? Start working out in three dimensions.

“At your average gym, everyone does exercises that mostly go front to back,” says physical therapist Gary Gray, PT, FAFS, founder of the Gray Institute for Applied Functional Science in Adrian, Mich. Standards like treadmill running, stationary cycling, and lunges are perfect examples of moves that literally keep you on the straight and narrow.

“But we’re three-dimensional people in a three-dimensional world,” Gray adds. “So we need to incorporate strength training in 3D as well.”

Three-dimensional, or “tri-planar,” exercises include movements that go side to side and in a rotational arc, as well as front to back. This approach doesn’t just increase strength, he explains: It also improves movement literacy — your ability to move skillfully, without effort or strain, in any environment you wish, from the gym to the office to the sports field.

Functional training is designed to challenge brain and brawn alike, says Gray, who designed the following workout.

“Learning can be a big part of training. Not the type of learning where you listen to a teacher, but where you successfully complete a new, challenging exercise and say, ‘Look at what my body just did!’”

The Workout

Perform the following series of functional-fitness moves one to three times a week on nonconsecutive days, making these adjustments as needed:

Beginner: Do each move slowly for the noted number of reps, completing one full set of the workout.

Intermediate: Combine all the moves into a circuit, resting 30 seconds between exercises. Go through the entire sequence two or three times.

Advanced: Double the number of repetitions listed for all the moves. Run through all the exercises as a circuit, resting minimally as needed. Complete the circuit three or four times.

Form Tip: To keep your hips lifted during the glute bridge, drive through your heels. Aim for your body to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders throughout the move.

Supine Arm Swing

Animated Gif Demonstrating Supine Arm Swing
  1. Lying with your knees bent, and feet flat, about hip width apart, lift into a glute bridge.
  2. Raise both arms toward the ceiling.
  3. Keeping your arms straight and parallel to one another, lower your arms overhead as close to the floor as possible.
  4. Keeping your arms in the same position, raise them toward the ceiling again and lower them to the floor. Repeat three times.
  5. With hips still lifted, reach your arms up toward the ceiling.
  6. Reach both arms down and to the right, allowing your chest and torso to rotate. Your back will lift off the floor as your weight shifts to your right shoulder.
  7. Repeat the movement by rotating to the left. Repeat three times per side.

Prone Foot Reach

Animated Gif Demonstrating Prone Foot Reach
Animated Gif Demonstrating Trx Tri-planar Row
Animated Gif Demonstrating Tri-planar Squat Thrust
  1. With your feet shoulder width apart, squat down and place your hands on the floor.
  2. Jump your feet backward so you land in a pushup position.
  3. Jump forward into the squat position so your feet land just behind your hands.
  4. Jump backward to return to the pushup position.
  5. Jump forward while rotating your body so your feet land to the right, knees outside your elbows.
  6. Jump your feet back into the pushup position.
  7. Jump forward while rotating your body so your feet land to the left, knees outside your elbows.
  8. Return to the pushup position.
  9. Jump forward into the starting squat position, then stand up. Repeat this entire sequence three times.

This article originally appeared in Experience LifeLife Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

Andrew
Andrew Heffernan

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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