Slideboards: Good or Evil?

Below in quotations is an exchange a reader sent to me that he attributed to Charles Poliquin. http://www.charlespoliquin.com/

As you will read below, I have neither a familiarity with Poliquin’s methods nor a commonality with much of what I have heard attributed to him.  The below statements seem reasonable that someone would say and believe them, but please consider I am addressing the subject, not the individual.  I am sure there are many others that may have similar beliefs.

“Q: I was thinking of doing some lateral-motion training for aerobic conditioning. Can you recommend a good slide board product?

A: I can’t recommend a good slide board product because I don’t like them. I think they’re harmful to the knees. The damage might not surface immediately, but like developing a dental cavity, it’ll take time, and once you perceive the damage, it’ll be too late.

A few years ago, I lectured at the International Skating Union. John McCall, one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the business and physician for several Olympic and World Championships teams concurred with my opinion on how they help to trash the knees. Those devices have a breaking system at the lateral aspect of the foot to prevent you from coming off the board, which in turn creates unwanted torque on the lateral aspect of the knee.

Additionally, a Finnish coach present at the lectures did his Masters degree thesis on the various dryland skating drills/devices. Using telemetric EMG technology, he showed that the slide board has the least transfer to the actual skating stride.

My best advice is to invest in a pair of in-line skates. They’re cheaper and safer.”

I don’t see it. I just don’t see the slideboard as an automatic problem.
There are so few things out there that are “wrong.” I don’t think the slideboard is one of them.

I would consider “wrong” as something done correctly and still with a dominant downside. The only things that I can think of as “wrong” are loaded or repetitive lumbar training, fixed axis machine training, vertical vibration training, which is minimally accessible in the grand scheme anyway. Everything we choose to do has a relative risk. In my opinion, the small list, of which the slideboard is not included, has a negative outweighing the positive AND have alternate safer options with at worst identical benefit.

Why would you do something that gave you +A, +B, and +C, but only one option gave you -D?

Sure, slideboards are slippery, so is it fair to say that the slideboard has an inherent risk above something that is not slippery. But if it is used correctly for a person properly screened and progressed for the movement, I don’t see anything wrong with it.

As you read through this, you may be able to change the word slideboard to a whole lot of other training choices.

1. I didn’t find any literature to support Slideboards = Knee Dysfunction or Pain.

I have not spent a lot time searching for this evidence, but I have not found any research reporting a slideboard use as a direct effect causing knee pain. That certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; I just didn’t find it.  I really didn’t look very hard to be honest.

If there was research that someone had no knee pain, did slideboard correctly, then had knee pain, that would be what we should be looking for. BUT  like any safety-based research, we have to look at baselines. When we hear folks putting the mouth on the slideboard, I wo

uld ask them, is it possible that the folks using the slideboard showed up to the slideboard with a physical limitation that got exposed by the slideboard? Was it the slideboard or the silent problem that finally started to speak up?

Great research can be very myopic, as it should be sometimes, to meet the special demands of EBP and the scientific method.

2. Lateral conditioning on the Slideboard meets the Joint by Joint.

The first thing I look for in evaluating an exercise choice is if it meets Coach Boyle’s Joint by Joint Theory when it is executed with technical proficiency.
Obviously the slideboard may have an increase challenge to technical proficiency for some. You just don’t use it for those people as you screened them out quite appropriately if this is the case.

Movements that are worth dealing with the challenge of keeping for are designed for a conditioning effect. This means we must impose a demand to the body for it to positively remodel in someway. So of course the slideboard can be injurious when done wrong. The snapshot of the knee buckling at the end of the board does not meet the Joint by Joint. But again it’s not the Slideboard. It’s the executuion, which can come down to physical limitations or inefficient coaching.

Maybe for folks that get hurt from slideboards just weren’t ready for the slideboard……………..yet.

3. Evaluate the source.

First off, I have never been to a Charles Poliquin course, read a book, even been to his Website. Perhaps I should, and now that I think of it, I will.  All I know about him that I think can be confirmed is that he uses what I would consider a bodybuilding approach, which is probably a good idea for bodybuilders I might say, and defends the use of seated leg extensions and preacher curls.

So taking any name out of the equation, I have a hard time integrating someone’s opinion on knee pain when they believe in knee extensions. I’m just calling a spade a spade. Maybe Poliquin and I could have a great time talking about football or a chick in Maxim (see below). But for an individual that believes in training on machines, I’m going to have a hard time believing we are going to agree on much when it comes to training and rehab.

And going on the information above, he doesn’t even really give a reason for not liking the Slideboard other than talking to a doctor.

Blake Lively will be Carol Ferris in the Green Lantern movie.

4. I am good @ training and rehab. Surgeons are good @ surgery.

Unless I know surgeons know what I know about training and rehab, I have zero value for their opinions on training and rehab. Zero.
Think of it like this. How often do surgeons see people that are doing great? Man, I am strong as shit, and I just banged a 19 on the FMS. I need to go make an appointment with my surgeon.

No, surgeons see people in pain. They probably see a lot of people that get hurt with a new primary activity of slideboards. I believe that.

What I also believe is that when you see the same stereotype over and over, in this case someone injured from doing something, it becomes very hard to believe that the movement can actually be done without injury. This is why doctors say don’t squat or don’t run or don’t do whatever. They can’t possibly believe someone can squat or slideboard properly because all they see are people that get hurt from those same activites.

Hey, I would love to hear Dr. McCall’s critical analysis of the move, but simply from the heresay above, it sounds like someone was using the end of the slideboard to brake instead of the appropriate co-contractions of the lower extremity. I think by the time you hit the board, you should be pretty well decelerated by then.

THIS is a doctor you listen to when it comes to training.

5. A good Slideboard?

I don’t mind mentioning Ultraslide because of the support they have given to the NBA Strength Coaches over the years, but I am not a great resource on slideboards. The one we have here is one that all rolls up, and I would not recommend it.

www.ultraslide.com

6. Do you need to have a slideboard anyway?


Well, from another angle in discreditting that slideboards are spawned from the Evil Empire, there are some very excellent moves other than lateral conditioning that you can use a slideboard for, such as slideboard leg curls, reverse lunges, and rollouts. I don’t know that you must do these activities, but to say you don’t need a slideboard because you don’t like the lateral conditioning, it is myopic to not consider these options, should you believe in their value.

GOOD

NOT AS GOOD.....see, I'm being diplomatic

7. Why lateral conditioning?


Most sports are dominated by a linear function in their play. Obviously only track is purely linear, so everything has a level of multi-directional movement. But most sports involve protection of the rear and attack to the front, so the linear vector dominates. And with a dominant direction of movement comes the proximity to overuse.

So in considering the quality of metabolic capactiy and anaerobic training, repeated movements are obviously the most efficient approach to safely getting heart rate to appropriate levels. The risk is in the repetition.

So if we have an alternate approach to repetition in the name of anaerobic conditioning, the slideboard finds a home very neatly and effectively. The value in slideboard conditioning, I think, is less about duplicating a skating pattern or even functioning specifically laterally. It is a about functioning NOT linearly.

So, I would 100% agree that staying on the ice or using skates would be a far better choice for duplicating the skating mechanics.  And in fact, I would want to be very far from a slideboard for skaters that are in-season for the same reasons above.  We want lack of specificity in conditioning to steer clear of overuse.

Oh, for cryin' out loud.

So all in all, like I said, this topic of slideboards can be interchanged with many different choices that have some level of increased risk.  It is always up to you to decide the risk-reward of any option we have in training and rehab.

Simply make sure the individual that is trusting their body with you is in the right place at the right time with the right person.

But as far as the claims above, I am aware of no evidence to support slideboards done with appropriate screening and progression are of any danger.  Anecdotally, without screening and/or progression, they can be a very poor choice.

Don't wind up with this kind of Slideboard.

  • August 1, 2010

Leave a Reply 17 comments

Carson Boddicker Reply

Charlie,

You make several salient points. We use the slideboard with relative frequency for nearly all of our athletes including the bulk of our linear athletes as a general movement that usually is built toward the end of our warm ups. On lighter days we’ll include some extensive intervals as part of our metabolic circuits again to just elevate heart rate using non-running menas. To date, we’ve had no problems with knees, ankles, or hips and for the most part our runners are more resilient after several weeks of training than they were before coming in, which may be the result of our dedication to the joint by joint and functional movement system.

Regards,
Carson Boddicker

Charlie Reply

I respect the notion that it may take years for damage to become noticeable, but I just don’t see the mechanism.

bkellylimerick@gmail.com Reply

Charlie,
As you said at some point, it is all about proper mechanics and movement and deceleration should take place well before the end block. Also, some of those people may have been candidates for knee injury anyway because of prior history, etc.
I am also with you on the doctors thing….stick to what you do/know…surgery or whatever. They take minimal exercise science at best and aren’t qualified to offer opinions on same. Too many have a God complex and think they know everything about everything.

Charlie Reply

The God complex doesn’t bother me as much as their lack of knowledge. If you know your stuff, then you can be puffy. Not knowing what you don’t know though is a dangerous component.

Joe Bonyai Reply

The stop-boards on the Ultra Slide (non-roll up) are angled slightly. It almost looks like a manufacturing mistake and I’ve wondered why they’re like this. Now I realize this may alleviate torque at the knee by allowing an athlete to remain slightly “toe-out” upon deceleration. The slide show on ultraslide.com has a lot of good pictures in which you can see this design feature.

Roy Eades Reply

Charlie,

Your comments about lack of specificity for any in-season conditioning were an excellent reminder.

Speaking specifically about the hockey example, it is common custom for guys to ride exercise bikes, but given the seated.hips flexed position, would an alternative like a Versaclimber be a worthy option in-season (provided the facilities available have them) due to the larger amplitude of movement for the hips both in flexion and extension? (in terms of flexion, this is assuming that the player is able to get adequate dissociation and isn’t showing any compensation around the lumbar spine)

Charlie Reply

Roy – The nature of the saggital-only motion of the bike is probably the draw to bikes during intermissions.
The relative less stress of biking vs. versaclimbing will likely allow for more muscle action to flush recovery (if that’s the reason they’re doing it, which quite honestly, I don’t know – I know I like to rest when I’m tired, not bike).

Bill Shulman Reply

Hi, Charlie. I’ve been an admirer or your work for some time now but I just getting on the blog train. Your post today and the mention of Coach Poliquin got me wondering about some other claims he has made in the past. I once recall reading something where he was talking about adding weight for chin-ups and pull-ups and said that weighted vests were a poor choice, because they could compress nerves. This was one of those statements that was dangled out there but not backed up by any further information.

Not that there aren’t a number of other ways to increase the chin-up/pull-up challenge, but I often wonder if his comments about the best were more hyperbole than fact. I have personally used my X-vest for pull-ups on many occasions and didn’t notice anything negative, but perhaps I have just been exceedingly lucky and am tempting fate by continuing to use the vest to that end.

Charlie Reply

If a weight vest causes nerve compression or does not allow for perfect form, then of course it should not be used.
Nerve compression is not hard to find, but it is quite possible that symptoms may take some time to develop. But as compression is relieved, the affects may be transient.

I would say that if it feels like the vest is cutting into you or putting more pressure than is comfortable, proceed with caution.
A blanket statement considering every single brand/fit of weight vest does not sound very founded.

Matt Stranberg Reply

Hi Charlie! You may not have heard of me as I have been a lurker of your blog up until now haha. I think you possess a great perspective as both a powerlifter and PT and look forward to your entries and presentations. I was wondering if you would be willing to discuss some of the points in this blog. I generally agree with almost all of your points in regards to the slideboards as I think the dangers of the slideboard are overstated and unsubstantiated by a significant amount of published research. I do however wish to discuss the statements in regards to machines, more specifically the leg extension. I often limit machine use in my own training and clients’ training for a variety of reasons but I was wondering if you could expand more upon your statement: “So taking any name out of the equation, I have a hard time integrating someone’s opinion on knee pain when they believe in knee extensions. I’m just calling a spade a spade. Maybe Poliquin and I could have a great time talking about football or a chick in Maxim (see below). But for an individual that believes in training on machines, I’m going to have a hard time believing we are going to agree on much when it comes to training and rehab.” I know you already answered questions about leg curls in another blog entry but I was wondering what your thoughts might be on the subject of leg extensions in relation to knee pain/rehabilitation. After a long conversation with Dr. Juris after his guest presentation at Umass Amherst I was introduced to new knee rehab methodologies that heavily involved the use of leg extensions. He stated in our conversation that he extensively used the leg extension during his time as a PT and had concluded that he thinks the knee extension is one of the best exercises of all time. While we may disagree on this statement, he did present many valid points and lead me to his work presented here: http://media.cybexintl.com/cybexinstitute/research/Truth_on_Fit_May08.pdf. As an employee of Cybex he professed that he does hold a bias and this must be recognized, but it can be safely stated that he possessed an interesting argument with strong assertions backed by research. I know there are many factors at play when discussing rehab and it is not simple and clear cut this or that, but I was wondering if you could provide your view of this topic/ his report and assert your beliefs in regards to knee rehabilitation. Thanks for taking the time to read the post and keep up the great work!
-Matt Stranberg

Charlie Reply

Matt – I would agree that the leg extension itself would likely not hurt someone that was properly screened while using it. However, I severely question that it would prepare someone for legitimate movement.
Any seated exercises, be it with a machine or not, completely ignores total body stability, and any strength that is legitimately tested and retested is irrelevant without concurrent appropriate training.
Aside from this lack of stability, developing quad strength, which again can make research look very efficient and favorable is in the presence of supported hip flexion, is something I would consider confusing to motor planning during closed chain movements.

I am very disappointed in Dr. Juris’ lack of contemporary thought.

Matt Stranberg Reply

Interesting. Would you be willing to share a common rehab modality that you employ to remedy a particular knee problem such as a torn ACL and the reasoning behind such decisions in a future blog or in this comment section? I would love to see a self deconstruction of the strategies/progressions used to rehab particular clients such as an anonymous case study that we can all observe and learn from/discuss. I am very interested in hearing a variety of opinions.

Charlie Reply

Matt – I think the most important modality in training a knee with physical limitations or pain is the level change. That could include all the variations of the squat, jump, and deadlift, each with 1- and 2-legged patterns.

Shannon Reply

Charlie,

You were diplomatic. Great article. I see more than 5!

Mark Reply

Charlie,

Great in depth analysis on the slide board. I am often confused by some of Charles Poliquin’s articles that I have read on T-Nation. I have checked out his website and new location in Rhode Island. I was quite surprised to see so many seated machines!

Loved your perspective on Surgeons. As a physical therapist it does get frustrating to hear the typical “don’t squat or lunge” if you have knee pain advice.

Keep up the great work!

Mark

Gary Carlson Reply

Charlie,

I’m just wondering if your view on slide boards has changed? And in what way they have changed. I am in possession of info that might sway your opinion. Interested?

Kind regards,

Gary Carlson syd Aust.

Charlie Reply

No.

Leave a Reply: