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 achieve 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.
In the past, sled training was more commonly seen in Strongman competitions and training for athletes. Over the past several years, it has become more popular among the general fitness population because it’s effective, fun, and versatile. Not to mention, it’s easy to learn and apply, it’s safe for all levels, and it’s empowering to accomplish a killer sled challenge!
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
I fancy sled training for so many reasons, including the departure from reps, focusing instead 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 just steps in front of you?!
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 small. People get the hang of sled training naturally. Also, no one is ever too young or too old! Sled training is completely modifiable, so any one at 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 you to put forth maximum effort with minimal stress on the joints. The sled is a fantastic alternative for someone looking to challenge her legs but isn’t able to squat, lunge, directly load the spine, or perform any other potentially aggravating movements.
- High Energy Expenditure and a Post-Workout Metabolic Booster: Exertion and effort (read: intensity) increase your caloric burn. Sled training offers a combination of cardio and strength training. 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, the distance (or time) you move the sled, and the speed with which you move it.
- Performance Enhancement: The sled also helps imitate fundamental body position for force production and acceleration. Developing strength and greater force using the sled will carry over to a greater force (and speed) when not resisted. You can use 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.
One Tool, Many Applications
In addition to varying the distance, load, and intensity of your sled training, there is no shortage of movement patterns you can try. 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, laterally) as well as mixing up the tools for attachment (handles, a torso harness, or a waist belt, for example). All of the following movements can 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. 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.
- 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 with moderate weight so you can move the sled smoothly. 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)
- 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
Don’t feel limited to begin sled training by your options here. Sleds can be purchased in a range of prices and designs. 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 and the versatility of sled training.
If you don’t have a sled or prowler, a heavy tire and attachments can 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 their grip).
Lastly, for additional fun, resistance, and challenge, add a friend!
I’d love to hear about your favorite sled workout, or your experience with sled training. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.