Why You Should Try Sled Training

Over the past few years, functional fitness has gained a foothold in gyms, with many of them now having dedicated turf areas for this type of training. The most conspicuous, not to mention one of the most intense, forms of functional training is pulling or pushing a weighted sled. If you haven’t done in, you’ve no doubt seen others powering through a sled workout - and probably wondered if you should be joining them.

In this article, I’ll lay out the benefits of sled training to help you make an informed decision about adding the sled to your routine.

The sled training seen in gyms across the world today comes directly from the gridiron training field. It involves pushing or pulling a sled on skis so you can add weight plates to the resistance.

Sleds are used for sprint training, as well as strengthening and developing power through the lower body. Sleds can be found in the functional training areas of gyms and can be purchased for home gym use.

A typical sled workout will involve either pushing or pulling, with the aid of a rope or harness, around 10 yards and then turning and returning to the start point.

Sled training offers a unique form of training that will add variety to your workouts, while providing tangible benefits that you cannot get with conventional barbell and dumbbell exercise. Here are five key benefits of sled training.

Sled training delivers a full body workout that equally challenges your upper and lower body muscles. Here’s a rundown of the muscles that a sled workout will engage:

Sled training will develop both muscular endurance and muscular hypertrophy. The more weight you load onto the sled, the more muscle you’ll be able to build. When it comes to lower body strength and muscle development, sled training offers an alternative to back squats that does not place a compressive load on the spine.

Pushing a heavy weight forward (or pulling it backyard for that matter) as fast as you can takes a lot of effort. It will ramp up your heart rate, boost your metabolism and get you burning calories as your muscles demand more oxygen and nutrients to do their job.

A 30-minute sled workout will burn between 236-406 calories. The exact rate you will burn depends on your age, gender, body composition, intensity, the amount of weight added to the sled, and the pushing surface and friction created.

A 2019 study showed that sled training involving both pushing and pulling workouts significantly improved speed and power output for athletes and untrained individuals. Results were even greater when the trainer alternated between heavy and light speed training with the sled. [1]

To focus on speed development, you should use a relatively light sled resistance and push as fast as possible. Power development will be enhanced with a heavier weight and a more controlled pace. To build cardiovascular and muscular endurance, remove the weight from the sled and train for time, going back and forth along a 10-yard track for up to 30 minutes. [2]

Pushing or pulling a heavy weight is not something most people do every day, but there are times when we may need to move a heavy object some distance. Sled training will develop the core stabilization strength and develop power through the key pushing muscles of the lats and quads.

Sled training is the ultimate multi-joint exercise, requiring the hips, knees, and shoulders to coordinate in order to produce explosive pushing and pulling power.

Sled training may look pretty daunting, but it’s actually accessible for all fitness levels. It is a lot easier to learn and safer than such exercises as squats or deadlifts. Beginners can start out with just the weight of the sled and then progressively add resistance and distance as they get stronger.

  • Keep your core engaged
  • Your knees should line up with your feet
  • Hold the support bars firmly with both of your hands
  • Do not round your back
  • Train on a flat, even surface
  • Build momentum with fast, explosive movements
  • Wear shoes with good sole traction
  • If you are a beginner, assume a more upright 45-degree angle body position.
  • More experienced trainers should assume a lower position, so that your torso is at a 90-degree angle to the floor.

Here’s a workout you should try if you don’t have access to a sled:

  1. Load 25% of your max load on the sled.
  2. Stand behind the sled and grab the handles with a 45-degree torso position and staggered lower body.
  3. Push through the lats as you begin sprinting the sled forward.
  4. Run the sled forward 10 yards.
  5. Rest for 30 seconds.
  6. Complete six reps.
  1. Load 70% of your max load on the sled.
  2. Stand behind the sled and grab the handles quite low on the bars with a 90-degree torso position and staggered lower body.
  3. Push through the lats and quads as you begin powering the sled forward.
  4. Run the sled forward 15 yards.
  5. Rest for 30 seconds.
  6. Complete six reps.

Sled training will add a unique, challenging element to your workouts. It combines cardio, strength, power, and hypertrophy training into one dynamic session. It also provides a great HIIT workout. Why not load up a sled and experience the benefits for yourself?

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Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.
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