The use of weighted sleds has taken off in popularity over the past few years inside gyms, outside them, and in parking lots all around them. But it's OK if you're mystified by these contraptions at first. They look like something from football training crossed with a pallet jack from a warehouse, and if you've neither played football nor worked in a warehouse, you might wonder what the point is.
The point is suffering—the good kind. If you're lucky enough to train in a facility that has one of these deceptively simple tools, take advantage of it! Working with sleds is one of the most effective ways to round out your training. It develops work capacity and athleticism without negatively impacting your strength and muscle gains.
That may sound like a tall order for a hunk of sliding metal, but it's all part of the simple genius of the sled.
What's So Special About A Sled?
One of the most important distinctions between sled exercises and most other types of resistance work is that with sled work there is no eccentric, or negative, part of the movement. For example, when you lower the bar to your chest on the bench press you perform an eccentric action. The concentric half of the motion is when you press it back to lockout.
Bear Crawl Sled Drags
The eccentric portion of the lift is where most of the muscle damage occurs, which is one reason that bodybuilders tend to (or are supposed to tend to) favor slowly lowering the weight. For building muscle, this is usually a good thing, but when you need to train often or speed up recovery, it isn't ideal.
Since sled training only has a concentric movement, it's a great way to work your muscles without beating them up too much. This doesn't mean it feels any easier than lifting, though. If you've ever worked with a sled, you know that it is brutally difficult.
It's Not Just For Legs
Take one look at a sled and you can see what to do with it: You push it or pull it. Forward drags are excellent for speed development and will target your posterior chain primarily. Dragging a sled backward is one of the most brutal things you can do to wipe out your quadriceps. The fun doesn't end there, but that's the best place to start.
1,100 Pound Reverse Sled Drags
Watch The Video - 00:35
Try doing 50-100-foot sprints with a reasonable weight. You want to be able to maintain a decent speed while still using enough weight to feel challenged. Start off with 5-6 sprints, and slowly add weight as you get used to the sled. Perform these either on an off day or at the end of your workout twice per week.
Another great use of a sled is to perform modified versions of traditional movements. With a little creativity you can hit every body part and train explosive power along the way.
1 Sled Chest Press
Grab the sled's straps and face away, holding the straps close to your body around chest height. Make sure you maintain tension in the straps, take a strong athletic stance, and explode your arms out in front of you like a chest press. Take a few steps forward and repeat for reps or for distance. This exercise can also be performed one arm at a time.
Sled—Chest Press (Elbows out)
Watch The Video - 00:28
2 Sled Row
Face the sled and hold the straps with your arms out in front of you. Load tension on the straps and forcefully pull the sled toward you. Take a few steps back and repeat for reps or distance. This exercise can also be performed one arm at a time.
Watch The Video - 00:41
3 Sled Wood-chop
Stand in front of the sled facing sideways and hold the straps down on your side closest to the sled. Turn your torso to face the sled; keep tension in the straps. Explosively rotate your body away from the sled; keep your arms straight throughout the movement. Repeat for reps or distance and make sure to work both sides evenly.
This is a favorite for NFL players looking to explode off the line. Grab the sled straps and stand facing away from the sled with the handles held between your legs. Without bending your knees, hinge at the hips, load the straps with tension, and explosively extend your hips forward. Repeat for reps or distance.
Sled Pull Through
Watch The Video - 00:13
5 Bear Crawls
This exercise requires you to attach the sled to your body via a belt or vest. Drop into a quadruped position (hands and feet) and maintain a neutral spine position. Crawl for distance or time.
Sled Drags Bear Crawl
Watch The Video - 00:53
6 Sled Lunges
Hold the handles behind you and perform walking lunges in the same manner as you would with any other weight. You can also perform reverse lunges by facing the sled and lunging backward.
Push, Pull, And Perspire
With a little tweaking, you can use a sled to perform almost any exercise you can do with a cable machine. Put all of these movements together into their own workout for a great full-body burner, or use individual exercises during related workouts for some extra work. For example, you could perform the sled chest press at the end of your chest workout as a way of finishing off the muscle group.
Either way, it's time to stop gazing from afar at this incredibly effective tool if one happens to be in your gym. Get in line and give it a go!