Rightfully so, the sled is a very popular piece of equipment in strength and conditioning facilities everywhere. They are fairly inexpensive and don’t take up too much space while still being able to use in many different ways.
You may see a professional athlete pushing 1,000 lbs or others sprinting with them down the field. Either way there are various ways you can implement the sled into your workouts that can fit into the parameters you wish to train.
Off the top of my head, there are four reasons the sled is used by almost every athlete here at VSP.
Anyone Can Use It
It is as simple as pushing or pulling some weight across the turf. If you randomly told someone to push the sled without showing them the “correct form” they would most likely push it with adequate movement.
In our facility we have athletes as young as 10 years old pushing the sled all the way up to our general population clients.
For athletes, we use it to improve sprinting mechanics (I speak about below), strength, and conditioning purposes.
For the general population, we use it for the same reasons above but with different intent. Obviously most adults are not looking to improve their athletic performance, but the sled makes the workout more fun and has a low risk of injury.
As you can tell, we use it with everyone at our gym!
Need to improve hip flexion, hip extension, torso position, forefoot strike? The sled is a great drill to sue then.
Often times, we program sled work in the speed portion of the workouts. This is because it offers a lot of carry over into acceleration.
What happens during acceleration?
-Forward torso lean
-Negative shin angle (dorsiflexion)
-On forefoot (balls of feet)
Check this video out and notice the points I mentioned above.
No Eccentric Load
Think about a squat, there is a lowering portion while you're under load. With the sled, there is no resistance during the eccentric portion.
Why is this worth noting?
-The eccentric portion is thought to be responsible for soreness
-During the season, we don’t want as much fatigue and soreness
-Increased volume without the excess stress to the body
The beauty of the sled is that you can use it in many different ways. Depending on what we want to work on with our athletes is how we choose the variation we program.
Sled Push: The most common variation people use. We like to use this to either work on speed mechanics, strength, or conditioning.
Sled March: If we want them to also work on arm movement or if they have an upper body injury, this is a great exercise to implement. Not only does it work on mechanics, but strength as well.
Backwards Sled Drag: This is only variation where it does not have direction carry-over to sport. With that said, it is a great variation to work on knee extension (quad burner) and the upper back all while not having the stress on the achilles the above two variations may have.
Lateral Sled Drag: One of my favorite exercises for all athletes. Since there are not many frontal plane strength exercises, this is a great way to work on it and also the technique of the crossover.
Lateral Shuffle Sled Drag: Same as the above variation, this exercise works on the frontal plane. The major difference between these two is the inside leg does the work during the shuffle and the outside leg does the work during the lateral sled drag.
I’m sure there are other variations that work as well. These are just a few that are common in our programs.
Every year we hold a summer combine for our athletes. It gives them an opportunity to showcase their progress here at the gym. The sled push has become the most popular event the athletes look forward to. Mostly because they get a chance to push weight upwards of 600 lbs, some close to 1000lbs which is almost impossible for any other exercise.
Aside from the points above, the sled is a safe piece of equipment. As long as it is coached and used properly the chance of injury are almost nonexistent.
I hope this article helps you understand the sled more. Now, you have to go use it!
If you have any other variations or suggestions, I would love to hear them!