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In a recent article on interval training, I mentioned my preference for “Crash Free” training modalities. Since that article, I have gotten several requests for more information on training methods that produce an optimal metabolic response with limited biomechanical wear and tear. The long-term goal of any fitness program should be to enhance movement and keep you in the fitness game for a lifetime. Training should never accelerate joint breakdown or destroy your ability to move. Take the time to read the May 16, 2016 Wall Street Journal article by Allan Ripp, “The Accidental Running Guru.” These are my top five Crash Free Cardio choices.

1) Air Assault Bike
My favorite “Crash Free” training modality is the Air Assault bike. The involvement of all four extremities produces a strong metabolic response with minimal joint stress. For older fitness clients, heavier folks, and those of us with legs that are less tolerant of impact, the Air Assault allows you to aggressively condition the body and live to fight another day. While the Air Assault is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, it can also be one of the most intense training tools you will ever experience.crash_free_jacobs

2) Jacobs Ladder
Next on my list is the Jacobs Ladder. The Jacobs Ladder is a 40 degree inclined total body conditioning activity. The ladder is self-propelled and your position on the ladder sets the pace of the climb. Training on the Jabobs Ladder unloads the spine, challenges your core, improves coordination, and activates the beneficial crawling pattern. The learning curve is steeper than the bike, but the Ladder creates a carry over to better posture, core stability and upper extremity function.

3) Sled Work
Number three is sled training. Sled training is scalable to all levels of fitness. There is no impact or eccentric muscle loading, so you recover quickly from a session of sled work. Sled work activates the core muscles and gluteals, the number one and number two sleepy muscles in deconditioned and weak fitness clients. You will get stronger, but you will never out grow the sled. The problem with sled training is that you need a sled and some room to move—both are missing in most commercial fitness facilities.

4) Concept 2 Ski Ercrash_free_air_assaultg
The Concept 2 Ski Ergometer was designed to simulate the double poling maneuver in cross country skiing. The effort required to self-propel across snow on skis produces some of the fittest athletes in the world. The Ski Erg is a no impact training activity. Athletes and fitness clients with beat up knees, limited hip mobility and / or lower back compression sensitivity can get on a Ski Erg and perform safe and effective conditioning sessions.

5) Slide Board
Most of the training in the gym is in the sagittal plane- forward and backward. Most athletics involve a significant amount of frontal plane- side to side movement. Training on a slide board improves acceleration and deceleration skills in the frontal plane and may be the best lower extremity injury prevention activity you can perform. It takes some practice to master a slide board, but once you master the neural pattern, you will have it for life. If you engage in athletic activities, I highly recommend you spend some time training on the slide board.

-Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

To view the Wall Street Times article mentioned above, click on the link below: