Sliders are one of those exercise tools that I have a true love/hate relationship with. Whenever an instructor says it's time to use them, I am filled with dread. During the slider exercise, I can literally only think "When will this end?" But then afterward, I feel great. I feel accomplished. I feel like I just crushed something really challenging and did something good for my body. I'm really glad I did it. And then I forget about these feelings of elation next class and my dread-pride cycle begins all over again.
The reason slider exercises are so difficult is because they change the amount of friction that exists between your body and the ground, says Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S., exercise physiologist and host of the All About Fitness podcast. When you use sliders, you have to really dig your foot or hand into them to control the movement and stop yourself from sliding all over the place. "When you're pressing on a slider, you're essentially pushing force into the ground and since the ground doesn’t move under you, it presses tension back up onto you," McCall explains. Your muscles—particularly in your shoulders and core—have to really engage to fight back against that force and keep your body stable, which means you'll be working hard throughout the entire movement.
Sliders are great for improving stability.
The easiest (though I'd hardly call these moves easy) way to start using sliders in your workouts is by adding them to plank variations to work your core. "If you want strong muscles around your spine and pelvis, you generally want to have your shoulders and hips moving in opposite directions," says McCall. Adding sliders to various plank exercises allows you to do this by simply moving your foot or hand while keeping the other half of your body stationary. When you move in this way, "you're keeping the muscle under tension but also lengthening the connective tissue around the muscle, which is one of the reasons why it makes you shake so much," says McCall. It's also one of the most effective ways to engage a lot of muscles at once, he adds. Specifically, plank exercises with sliders are great for working the transverse abdominis, a deep internal core muscle that wraps around your spine and sides and is crucial for keeping your trunk stable in most exercises and everyday movements.
They challenge your body in new ways.
When you add sliders to certain moves, like mountain climbers or plank jacks, you can challenge your body in a slightly different way than when you do them without the tool. With sliders involved, "you can move at a faster pace to bring up the intensity," says McCall. Not only does that make the exercise a great cardio workout, it also demands even more stability from your core and shoulders. "When your legs are moving faster, whether going forward and back or side to side, the muscles around the spine and shoulders have to create stability," says McCall.
The good news is that just like most things in fitness, the more you do slider exercises, the better you'll get at them. Which means you'll hopefully start to err more on the side of love than hate. "If you use sliders consistently, about two to three times a week for eight to 10 weeks, you’ll be surprised at how strong you get," says McCall.
Here are 11 slider exercises to try:
The below slider exercises will challenge your entire core and help build stability in both your midsection and shoulders. Pick two or three to do at the end of your workout, or just string a few together to create a standalone challenge whenever you're looking for a new way to work on stability and strength. Try starting with 15 seconds of each move, and work your way up to 30 or more as you get comfortable. If you don't have sliders, you can find a pair for about $ 10 on Amazon. Or, try using dish towels or socks on a hard floor, or paper plates on a carpet, to get a similar effect.
Demoing the move below are Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; and Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City.
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