The slideboard has been around for a while now, but it seems as if since then, it has barely made it out of the strength & conditioning facilities in which it is well-known. Seeing as both mainstream training principles and fitness culture seem to be stuck in the 1980s, this is not a surprise; new training principles and fitness tools are almost always quickly adopted in the strength & conditioning field as long as there is good evidence backing up their efficacy, while mainstream commercial fitness has always been slower to adopt.
I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a handful of you don’t know how to take advantage of the slideboard. There is surprisingly little published research on slideboard training out there, and most of it deals with the cardiovascular and metabolic responses of sliding from side to side at different cadences like a speed-skater. Aptly called “skaters,” this is the classic exercise that slideboards are most known for, and it can be seen as an alternative to jogging when it comes to aerobic training. It was also reported that skaters caused medial leg soreness, which is not surprising given the frontal plane nature of the exercise and the demands on the musculature of the medial leg (more on this later). But there is way more that you can do on a slideboard than skaters, and that is the basis of today’s blog.
I like the slideboard for a few reasons. Firstly, the slideboard helps you get out of the sagittal plane in your training. The sagittal plane chops the body into left and right halves, and if you look directly at the plane itself, you will see that up/down and forward/backward movements of the body and its joints are the easiest to characterize. The frontal plane chops the body into anterior (front) and posterior (back); lateral (side-to-side) movement occurs in this plane. Finally, the transverse plane cuts the body in half right at the waist; rotation occurs here. Thus, squats, deadlifts, and sprinting all occur in the sagittal plane. Unfortunately, most of the rest of our training does, too.
Movement in real life actually occur in all 3 planes. Thus, it is important to train in all 3 planes as well. Take the Turkish Get-up (which we wrote about here) for example, and notice how movement almost always occurs in more than one plane. As such, the slideboard is great for training in the frontal plane and developing lateral movement, strength, and power. It’s no surprise that you see slideboards in strength & conditioning facilities—especially for sports which have great demands on strength and power in the frontal plane, like hockey and baseball.
Another reason why I like the slideboard is because of the nature of the exercises itself. For lack of a better phrase, sliding into position is different from getting into position in the traditional sense. This is no more apparent than when we compare a slideboard reverse lunge to a standard reverse lunge. On a slideboard, sliding into the lunge requires a constant, steady deceleration throughout the rep. You must have control and stability over the entire motion, and this hits the posterior chain hard. For some people, this really forces them to feel their hamstrings and glutes.
This is not to say that you don’t need to have control and stability over the entire motion of a standard reverse lunge, but balancing on one leg and then finding the floor again with your lunging leg is very different. The deceleration is more sudden, more demanding, and more difficult.
On a slideboard, there is also less impact. This, combined with the need for control and stability over the entire range of motion to keep you honest, actually makes the slideboard lunge a great stepping stone to the standard lunge, as the slideboard helps you become attuned with the points in the lunge (or split-squat) that you are weakest at—while you still have two feet on the ground.
I’m starting to see the slideboard pop up more and more, even in commercial gyms, so if you happen to see one, here are some of exercises you should be doing with the slideboard, and why.
As we spoke about just now, slideboard lunges are a great stepping stone or alternative to standard lunges, depending on the person. Here, I’m doing them with a weight goblet-style, as the anterior load serves as a great counterbalance while your trailing leg slides behind you.
Technique-wise, I like to see trainees maintain a vertical shin and sit down and back into the lunge to hit the posterior chain. To facilitate the proper motion on the slideboard, think about distributing your body weight 50/50 between both legs in the standing position. As your trailing leg slides backwards, this weight distribution goes from 50/50 to 100/0 in favor of the front leg. Tap the floor gently, and then pull yourself back up to standing by pushing forward with the front leg.
We spoke about getting out of the sagittal plane in our training, and here’s one way to do so.
This is basically the same as the sagittal lunge above, except that the leg goes out to the side instead of behind you. In the slideboard lateral lunge, there is greater demand on the trailing leg adductor compared to a reverse lunge. On the way out, the adductor has to have a ton of eccentric control; on the way back in, it has to have concentric strength to assist in pulling the leg back in. Even more importantly, the ground leg has to be strong too, as it will bear most of the weight in this exercise. Needless to say though, the lateral lunge will still fire up the adductors hard.
I really like this one, not just because at its core (pun intended), this is a plank and everyone should be doing them, but because of the benefits on the shoulder as well. We’ve spoken at length about scapular upward rotation and protraction and about the serratus anterior (here more so than anywhere else), and the slideboard bodysaw teaches this function while hammering the core hard. You have to keep your torso as solid as possible in order to maintain the integrity of your plank, so the sawing motion of this exercise has to come purely from the scaps gliding on the ribcage—this is exactly the kind of overhead kinetics that we want to teach—moving the shoulders without compensating through the torso.
Of course, more abs are never a bad thing, and here’s another way to challenge the core. Yes, there is a plank here as well. Focus on being smooth and controlled in this exercise to keep you honest, and think about pulling your feet to your hands.
Here’s one way to isolate and really fire up the hamstrings. This is also a great core exercise, as you want to keep the hips extended (glutes engaged) while curling. You can also try these single-leg to add an anti-rotation component and for a bigger hamstring assault.
We spoke about how there is less impact on a slideboard lunge than on a standard lunge, and in much the same way slideboard mountain climbers have less impact than traditional mountain climbers. If you do mountain climbers as part of a conditioning circuit or finisher, just think about how many times your feet hit the ground. There’s a lot of impact there.
Slideboard mountain climbers eliminate that. You can easily slow these down as well and focus on hip flexion and extension without compromising core stability. Think about keeping the hips level in this exercise.
Finally, this article wouldn’t be complete without the classic and iconic slideboard exercise. Great for lateral movement, strength, and power. You can do these as part of a circuit for metabolic effect, focusing on rhythm and cadence, for time or for reps. Or, you can focus on lateral power production. This will really teach you to produce (mostly abduction of the trailing leg) and absorb (mostly stiffening of the forward leg) force in the frontal plane. You should mimic a speed skater in this exercise.
And of course, if all else fails, just dance. It’s gonna be okay!
As far as strength-training goes, the squat, deadlift, and bench press are still king, but the slideboard exercises shown here today provide a different training effect and are great complements to the main exercises. In order to become a better mover, and a better athlete, be sure to take advantage of this training tool by doing the exercises shown here today.
Williford HN, Blessing DL, Scharff-Olson M, Brown J. Injury rates and physiological changes associated with lateral motion training in females. Int J Sports Med. 1996 Aug;17(6):452-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8884421
Williford HN, Scharff-Olson M, Wang N, Blessing DL, Kirkpatrich J. The metabolic responses of slideboard exercise in females. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1995 Mar;35(1):43-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7474992
Pinto GS, Abrantes C, Brito JP, Novaes JS, Monteiro MD, Reis VM. Oxygen uptake, heart rate and energy expenditure during slideboard routines at different cadence. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010 Jun;50(2):126-31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20585290
Pies NA, Provost-Craig MA, Neeves RE, Richards, JG. Cardiopulmonary Responses to Slideboard Exercise in Competitive Female Ice Skaters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1998;12(1):7-11. http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/1998/02000/Cardiopulmonary_Responses_to_Slideboard_Exercise.2.aspx
by Jeremy Lau
Jeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.
Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.
As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.