Despite the wide variety of exercises that we continue to use, there are still those standout variations and modifications that get overlooked.
The slideboard lunge is one of these variations.
When performed with an uncommon tool, this common movement transforms into a “squat-type/knee-dominant” exercise that can be used to totally torch the hamstrings.
This dynamic exercise also aids in superior athletic performance and injury prevention.
Try it for yourself and you will feel the beautiful burn of this underrated exercise!
Force Application Angles & High-Performance Hypertrophy
The mini slide-board is great for providing unique angles of force application. When using a mini slide-board, returning to the top of the repetition requires a different action than that of a traditional split squat or lunge.
Taking advantage of the absence of friction, the mini slideboard ensures that the working leg must simultaneously push and pull against the ground in order to return the back leg to the starting position.
Although lunges already have an antero-posterior load vector, the unique, concentric double-action of pulling and pushing provided by the slideboard (whereas the traditional lunge only involves the “push” action) results in a much different biomechanical challenge.
This new challenge will annihilate the hamstrings unlike any other lunge or split squat variation. On top of that, it also helps to augment sports performance and hypertrophy while allowing the user to train around sore knees.
Knee Pain: The Unhappy Quadriceps Tendon
Much of the knee pain that is experienced by trainees and athletes happens on top of the knee at the quadriceps tendon. A common cause for this is our both hyper and hypo active rectus femoris. It is the only muscle of the quadriceps group to boast a hip attachment and as such has two jobs (extends the knee and flexes the hip) while the rest have only one.
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Since our hip flexors are often shortened, the rectus femoris fibers nearest the knee often have to compensate and manage both jobs. This can result in an increased amount of tension occurring within the quadriceps fibers near the knee, tugging violently and disproportionally on the quadriceps tendon. Ouch!
But never fear. This is where the slideboard lunge can be a great help to those people with a beat-up quadriceps tendon. The lowering phase of each rep begins with a “backward push” instead of a “downward drop.”
This backward push unloads the quadriceps tendon almost entirely. This is different from a regular split squat or lunge variation where during the lowering phase the quadriceps tendon is concentrically unloaded, but remains eccentrically loaded.
Furthermore, because the slideboard requires that we push backward and not just drop downward, the risk of the knee travelling too far beyond the toes is decreased. This makes it easier to avoid that forward knee to shin angle and maintain a vertical tibia, avoiding the position that provokes pain.
Lastly, because the concentric portion of the repetition is a “pulling” motion (a knee flexion action) more than it is a “pushing” motion (a knee extension action), the greater hamstring contribution helps to give the quadriceps tendon a much needed rest.
Injury Prevention: Co-contraction of the Posterior Chain
As mentioned above, the pulling action involved in the slideboard lunge better recruits the entire hamstring and hip extensor group, including both attachments of the long head biceps femoris, the posterior fibers of the adductor magnus, and the gluteus maximus.
Although the knee does not actually enter into flexion during the concentric phase of the repetition, it does apply a flexion action into the ground as we pull our mass forward. The slideboard lunge therefore provides that rare combination in training where we get a knee flexion action occurring simultaneously with a hip extension action.
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Typically when we weight train, the knee and the hip perform the same thing - either both enter into flexion or extension. This simultaneous co-contraction of the hamstring as both a knee flexor and a hip extensor is a powerful tool for aiding in injury prevention, and improving muscle fiber recruitment and synchronization in gait.
During gait or its deceleration, many non-contact injuries occur simply because the hamstring fibers either do not fire enough, or they fire out of sync and disproportionately. The slideboard lunge is an exercise that can be included to train this important co-contraction and reduce the likelihood of these injuries from occurring in the chaotic environment of sport..
Gait and Sports Performance
As if the above points aren't enough, another benefit the slideboard lunge offers is the weight-shift, and the multi-faceted applications it has for augmenting movement and performance.
The first and most obvious aspect of gait to be looked at with the slideboard lunge is its training effect on deceleration. When we linearly decelerate gait, we load the backline of our kinetic chain by getting onto our heels and pushing backward against the ground to slow our momentum.
The lunge is already a decelerating movement, but shifting the weight onto the working heel during the slideboard lunge is a great addition to any performance program geared to improving deceleration. This is because the weight shift onto the heels during the eccentric phase of the rep includes the double-action of grounding the heels and pushing backward against the floor.
On the flipside, performing the slideboard lunge with an anterior weight shift (lifting the heel so that our weight sits on the ball of the foot) changes the exercise so that it adopts the postural specificities required for the improvement of speed and acceleration.
When accelerating we want the knee to go beyond the toe in order to load the ankle so that we can propel ourselves forward. We also want easier access to our posterior chain so we angle our torso forward to help the hips shoot back.
The slideboard lunge can be used to simulate force production in this contextual athletic posture, improving our ability to accelerate- especially when it is loaded with a flexion force, as will be discussed below.
Lastly, the slideboard lunge can be an effective tool for developing top-end sprint speed. The mechanics of top-speed sprinting are different from deceleration, but it might be a surprise to see them as quite a bit different from acceleration.
As we move from acceleration into sprinting our posture and mechanics change so that our torso is vertical and we use a more cyclical leg action which focuses on “clawing” the ground backward and beneath us in order to maintain the momentum we achieved during acceleration..
During the concentric action, the cue to keep the foot in full contact with the ground while still emphasizing a weight shift toward the ball of the foot can help to train this athletic ability.
Goblets and Flexion Forces
As an additional augmentation, try loading the exercise in a goblet or a zercher as opposed to on top of the shoulders or below the waist.
When we carry any load in front of our bodies, it places a flexion force on the spine. This can be an effective alternative to loading the exercise on the shoulders or below the waist, where the lumbar spine has to deal with compression, torque, and shearing.
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Training with flexion forces is often superior for athletic performance because it is safer and specifically engages our anterior core and trunk extensors in the way that they were designed to be used - to eliminate excessive lordosis.
Utilizing flexion forces in our loading also helps to angle our torso slightly more forward, more akin to the requirements of athletic postures.
Adding up all we have learned about the unique biomechanical character of the slideboard lunge, and saving the most glorious point for last, the slideboard lunge is guaranteed hamstring hypertrophy.
Given it requires simultaneous knee flexion and hip extension, the hamstrings will burn like never before. The slideboard lunge hits them with a challenging stimulus that is far more direct than any other form of knee-dominant leg work.
As a note for targeting more specific fibers to improve your overall hamstring development, change the position of the foot so that it is either everted or inverted to hit more of the biceps femoris or semitendinosus/semimembranosus respectively- targeting and hypertrophying the more lateral and medial fibers of the hamstring.