Don't be fooled by its simplicity: a sled is one of the most feared and vicious tools you can get your hands on in the gym; and it has the power to humble you in an instant while simultaneously training every athletic attribute you desire.
Sled drills can be done for conditioning, fat loss, muscle building and sport-specific training. It works every muscle in your body, and it will test your mind.
In terms of training economy and getting more bang for your buck in the gym, a sled is the ultimate tool. This one simple piece of equipment can be used to develop several different attributes. It can be pushed, pulled or dragged, with the option to add weight for extra resistance.
Below are four of the greatest benefits of incorporating a sled into your training.
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Sleds can be manipulated and programmed to deliver a variety of training effects and develop different energy systems. Using a sled will drive your heart rate through the roof, set your lungs on fire, rev your metabolism and tax your entire body. The greatest advantage of sled training is its ability to improve strength, athleticism and work capacity without the negative impact of lifting on strength and muscle gain.
Sleds can be dragged forward, backward or laterally. They can be pushed using high or low handles for general conditioning and fat loss or to build speed and acceleration. They can be loaded with max weight for strength gain or lighter weight for recovery, general physical preparation or just to get your blood flowing.
2. No Eccentric Loading
When lifting, the eccentric portion of a movement is the negative or lowering of the weight (e.g., lowering the bar to your chest during a Bench Press). Eccentric movement is what causes the most muscle damage and soreness and requires more recovery time between workouts. What makes the sled an unmatched training modality is that there is no eccentric movement when you use it, just concentric. It will not make you sore.
This allows for more regular use without a lot of concern about whether sled work will impede recovery and other training elements. This makes sled training ideal for rehab and injury prevention while making the body stronger and more durable.
3. Low Impact
One reason the sled is superior to more traditional forms of cardio and conditioning (such as running, jumping rope and sprinting) is that it is low-impact and more joint-friendly, with little risk of injury. Sled work places relatively little stress on the nervous system. Sled pushing and dragging are also easier on the lower back, shoulders and knees.
Use the sled for stand-alone conditioning workouts or for fat-burning "finishers" at the end of regular strength workouts. Sleds condition the body without beating it down or requiring huge periods of recovery between training sessions.
Don't be fooled, though. The lower impact and lack of soreness doesn't mean the sled is any less effective.
4. Mental Toughness
Mental fortitude is what separates the successful from the mediocre. One pillar of mental toughness is the ability to tolerate and endure discomfort. If there's one tool that will guarantee beneficial discomfort, it's the sled. In a time when being weak-willed is the norm, the ability to push through discomfort and challenge yourself translates into many other areas of life and athleticism.
The sled will always be challenging as long as you add weight and move faster.
Here are some incredibly effective ways to incorporate sled training into your programming:
- For strength, perform Sled Marches as heavy as possible for 15-20 yards. Rest as long as needed for recovery between sets for 3-5 sets.
- Do 15-20 minutes of continuous, light/easy Sled Pushes, keeping your heart rate under 150 bpm on an active recovery day.
- Drag a relatively heavy sled backwards 20 yards, then push it back. Rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat for 8-12 minutes as a fat-burning finisher or conditioning workout.
- Try Sled Suicides for an all-around challenge—push the sled down 5 yards and back to the starting line, then push it down 10 yards and back to the starting line, then push it down 15 yards and back to the starting line. Rest and repeat.
- Do Sled Rows, Sled Chest Presses or Sled Curls as a finisher on an upper-body day for added volume and conditioning.
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