Pitch, Yaw, and Roll

When new words are introduced, we tend to react as if they make things more complicated.  We already know.  We already have an understanding on what the terms we already use mean.  Why would we change?  We change when we are open enough to learn another way, and consider that it actually might make understanding and communicating things easier.

Truth be told, anatomical planes of motion always confused me.  Despite my kinesiology degree and multiple ‘trainer certifications’, I always had to pause and think about which motions went through which planes.


The fact that flexion and extension movements go through the frontal plane is NOT intuitive.  I have to enter the second layer of processing and ask, “Which plane of glass would break when I moved?”

Compare those steps necessary to identify motion with the picture below:


These words explain motion along an axis.


YAW – turning along a vertical axis

PITCH – turning along a horizontal axis

ROLL = turning along an axis you’re looking down the barrel of


Simple.  For those that need to disrupt a current schema while using that current schema, they can also be described through the lens of ‘known’ and ‘accepted’ planes of motion:

YAW = through the SAGITTAL PLANE


ROLL = through the FRONTAL PLANE


When it comes to the foot, I really like that it has the same shape and orientation as a plane (complete with gravity and forward direction).  Here is a movement breakdown in open chain, or floating in space:

Please note that because of positional bias and the way that the structure ‘sits’, there is almost always a hint of another axial rotation.  The plane does not lie ‘perfectly flat’ at any moment.

In closed chain movements, when the ground is involved, actions utilize a combination of rotations.  Yaw occurs through the shin, pitch when the heel lifts, and roll as the we finish the movement off the inside edge of the big toe:

Locomotion is a multi-planar concerto.


How might you examine each action of the foot as it functions independently?  Place it on a surface in which there is an overhang and the foot doesn’t fit (like the bricks).  There is a rhyme and reason to the words and methods used by Adarian Barr.  Next level comprehension will take a little bit of extra work by the learner to follow along.  The beauty of doing so, however, is that even riding his jet fumes will get you galaxies beyond everyone else.

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