The slide board entered the fitness arena in the 1990s, but never gained popularity. An article in "American Fitness" details the reasons for its failure. Some of the interviewed instructors explained that unless the participants were speed skaters, the lateral gliding movements seemed unnatural. New participants became frustrated when they discovered that they lacked the inner thigh strength to propel their bodies across the board. This lack of strength is exactly why lateral slide training is crucial for preventing injuries and enhancing athleticism.
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Former Miami Dolphins football player Jeff Markland designed the first slide board. Markland was looking for a way to rehabilitate injured knee joints. Eric Heiden, the 1980 Olympic gold medal speed skater, had used a similar type of board. Markland created his own model, and called it Kneedspeed. A few years later, he teamed with Kathy Stevens of Reebok and developed the Reebok slide board.
Slide boards are usually 6 to 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. The boards have a slick surface, with end blocks, called bumpers, on each side. Participants put special gliding booties over their sneakers, which facilitate gliding across the board.
Most slide board movements begin at one side of the board and end at the other. These lateral exercises activate the inner and outer thigh muscles, while the hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal and core muscles assist the movement. Sliding involves continuous movement, and therefore functions as aerobic and muscular endurance exercise.
Slide training is a weight-bearing, closed kinetic chain exercise. Closed kinetic chain exercises keep the distal end of the working limb, in this case, the feet, in a fixed position. Closed chain exercises work multiple muscles simultaneously, apply stabilizing forces to the joints, and simulate various athletic movements. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends weight-bearing activity as a means of maintaining bone density.
A 2006 Journal of Athletic Training article detailed the aerobic benefits of lateral slide training. Lead author Iris Kimura reported that lateral slide board training produced sufficient increases in heart rate and oxygen uptake, and can therefore be considered an effective form of aerobic exercise. Similar findings were reported in a study published in the February, 1998 edition of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. The research team found that lateral slide training matched the heart rate responses that occur during competitive figure training.
Lateral slide training strengthens the muscles that support the knee ligaments. These muscles stabilize the knee and prevent injury. Some physical therapists, according to an October 2000 article in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy, use slide board training for rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament surgery. Since medial ligament damage sometimes accompanies an ACL tear, inner thigh strengthening is an important part of rehabilitation.