The slide board was never granted a prime time spot on the group exercise schedule at your local gym, so using them for sport conditioning gives you a literal leg up on your competition. Slide boards provide aerobic lateral movement, which is essential to many athletic activities such as skating, as well as inner and outer thigh strengthening. Even better, the boards provide an unusual selection of boredom-busting, body-sculpting workouts for your entire body.
In 1988, former Miami Dolphins football player Jeff Markland injured his knee and sought out new rehabilitation methods. His search led to 1980 Olympic gold medal speed skater Eric Heiden, whose creation of a lateral training board was creating a buzz among coaches and rehab specialists. Markland developed his own version, calling it Kneedspeed. The boards had a slick surface, with bumpers on each side. A pair of nylon booties, which fit over your athletic shoes, facilitates side-to-side sliding.
The Markland/Heiden slide board story proves that athletes might understand their rehabilitation process better than their doctors. Too bad it took the medical profession seven years to publish studies on the subject. Finally, in 1996, a study published in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine" showed that women who participated in a 10-week slide board training program improved their aerobic fitness and reduced their susceptibility to injury. The results of another study, published in the "Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy," indicated that slide board exercise provides effective rehabilitation for ACL tears.
The slide board provides effective rehab for both your upper and lower body. Using the board for upper body injuries requires you to put the booties on your hands. If this triggers the "yuck" factor, get an extra set of booties, or use a hand towel. Slide board rehab workouts feature full or partial range-of-motion movements. They fall into the closed chain exercise category, meaning that your foot or hand remains in contact with the surface. Closed chain exercises create compression forces on your joint, which contribute to joint stability.
Kneedspeed gradually slid into mainstream fitness centers. It was reborn under the name Reebok Slide, but didn't last long enough for the mega athletic shoe manufacturer to create the Reebok slide shoe. The slide, offering only lateral movements, lacked variety in choreographic options. Since your leg length influences how fast you slide across the board, it was also impossible to choreograph movements that timed exactly to the music. During this era of group exercise history, participants were hooked on choreography performed to computer-generated pop music, designed to use the same speed and beats per minute throughout the entire session. The slide board went the way of the leg warmers and thong leotards.
Aerobic and Sport Conditioning
Lateral training is no less boring than hours spent on the elliptical or treadmill. For inspiration, play a video of your favorite lateral training sport during your workout. To build speed, experiment with fast and slow intervals. Make your workout even more sport specific by having your training partner toss you a weighted medicine ball as you slide from one end of the board to the other. This enhances power and agility, along with aerobic fitness.
The slide board also supports a variety of body-sculpting exercises. Slide your hands apart and together during pushups, to add the cleavage-enhancing benefits of the chest fly to the exercise. Assume a prone position and work your core muscles with the pike or the knee-tuck exercise, or turn over onto your back and perform the Pilates-style ab exercises that involve sliding your legs along the floor. Add some hamstring work to bridge-type exercises by sliding one leg into extension and flexion. Only your imagination limits you!
- American Council on Exercise: Slide Into Fitness
- New York Times: Building Leg Muscles, Side to Side
- International Journal of Sports Medicine; Injury Rates and Physiological Changes Associated with Lateral Motion Training in Females; HN Wilford et al.; 1996
- Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy: Effectiveness of Lateral Slide Exercise in an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Rehabilitation Home Exercise Program; P Blanpied et al.; 2000
- Functional Resitance Training: Slide Board Knee Tucks
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.