Six Reasons Why The Slideboard Leg Curl Exercise Should Be Part Of Your Training Program

Do You – Slideboard Leg Curl

 Six reasons I like the Slideboard Leg Curl and its various progressions.

 

I. What are the benefits of the exercise?

1.    No spine loading but plenty resistance to the glute and hamstrings

             Strength and conditioning coach Michael Boyle once told me an important part of strength training and conditioning is risk management. He explained that a strength coach must be able to identify the risks and benefits of the exercise for their athletes. While there are many different exercises that accomplish similar goals, some offer more benefit and less risk than others. The slideboard leg curl is a great way to strengthen the hamstrings functionally with minimal risk.  This exercise targets the posterior chain without loading the spine or putting individuals into a compromising position.

2.    It’s a self – Limiting Exercise

            Anytime an exercise demands body awareness, proper alignment, balance and control it can be described as a self – limiting exercise.  In the case of the slideboard leg curl, correct posture is needed to establish and maintain proper hip extension seen at the starting position. The purpose of the exercise is to challenge the hamstrings in the action of knee flexion as the glutes maintain hip extension.  The weak link or the part of the exercise considered to be a limiting factor is the ability to maintain hip extension through the movement.  In other words, when an athlete performs a bridge followed by a leg curl on the slideboard some individuals will be unable to properly keep their glutes contracted and raise.  This inability is a weak link in the movement and limits their ability to correctly perform the exercise. 

3.    A demanding start position is a pre-requisite for performing this exercise.

           As mentioned earlier, if the athlete cannot maintain proper hip extension or contraction of the glutes at the onset of the movement then they may not be ready for the exercise. The slideboard leg curl requires appropriate demonstration of hip extension from the start. This element allows a coach to discern whether the exercise is appropriate for the athlete from the get go. In addition, it demonstrates why the slideboard leg curl may be a better option for developing strength in the glutes and hamstring as compared to other exercises.   Some exercises begin in positions that do not initially require the individual to demonstrate appropriate muscle function or mobility.  For instance, when performing a barbell squat the athlete begins from a standing position and must descend into proper squat position.  The squat position is not particular easy to master. It requires appropriate mobility and stability at several joints in order to be performed correctly.   While standing under load may not pose any immediate concern the squat position under load may be difficult or inappropriate for many individuals who lack the requisite foundation to perform the exercise.  The slideboard leg curl is not as nearly as challenging when it comes to getting in correct position.  The exercise is quite challenging without external resistance.

4.    The exercise challenges fundamental parts of a basic movement pattern

                 i. Extension of the working leg (down leg)

             ii. Mobility and flexibility of the non working leg ( free leg).

            iii. In addition to focusing on the basic pattern, we are also working on the basic reciprocal pattern involved in locomotion. Simply by reinforcing hip extension and hip flexion on the opposite side. 

The slideboard leg curl demonstrates a real application to sport. Many strength coaches describe sprinting as a hip extension pattern.  The hip extension pattern we see as athletes sprint on the field is also present during this exercise. From the moment the athlete contract his glutes to the end of the eccentric portion of the exercise hip extension must be kept to perform the exercise correctly.   Moreover, when performing the slideboard single leg curl function is increased  as  the athlete maintains flexion of the free leg.  With this action, we promote the reciprocal flexion/extension pattern seen in running. By cueing for flexion and extension of the hips in the sagittal plane we are also working on a fundamental level of movement.

5.     Corrections and coaching cues are simple.

            Any time I have the opportunity to choose an exercise that requires little coaching with great benefit to the athlete I throw in my program.   Some coaches refer to these types of exercises as non intensive coaching exercises.  Exercises such as these can be a valuable tool when working in large groups or when looking for an exercise s to pair with a coaching intensive exercise.

       Here are some simple coaching cues for this exercise

  •   Hips up into a bridge position focusing squeezing at the glutes.  

  •   Elbows off the ground and across your chest (unless the movement is being doing with assistance from the arms try to make sure athletes keep their upper extremities off the ground to limit compensation.)

  •   Focus on driving your heel into the ground to return to the start position

  •   Toes up, butt up!

  •   Control coming down, aggressive coming up.

6.    Unilateral Nature allows the coach and athlete to observe  right or left differences in strength.

           It has been stated numerous times that one of the major indicators for injury is asymmetry.  Any asymmetry between the hamstrings can affect sprint mechanics, posture and can be a precursor to injury. Even Back dysfunction can be associated with hip asymmetry.  Gray Cook states in his book Movement that the asymmetry could be a cause for compensation and poor back mechanics or dysfunction in the core and the spine. By performing this exercise bilaterally we can have the athlete demonstrate appropriate, symmetrical motor control of the hip extensors and knee flexors.  

II. Why this exercise over others?

  1.  Coaching Non – Intensive but Tough.

    a.  It is coaching non – Intensive exercise. Coaching Non – intensive is a term I learned long ago at Springfield college. It’s used to describe an exercise that places little demand on coaching to be done correctly. The slideboard leg curl doesn’t require much cueing, analysis and verbalization.  It is a simple yet challenging exercise… I don’t care how much you squat I promise this exercise will test you.

  2.   Effectively works on preventing hamstring injuries

    a.  It’s been said many times before. Injuries most frequently occur during the eccentric action of the muscle.  In a slideboard leg curl the eccentric action of the exercise works on the movement most common to hamstring injury.

  3. The exercise doesn’t require much space

    a. Little space and equipment required all you need is a slideboard (valslide or towel on placed on a frictionless surface works just as well).

  4.  Many progressions mean opportunities to appropriately challenge multiple athletes.

              a. Gives me the opportunity to individualize the exercise to the athlete.  With the amount of progression I can effectively challenge numerous athletes at a given time without changing much.

III. Who should be performing this exercise

Anyone looking to strengthen their hamstrings in conjunction with their primary hip extensor can use the slideboard leg curl exercise in their program.  Just be sure that the individual can first demonstrate a bridge position followed by a controlled descent on the slideboard and you are ready for some progressions.

V. What are some progressions and regressions for this exercise?

       i.  Slideboard – Double Leg Curl  – Eccentric Movement Only

      ii.  Slideboard – Single Leg Curl – Eccentric Movement Only

      iii.  Slideboard  – Double Leg curl

       iv. Slideboard –  2 legs Concentric/ 1 leg Eccentric

        v.  Slideboard – Single Leg Curl – w/ arm assistance ( as seen in video)

        vi. Slideboard – Single Leg Curl

VI. How do we perform the Slideboard Single Leg Curl?

Start Position

           To begin the exercise the athlete begins in a lying supine position with knees bent at 90 degrees, heels on the floor and toes up. The athlete then brings one knee to the chest and locks it in place by wrapping the hands around the knee.  The action of locking the knee to the chest places the pelvis in posterior pelvic tilt limiting the contribution of the lower back during hip extension. The action of placing the pelvis in posterior pelvic tilt also places more stress on the hamstring.  

          The athlete then raises the hips off the ground by contracting the glute of the working leg

Action

           At this position, the athlete extends at the knee of the working leg in a controlled manner demonstrating appropriate motor control during the eccentric potion of the exercise.  To return to the start position, the athlete must contract the hamstrings by driving the heels of the working leg in to the slideboard. In addition, the athlete must maintain contraction of the glutes to keep the hips elevated as they return to the start position.

VII. Afterthoughts

Here are a couple of neat ideas you can use to challenge your athletes when performing the slideboard leg curl.

1.    Target different hamstring groups

           Change the nature of the exercise by having the athlete internally or externally rotate their hips or femur. Either have them point both knees slightly facing in or both knees slightly facing away from each other.

             Internally rotating both legs at the hip ( facing both knees in) will challenge the medial hamstring group

             Externally rotating both legs at the hip ( facing both knees out) will challenge the lateral hamstring group

2.    Introduce resistance or load.

           Use a resistance band, cable or a hand to apply resistance to the heel during the movement. 

3.    Increase time under tension

           If the athlete has trouble going through the natural progression of double leg to single leg consider increasing the time spent during the eccentric or concentric action of the exercise. You may decide you want to increase time under tension through both movements.  In all cases, the difficulty will be raised.

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