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Nov
28
2012

On the Prowl: Practical Sled Training for Anyone and Everyone

Maybe you think loading up a prowler or a sled is not for you? You might think sled training is too advanced or out of your reach. This post will help you see that anyone can use a sled and have amazing results.

I’ve been known to be a conditioning junkie, and Sled training ranks high among my  favorite conditioning tools and workouts. Some days I utilize it as a finisher while other days sled training is my entire training effort.

 

At MBSC, in Oct 2011, I hit a PR of pushing 500lbs. To this date, that remains my Sled PR ;-)

 

In the past, Sled Training was more seen in Strongman competitions and training for athletes. Over the past several years, it has grown to be more popular among the general fitness population because its effective, fun and versatile in nature. Not to mention, it’s easy to learn and apply, it’s safe for all levels and it’s empowering to accomplish a killer challenge!

 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I fancy sled training for so many reasons including the departure from reps and focusing on the basic task of getting from point A to point B. Whether with a training partner or on your own, sled training brings out the competitive side because really, who stops short of the finish line when you can actually see it within your physical steps?!

Additional points in favor of Sled training include:

  • Easy-To-Use – Whether a beginner to training or an advanced athlete, sled training mimics very natural patterns therefore the learning curve is low. People are able to pick up sled training naturally. Also, never too young or too old, sled training is completely modifiable-any age can do it.
  • Joint Friendly - Because so many muscles are used in the movement and your joints go through a normal range of motion, sled training is very joint friendly. It enables one to put forth maximum effort with minimal stress on the joints. The sled is a fantastic alternative for those looking to challenge legs but aren‘t necessarily able to squat, lunge, directly load the spine or perform any other potentially aggravating movements.
  • High Energy Expenditure and a Post Metabolic Booster - Exertion and effort (read: intensity) increase your caloric burn. Sled Training combines cardio and strength training with cardio-like movements and a load to overcome. Whole body strength-movement exercises come with a high metabolic expenditure. As a result, your metabolism can stay elevated post-workout (EPOC), utilizing more calories even after you have finished your training.
  • Fat Loss & Conditioning or Strength & Power - In general, you can use the Sled for multiple goals. How you use the sled, for fat loss or strength & power, will depend on how much weight you choose and the distance (or time) you move the sled.
  • Performance Enhancement - The Sled also helps imitate fundamental body position for force production and acceleration. Developing strength and a greater force to apply to the ground using the sled, will carry over to a greater force (and speed) when not resisted. You can utilize the sled to train your body to apply more force in acceleration and as a result, run faster in sport.
  • It’s FUN! – Let’s not forget the most important reason of all, it’s fun! You can train by yourself or with friends-as many as you wish. It’s a great bonding experience to sweat and suffer with others. Not to mention, while it may not be fun to feel the effects of exertion in the very moment, sled training makes us feel exhausted and accomplished, aka successful.

Neghar Fonooni after a sled session courtesy of Alli McKee


One Tool, Many Applications

In addition to varying the distance, load and intensity of your sled training, there is also no shortage of movement patterns either. While the Sled demands a total body effort, you can aim for more of an upper body, lower body, posterior or anterior emphasis. You can also vary the direction in which you move (forward, backward, even laterally) as well as mixing up the tools for attachment (ie: handles, a torso harness or a waist belt). All of the following movements can even be mixed and matched for different sled training workouts.

 

  • Sled Drag - Facing the sled, sit your butt low, back tall, shoulder blades retracted, arms extended and walk backwards dragging the sled with you (see included video for demonstration). 


 

  • Sled Pull – Facing away from the sled (with torso harness on or arms at sides gripping handles), lean into a 45 degree body angle and walk forward pulling the sled behind you.
  • Prowler Push (High) – With the prowler in front of you, arms extended high on the handles, move forward.
  • Prowler or Sled Push (Low)– Lower to the ground, body behind the sled, hands low on the sled (or prowler), hips low and push forward.

Jen Comas Keck low pushing a sled

  • Squat & Row – Set up like the sled drag (facing the sled), squat down, stand and row (pull) the sled towards you. Back up to tighten the slack and repeat for the given distance.
  • Rope Pull – Stand facing the sled. Attach a thick rope and pull hand over hand as you bring the sled towards you. Back up to extend the rope again and repeat the given distance (see included video for demonstration).
  • Walking lunge behind the sled – Load the sled moderately so you can move the sled smooth. Stand behind the sled and lunge to move it forward. Make sure to keep your front heel down and step through that front heel. Be prepared for a lot of glute work here! (See included video for demonstration)YouTube Preview Image
  •  Resisted bear crawls – Attach a torso harness. With moderate resistance, perform a bear crawl with the sled behind you for the given distance.
  • Resisted Lateral Crossover Steps

Equipment for your Sled Training

Do not feel limited to being Sled Training by your options here either. Sleds can be purchased at a range of price and design. This Prowler is less than $200, and this Low sled is less than $100. That’s an awesome investment when you consider all the benefits.

If you don’t have a sled or prowler, a heavy tire and attachments will do the trick just as well.

Attachment options include handles, a torso harness or a waist belt (the latter two are great for those who are limited by grip).

Last but not least, for additional fun, resistance and challenge, add a friend ;-) .

 

Thank you, Nia Shanks!

 

I’d love to hear your favorite sled workout, or your experience with sled training. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author: Alli Mckee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist based out of Baltimore, Maryland. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at www.allimckee.com.