When you work out in a group fitness class or with a trainer, you typically don’t have to worry about boredom. Your instructor presents new challenges to keep your mind interested and your body progressing. It can be harder to maintain that excitement and ability to keep moving forward at home. But it isn’t impossible—or expensive. And you don’t need to spend hours searching for new workouts online.
Enter exercise gliders (also called gliders, sliders, and exercise discs). Simply round discs that you put your feet or hands on while performing movements, gliders present a new level of difficulty to exercises you already know, and you can perform a ton of moves with them.
Here’s everything you need to know about gliders, including how to use them for a killer at-home workout.
Benefits of Gliding Discs
No matter your workout goals or whether you’re new to working out or every trainer in your pre-COVID gym knew your name, you should consider adding gliding discs to your home gym. “Pick up an American College of Sports Medicine textbook, and you’ll see that it rates gliders excellent compared to other pieces of exercise equipment for affordability, portability, functionality, and exercise variety. And I completely agree,” says NYC personal trainer John Ford. Here’s why.
1. Gliders make exercises more challenging
“They are the ideal tools to enhance the difficulty of multiple-joint resistance training exercises,” Ford says. Multiple-joint moves like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and pushups give you more bang for your buck, because they’re more effective at developing muscle strength and they burn more calories. And doing these exercises with good form and gliding discs only boosts your results.
2. Exercise sliders boost proprioception
Proprio-wha? Although it’s not discussed as much as the muscle-building benefits of exercise, it’s key to work on our proprioception. “This is how well your sensory system and the motor control system, collectively known as the sensorimotor system, work together to control movement, balance, posture, and joint stability,” Ford explains. “When this system is operating, you’ll have precise body awareness and well-adapted motor actions.”
Increasing proprioception can help boost athletic performance, reduce the risk of falls, and help make everyday tasks, like walking up stairs, easier. (That matters more as you get older, but working on it now puts you ahead of the game.)
3. Gliding discs work your stabilizer muscles
“Your stabilizer muscles play an important role in controlling your joints through movements, maintaining your posture and balance, and reacting to outside stimulus,” Ford says. The last of these is especially important if you play sports. But even if you don’t, you want strong stabilizers, and not only to help you balance.
When working correctly, these muscles should actually fire before you think about moving. That helps you target the correct muscles during an exercise. Stabilizer muscles also help your body intuitively modify movement if something changes, such as your opponent zigging when you expected them to zag.
4. Sliders are easy to use
Dumbbells and kettlebells can be intimidating, and resistance bands take some time to learn exactly how to position them and your body. Sliders do too. “They definitely take practice,” says Sydney Miller, founder of HOUSEWORK, an on-demand and live streaming workout app. “Don’t be discouraged by losing a slider a few times. It’s just like anything else where there is a learning curve and, through consistency, you’ll improve.”
However, these discs are also more user-friendly than other gym equipment. You simply put your foot or hand on one, and off you go!
5. Gliders are fairly inexpensive
You can find a pair of discs for less than $10 on Amazon. That’s hard to beat!
6. You can work your entire body with exercise sliders
Naturally, you need to recruit your core muscles to stay stable when using gliding discs. But you don’t have to stay upright the entire workout. You can do various types of pushups with sliders under your hands or feet, pikes, and all kinds of plank variations.
The Best Way to Use Gliding Discs
Now that you know the benefits, it’s time to learn how to use exercise sliders. While they’re straightforward, a few pro tips can help you avoid common rookie mistakes.
1. Use the appropriate side
Dual-sided sliders can be used on carpet or hard floors. (You could also use a towel on hard surfaces or paper plates on carpet, Miller says.) But you want to use the soft fabric side down on hard surfaces like hardwood, linoleum, and tile, and the hard, plastic side down on soft surfaces like carpet or field turf, Ford explains.
2. Keep them in place
Many people who’ve used exercise gliders have been there. You’re in the middle of a group fitness class, sweating hard, and you accidentally kick your slider all the way across the room. Whoops. To prevent this from happening, first, slow down. “Really focus on controlling the right muscles at the right time,” Ford says. “For example, I find I slip when doing lunges if I try to go too fast. By focusing on keeping the right amount of tension in my foot on the glider from the start to the end of the movement, I can make sure that my foot doesn’t get displaced.”
Miller also recommends keeping your standing leg super strong and using just the ball of your foot on the slider. “And especially during a sweaty workout, make sure you’re drying [the slider] off so you don’t lose it,” she adds.
3. Choose the right rep scheme
Gliding discs can be used for both strength and cardio gains. If you’re looking to add strength, Ford recommends performing 4 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps of exercises. If you’re interested in endurance or cardiovascular results, he recommends 2 sets of 20 reps with minimal rest time in between sets. “You can also perform intervals of the exercise,” he adds. “For example, perform the move for one minute and then rest 45 seconds to a minute, and repeat this about five times.”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.