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Multiplanar pressing doesn't so much get a bad rap as a nonexistent one. The term doesn't help: multiplanar sounds like something to do with physics or airplane design, and most people are content with just one pressing movement already (can you guess which one?).
So, seeing that Bench Press Bro is pretty pleased with the pressing movement he already knows, why are we discussing a sophisticated set of pressing variations?
Because you need multiplanar pressing.
In order to convince youthat that's the case I have to tell you what it is — but also what it's not. A movement isn't multiplanar if it's uneccesarily complicated. A step up bicep curl isn't multiplanar, the same way a bosu ball renegade lunge isn't functional. It's just a waste of time. Multiplanar pressing isn't a fad or a cure-all.
So What Is It?
Multiplanar refers to "more than one plane."
A plane is a line of movement. So if you look at the human body you'll see the three that you're familiar with: the saggital plane, the frontal or coronal plane and the transverse plane. Your saggital plane divides your body down the middle into left and right. Your coronal plane divides your body into front and back. And your transverse plane divides your body into top and bottom. At this point you can think of them as axes. Up-down, left-right, front-back.And it's pretty obvious that most of the training we do in the gym is focussed around just one at a time. Squats are an up-down movement. Benches are a front-back movement, and so are rows.
A multiplanar movement is one where the line you're pressing along is passing through more than one axis.
Why Is That Good?
Let's talk about anatomy, my favorite subject and everyone else's least favorite subject. When you perform a military press, which muscles do the work? Given that the other name for a military press is a "shoulder press," you might be handy with an answer: but you'd be wrong. Because the whole upper and middle back, chest and arms are involved in pressing a weight overhead.
Multiplanar pressing teaches the body to apply force through more than one plane at once, so joints become more stable. It teaches you to press throuugh wider ranges of motion so the body becomes more mobile. And it teaches you to press with more neurological activation, more muscle mass involved, and more proprioception involved in the movement. Which means that when you go back to your big, simple lifts (they're good, by the way, I'm not knocking them) your numbers will skyrocket. And that elbow and shoulder pain you assume is a badge of honor that proves you lift? That will fade away.
I'm going to talk you through three classic multiplanar pressing moves, each with a distinct benefit.