Sliding Through

The simple slideboard is a useful tool for preseason lateral conditioning.

By Mike Boyle

Mike Boyle, ATC, is president of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Winchester and Canton, Mass., and is a former strength coach for the Boston Bruins.

Training & Conditioning, 11.7, October 2001, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/tc/tc1107/sliding.htm


Think about all the sports that put athletes through some type of lateral movement of the lower extremities. There are very few sports that do not include such lateral motions.

Now think about training devices that accurately mimic those lateral movements and positively stress the muscles involved. The phrase, "few, if any," applies. One of the rare devices that accurately addresses the specific lateral movements for sports such as ice hockey, field hockey, football, soccer and baseball is the simple slideboard.

At our facility in Canton, Mass., we have had great success using the slideboard to condition the muscles used for lateral movements in numerous sports, including ice hockey, field hockey, football, soccer, basketball, and baseball. The slideboard is an effective preseason conditioning tool for all of these sports because it closely mimics the actual lateral movements athletes use on the field or on the ice.

Slideboards are among the simplest of training devices. They have smooth, flat surfaces about 24 inches wide and they typically range in length from seven to nine feet. Most commercial slideboards come with special slippers that athletes use while exercising, and the only maintenance required is the occasional application of no-wax furniture polish to the slideboard surface.

At a distance, a modern slideboard could be confused for a rectangular countertop lying on the floor of a gym. But that simplicity masks the slideboard's potential and adaptability:

The realistic movements produced by slideboard exercises can help reduce a player's chance of incurring a groin injury during pre-season workouts and drills. This is because the motion of the slideboard positively stresses the abductor, adductor, and hip flexor muscles, which is something that does not occur on a bike or on any commercially available climber. Consequently, the specific muscle groups used in lateral movements can be conditioned before the stresses and strains of the actual, in-season sport come into play.

Slideboards can provide ice hockey players and coaches with immediate feedback on skating techniques. When a slideboard is placed in front of a large mirror, athletes can easily self-correct their techniques as they view their knee flexions, knee extensions, and ankle extensions.

From a budgeting perspective, slideboards can provide a significant bang for the buck. Commercial, lubricant-free versions usually cost less than $500, and several athletes can share a single slideboard. Since the most effective training intervals include generous rest periods, groups of three or four athletes can take turns using the slideboard without interrupting a workout.

OFF-SEASON TRAINING
Before delving into the specifics of slideboard training techniques and exercises, it is important to emphasize that the slideboard should be used only for off-season workouts, not for workouts during the competitive season. Slideboards should be avoided during the competitive season because the intensity of a good slideboard workout can result in overuse injuries. During the competitive season, we must be careful to avoid creating stresses on the hip flexors, adductors, and abductors beyond what an athlete receives in normal practice and play.

Slideboard training programs can be developed using typical interval training concepts. Athletes should begin a slideboard program with some introductory workouts in which rest intervals last three times as long as work intervals. For example, here is a basic program designed to familiarize athletes with the concepts of interval training on the slideboard: The athlete begins by working on the board for 15 seconds followed by a 45-second rest interval, with eight to 10 repetitions. This generally results in heart rates of 160 to 190 beats per minute.

Such a program provides an aerobic benefit as long as the heart rate is maintained above 120 beats per minute during the recovery period. However, the main purpose of the slideboard is to provide an excellent anaerobic endurance workout.

The anaerobic and aerobic emphasis of a slideboard workout can be changed by the manipulation of the work-to-rest ratios. For example, a high work-to-rest ratio of 1:2 would be useful for a hockey player who wanted to increase anaerobic conditioning. Conversely, a low work-to-rest ratio of 1:1 would provide more aerobic and endurance benefits and would be a typical slideboard exercise for a sport such as soccer, where the player is constantly running. By changing work-to-rest ratios and altering the length of work periods and rest periods, a strength and conditioning coach can create specific lateral-movement workouts for individual players and positions in sports.

A good example is to compare a slideboard lateral conditioning workout for a hockey forward with that of a baseball shortstop. Both the shortstop and the forward need anaerobic conditioning for speed, and I would create a high work-to-rest ratio of 1:3 for both athletes. However, the hockey forward requires a much higher level of conditioning than the baseball shortstop. As a result, both athletes would get a work-to-rest ratio of 1:3, but the length of the intervals would be different: The shortstop would work 15 seconds, then rest 45 seconds, while the forward would work 30 seconds, then rest 90 seconds.

BASICS & TECHNIQUE
The basic movement on a slideboard is a push-glide motion similar to skating down a rink. On a slideboard, an athlete pushes the inside leg from one side of the board to the other by pushing off with the outside leg.

When working out on a slideboard, athletes should maintain a knee bend ranging from 120 to 130 degrees and work to eventually perform one push-off per second. Emphasis should be placed on extension of the ankle, knee, and hip joints. When your athletes reach the end of the board, have them try to touch the knee of the pushing leg to the calf of the leg that has just arrived at the bumper. The hips should stay at the same level for the entire time they are on the board. We tell our athletes that if they could plot the position of their hips on a graph, it would ideally be a straight line. Athletes are also instructed to not bring their foot behind their body when pushing off.

When you are in the process of purchasing boards, note that the recommended length of the board is one-and-one-half times the athlete's height. For this reason, most of our athletes utilize a nine-foot board.

SETTING UP WORKOUTS
Here is a typical work interval that we use for our athletes on a slideboard: Begin with five work intervals, making each one five to 30 seconds long, depending on the conditioning requirements of the athlete. Place rest intervals lasting 15 to 90 seconds between each work interval. The entire workout should last 10 to 20 minutes. Note that all of the rest intervals are longer than the work intervals. The longer rest intervals are due to the intensity of working out on a slideboard. As a rule of thumb, rest intervals should be two or three times the length of each work interval.

When creating a slideboard workout for your own athletes, understand that work intervals longer than 30 seconds will quickly exhaust an athlete and usually result in a loss of technique. As your athletes become better conditioned, try to increase the number of work intervals or decrease the rest times rather than increasing the length of time for each work interval.

As I alluded to earlier, strength and conditioning coaches who deal with multiple sports can easily tailor each slideboard workout to specific sports and to specific positions within a sport. For example, when we are training ice hockey players, we will put the forwards and defensemen on a slideboard that is adjusted to nine feet, or about one-and-a-half times the athlete's height. That one-and-a-half rule applies to all but a few positions. For hockey goalies, we work with a shorter, seven-foot board to reflect the fact that the net is only six feet wide on a standard hockey rink.

Once the hockey players finish their slideboard workouts, a strength and conditioning coach can quickly adapt that same slideboard to condition athletes from other sports. For example, if we wanted to condition an athlete for a more aerobic sport such as soccer, we would use that same slideboard, but we would decrease the work-to-rest ratio from an anaerobic 1:3 or 1:2 ratio to a more aerobic 1:1 ratio. If we wanted to laterally condition a baseball shortstop, we would set a work-to-rest ratio of 1:3 or 1:2.

When combined with a program of plyometrics and land sprints, the slideboard can become a major part of improving the on-ice speed of athletes in your hockey program, or the lateral movements of any sport. Try adding a slideboard workout to your off-season or summer program. Your players will see and feel the difference at the start of their competitive season.