Why Gliders will change the way you think about strength training

By Jayne Robinson

Frame has recently introduced “Gliders”, a high intensity, short duration class that uses innovative methods to challenge the body. The Gliders class involves performing body weight movements with pads positioned under the hands and feet. The pads act to remove friction from the movements to create the feeling of moving on ice. The movements are performed for a number of repetitions at different speeds through large ranges of motion. On occasion some of the positions are held statically to increase the challenge. Gliders promotes improvements in the stability of joints, strength of muscles and positive changes in body composition. The class lasts only thirty minutes which suits busy lifestyles whilst being a unique and fun way to exercise.

There are many joints within the body, all of which are held in their correct position by ligaments and muscles. Muscles that work around joints can be put into two categories, stabilisers and movers. Movers are the muscles that produce joint movement, for example if you contract your biceps your elbow will bend. Stabilisers are the muscles that help support movement, for example the rotator cuff works to keep the shoulder joint in the correct position. Stability is the ability to keep a joint in its correct position when at rest or during movement. It relies on an even balance of pull from stabilisers surrounding a joint to keep it in the correct position. Both movers and stabilisers are essential for efficient movement and avoiding injury, however most exercise classes focus only on movers which can leave stabilisers weak. Gliders improves the stability of joints by activating and strengthening the stabilisers. The lack of friction ensures the stabilisers fully activate and control each joint during movement, when normally friction would assist. When a joint is stable, movers can act and complete movement with improved efficiency (compared to unstable joint). Improved efficiency comes from the movers being in a favourable position and at the optimal length to move the joint, meaning their ability to produce force is greater. The result is a higher efficiency and stronger movement with a decreased risk of injury, as the joint is held in the correct position.

Strength is the amount of force the body can produce in one maximal effort. Strength is important as it can impact positively on our long term health and performance. Being strong reduces the likelihood of injury, increases bone mineral density, improves quality of life (as it enables everyday tasks to be performed with ease) and can improve body composition. Unfortunately many people are put off strength training as there is a common perception that strength training involves lifting as much weight as possible. The result of this can be seen in gyms throughout the country where people lift too much weight with poor technique. Gliders is an example of an exercise class that can provide you with all of the benefits of strength training without the potential negatives of damaging your body with incorrect lifting technique. Your own bodyweight replaces the “heavy weight” and the added challenge of “gliding” over the floor increases the intensity further. Such movements should be performed through as much range as you are able to control whilst consciously focusing on fully activating the working muscles. The result is a unique method to develop strength that is underpinned by a scientific theory known as ‘Time under Tension’.

Time under tension (TUT) training strives to overload the total amount of work done by a muscle within a given set of exercise. TUT is calculated by multiplying the number of repetitions in the set by the amount of time each repetition takes to complete. For example a set of 12 lunges, if each lunge takes 3 seconds to perform then the TUT is 3s x 12 = 36 seconds. The TUT could be increased by taking 6 seconds to perform each repetition rather than 3, totalling 72 seconds. So you can see the amount of repetitions could remain the same but the total work completed could be doubled. The Gliders class uses TUT to develop strength by accumulating the total time muscles are put under tension with numerous sets, repetitions and static holds. The total time a muscle is under tension will stimulate improvements if the exercise is different, performed with more intensity and/or for more time than the body is familiar with. Gliders uses TUT combined with the additional intensity of gliding to ensure the body is challenged and strength improves. TUT improves strength because it involves between 30 to 60 seconds of maximal work, which stimulates a hypertrophic response (muscle growth). An increase in muscle mass enables more force to be produced by a muscle and this causes an increase in strength. This increase in muscle mass doesn’t have to mean an increase in body size, just an improvement in body composition which many of us desire.

A lot of us continually strive for an improved body shape and the answer of how to live a long and healthy life. Body composition and weight can impact our body shape (as they affect leanness) and long term health. Body composition is a term that refers to the percentage of fat, muscle, water and bone in the body. The simplest ways to change body composition is to target a gain in muscle mass and a loss of fat mass. A Gliders class has a positive impact on body composition as it targets both of these changes. To remain the same body composition and weight the body needs to have a balance of energy coming in versus energy going out (energy expenditure = energy intake). If we wish to lose fat mass and weight then energy expenditure needs to be greater than energy intake. A gliders class achieves body composition improvements in two different ways, firstly it stimulates muscle growth, which results in an increase of lean muscle mass. It is known that greater muscle mass increases basal metabolic rate resulting in more calories being expended when at rest. If we assume that diet remains unchanged, the increase in muscle mass increases the calories burnt (energy expended) whilst the energy coming in (through diet) remains constant. The result is a loss in body weight and an improvement in body composition. The second way Gliders alters body composition is by increasing the total amount of work done. When compared to other body weight workouts, gliders results in more work done due to the extra challenge of the “gliding floor”. Greater muscle activation is required to control the movements and as each activation uses energy more energy is expended. The increase in muscle mass and total work done create positive changes to body composition and weight, which can support ambitions of achieving an improved body shape and long term health.

Gliders is a fun and innovative class that provides many benefits whilst taking a unique approach to exercise. The benefits are improvements in strength, stability and body composition. Before you start the Gliders class at Frame, here are some helpful tips to ensure you maximise the gains you can achieve. Aim to perform each movement focusing on:

– Correct technique to optimise joint stability and minimise injury risk

-Consciously recruit the working muscles during movements

– Move through as much range as you are able to control

– Move slowly (where appropriate) to increase the time the muscles are under tension

– Enjoy the workout so that you return week after week and achieve your physical and mental

Written by Liz Sinton

Liz has worked as a Strength and Conditioning coach with Olympic and Paralympic sports for over a decade. She now works with five sports, leading and supporting the delivery of Sports Science and Medicine, to optimise preparation for Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018. She is passionate about optimising health and fitness to improve performance, whilst ensuring it is an enjoyable process. Liz is a former international athlete so has always worked hard on her fitness and health however constantly seeks new learning opportunities. You can follow Liz on Instagram or Twitter to get more insight on how to develop your fitness and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Instagram: @lizsinton, Twitter: @LizSinton


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