Benefits Of Sled Training For The Non-athlete!

One of Westside Barbells largest impacts has been the popularization of sled training. Let's discuss sled training for the masses - The benefits for people are numerous and go beyond simply recovery and regeneration.

There is no question that Westside Barbell has had a large impact beyond the Powerlifiting community. There are a multitude of techniques that have become common place in most sports performance facilities and hardcore gyms because of the influence of Westside Barbell.

One of their most beneficial has been the popularization of sled training. There have been many articles written on sled training for recovery and conditioning for athletes. I would like to throw out one of the most overlooked aspects of sled training and that is the training of the everyday person.

Let's face it, as coaches we would like to say the majority of our clients are high level competing athletes. There definitely is an ego stroke there, but the truth is most of us in the industry can more profoundly help the everyday individual who would like to improve the quality of their life.

It is also obvious that there are far more "regular" people in the world that are fighting health issues than there are elite athletes, a good coach is determined by how they help an individual and not by the flashiness of their clients.

So, without further ranting, let's discuss sled training for the masses. The benefits for people are numerous and go beyond simply recovery and regeneration.

-> General Conditioning:

Let's face it; people are often just out of shape. Even if you do get an individual that participates in other physical activities, their anaerobic tolerance is low to nothing.

Since most of our activities and even health measures revolve primarily around anaerobic standards, bringing this up is absolutely essential for general population clients. Not to mention the great amount of research being performed demonstrating anaerobic training being superior to fat loss to aerobic training.

-> Muscle Balance:

Besides being out of shape, most people also have huge muscle imbalance issues. This is especially true of all the "non-mirror" muscles (all those of the back of the body). Sled training offers a simple tool to address hamstring and glute weakness along with many upper body pulling variations that can help all those desk workers with poor posture.

-> "Functional" Training:

I had to slap myself a little for using the term "functional," but sled training really does fit the mold. The sled allows for training in multiple movement patterns without any great change to the equipment itself.

One could easily implement forward lunging, side stepping, and backward dragging without even changing the load on the sled. This would target all the muscles in the hip and thighs in a manner in which they work in most sporting and every day activities.

-> Easy To Learn:

Often what leads a coach to using a certain technique or implement in what Dan John calls "the idiot factor." Some coaches don't use Olympic lifts, kettlebells or heck even squatting for this factor. Most times I blame it on bad coaching, but with the general population the "idiot factor" may just be a tad higher.

It may be that they are not gifted in movement. It may be that they are bad at focusing at the task at hand. Heck, it may even be that the implement intimidates them, but never underestimate the "idiot factor." Having said this, I have yet to see the sled training get hit by the "idiot factor."

It is hard to do the drills wrong and even if you do, the chance of injury is low. More likely the sled just doesn't go anywhere. This means your 60-year-old client can use it just like your 16-year-old athlete.

-> Easy To Implement:

It is amazing, most people would be shocked to hear that the average person that comes in for fitness training can be more banged up than an elite athlete. Sure, the reasons may be completely different, but again, I have seen people with multiple surgeries that have barely ever gotten off the couch!

The problem this causes is apprehension with many movements. I'd like to tell everyone that people are completely willing to perform any exercise you ask without question or concern. I'd also like to tell people that a training business will be successful purely if you are a good coach. Of course neither is true.

I have found these two things to be true:

  1. The more surgeries and pain people have, the more they are hesitant to perform strength training.
  2. People have to trust you as a coach before they will blindly follow your suggestions. While they come to you because of a referral or advertising, it doesn't mean they inherently fully trust you. Trust and results build lifetime clients.

Um, OK, how does this relate to sled training? For a few different reasons sleds are perfect for beginners and those dealing with orthopedic issues.

  • People don't have any preset ideas about sled training. It isn't like using a heavy dumbbell or barbell which can instantly scare the heck out of many.
  • Because it isn't complicated, people can actually start feeling successful early on which acts as a great motivator for continued success. Early success also expands the client's belief that you can really help them.
  • Sled training does not have the eccentric action that many other movements traditionally possess which can be helpful for those that are dealing with pain situations.
  • Sleds can also be used by those that have traditionally had problems with squatting, lunging, deep knee bending or back issues. Many of the very fundamental pulling movements do not aggravate such conditions and allows the clients to become more fit, stronger and improve to the ability where you can start implementing other movements.

-> Group Training:

Lastly, sleds are phenomenal for group training. It appears the industry is leaning towards more team, bootcamp and small group training. Because of the many reasons listed above sleds are perfect for anyone interested in getting involved in more group based settings. Sleds can be used as a specific station of training, team challenges and many unique/effective methods.


I wish I got a percentage off sled sales for writing this article (10% would be nice), but my hope is that coaches will expand the great work they do beyond the elite athlete. We are all athletes in one form or another, life is a dynamic sport. As such we should train everyone to deal with the demands of the sport. Sleds happen to be one of the perfect tools to help a coach and client reach their goals.