Exercises You Should Be Doing: Slideboard Leg Curl
Anyone who’s read my articles, or this blog for an extended period of time, knows my stance when it comes to the traditional leg curl. In short, they suck. For those who need a quick refresher:
1. It trains the hamstrings in a more “non-functional” manner. Which is to say, when in life do you lie on your stomach and curl a weight towards your butt? Hint: never.
More to the point, while most anatomy books will describe the hamstrings as knee flexors (which they undoubtedly are), it should also be noted they serve a crucial role as a powerful hip extensors (second only to the glute max) as well; not to mention- as Mike Boyle has stressed on several occasions- eccentrically resist knee extension during sprinting.
What’s my point? Well, the leg curl- as it’s recognized by most gym goers- only emphasizes knee flexion, while totally neglecting hip extension. If you’re main goal is just aethetics, then leg curl away. Let it be known, however, you’ll probably still be weaker than a baby’s fart, and about as athletic as a bowling ball. Fist pump!
Nevertheless, as a strength coach, my job is to, first and foremost, keep people healthy. As well, I’m also interested in improving performance, movement quality, and, of course, strength and power (to name a few). Which is why you’ll never (read: EVER) find me placing traditional leg curls into any of my programs.
2. Did I mention that they suck?
Suffice it to say, as much as I hate leg curls, I’m not one of those guys that throws the baby out with the bathwater- particularly when working with beginners or de-conditioned clients in general. Which is why I love the slideboard leg curl.
What Is It: Eccentric slideboard leg curl
Who Did I Steal It From: Who else, Mike Boyle; who talks about this exercise extensively in Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities, and, more recently in Advances in Functional Training.
What Does It Do: As I stated above, the slideboard leg curl (unlike the *barf* traditional leg curl), trains both knee flexion and hip extension simultaneously. What’s more, with this version, the glutes play a significant role since they have to isometrically contract to maintain hip extension while the hamstrings work both eccentrically (to resist knee extension) and concentrically (to produce knee flexion).
Of note, you might be asking yourself, “Tony, why do you drop your hips to the slideboard when your legs are fully extended?” Fair question. For more advanced trainees, I typically tell them to maintain hip extension throughout the movement (i.e, not to drop their hips). For those with poor glute function, however (which will be most, if not everyone reading this), I advocate the version shown in the video to start since they’ll have trouble transitioning between the eccentric and concentric portion of the exercise without their hamstring cramping up.
Key Coaching Cues: Start supine, with your toes pointing up and hips extended (as if you were going to perform a supine bridge). From there, slowly extend your legs until they are straight. I typically suggest a five second count down, but I know in the video it was more like three. Sue me. Drop your hips to the slideboard, bring your feet back to the starting position, bridge back up, and repeat. Shoot for 2-3 sets of 6-8 repetitions to start. As you grow more proficient, you can progress to the more advanced version where you don’t drop your hips.
Oh, and for those who don’t have access to a slideboard, you could also use a towel (if you have a surface that will allow it) or a Valslide (if you don’t). Or, you could just buy some of those cheap furniture slidy thingamabobs. Those work like a charm, too.