You will be hard pressed to find an exercise as simple but as effective as the sled pull. Regardless of age or ability level, sled pulls are a great functional training option to increase strength, power, and endurance. It is an efficient way to increase conditioning and strength simultaneously, correct muscle imbalances, and prevent injuries. For as versatile as sleds are, they are generally underused in training programs. Read on for the 12 reasons why I incorporate these into my own training and the training for our athletes.
1. Sleds are a great tool for all ages because there is no compressive load on the spine. Since the load is being pulled horizontally, there is no compression on the back which is particularly beneficial to young athletes, someone with an injury, or someone who needs more volume without putting load on their body.
2. Sled drags can be used to train both the lower and upper body simultaneously. Essentially anything that can be done with a dumbbell can be done with a sled.
3. Depending on your needs or your sports demands, they can be used for short distances with heavier weights or lighter loads for longer distances to change the stimulus and effect of the workout.
4. Different angles and musculature can be targeted. The hamstrings, glutes, and hips can be effectively strengthened by simply walking forward with a belt around your waist and a strap attached to the sled. Walking laterally will develop the hips and glutes and help prevent injuries that potentially occur with a high velocity change in direction. Walking backwards will help develop the quads and anterior hip muscles, the same muscles used to run backwards. Additionally, for the upper body you can press, row, curl, do tricep extensions, and front or lateral raises.
5. There is a conditioning component even when you are doing single joint movements. For example: a set of 12 bicep curls with dumbbells, while potentially challenging, is not going to take your heart rate to 180. Then try curling 4 plates on a sled for 60 meters without the straps having any slack and see the difference.
6. They can improve local muscular endurance. Adding endurance to specific muscle groups can help improve sports performance and prevent common sports injuries.
7. Sled drags can bring ups the weakest link safely. For example, they can help bring up low back strength or hamstring strength without an added risk of compression or shear forces.
8. Sled drags are simple, difficult and require minimal technique work. They are great for beginners or advanced athletes. Sled drags are a great place to start for someone who doesn’t have the leg strength to squat or they can be used to continue to prevent deceleration in professional and Olympic level athletes.
9. They will not add significant weight to your body since the movement is concentric. This matters for clients trying to lose weight, athletes in a weight class sport, or simply developing strength without added size.
10. Depending on load, distance, and rest sleds can be used to improve aerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, VO2 max, speed, or recovery.
11. You can improve running form and the muscles used to run without the added stress of running. In other words, if you run too much the likelihood of overuse injuries goes up and speed barrier is reached because of the law of accommodation. Simply put, the athlete slows down and is more likely to get hurt. According to the Strength Manual For Running, sleds can give you the freedom to adjust the exercise, volume, and intensity while bringing down the amount of running.
12. The exercises used can be fun, challenging, easily rotated. The combinations of exercises are endless allowing for new challenges and a great way to prevent boredom.
If you haven’t already incorporated sled drags in to your training, what are you waiting for?