Sleds are not just for Santa
‘Tis the season to be Merry and to lift Heavy! Sled Dragging is an excellent training method to increase size, add power, improve work capacity, enhance muscular endurance, and to build functional strength. A “throwback” form of training that gets all systems fired up! Memories of pushing my broken down 1988 Ford Bronco to a local gas station and dragging a poorly tied boat back to shore during an approaching storm immediately come to mind! Whether you are a Scandinavian logger, a poor teenager without enough gas money, or a beginner boater that skipped the knot tying class…SLEDS are a fun alternative to the monotony of strength training. It has proven to be an effective overall fitness builder. Fitness is the foundation upon which all other physical qualities are based. Everyone needs fitness. At Infiniti Sports Performance, our athletes have been reaping the benefits of sled dragging for over 10 years!
The versatility of the sled allows you to program a number of different workouts to target specific muscular benefits, energy system development, or general conditioning. It combines the total body stimulus and connectedness of a loaded carry with the specificity of multi-joint lifts usually preserved for barbells. Sled work can be used with athletes of all ages and is one of the safest ways to build strength in preparation for traditional barbell work. Athletes MUST be able to load their bodies in a variety of ways to prepare themselves for sport, and sled dragging is one of the most effective ways of doing that. The beauty about this form of training modality is that it doesn’t require superior skill and technique; thus making it easily coachable! It does not matter how skilled you are at sport, these portable training tools are highly transferable to your field of play; whether that be the football field, pitcher’s mound, the track, powerlifting platform, or MMA ring.
For athletes that don’t have easy access to hills or ramps, the sled is a perfect way to create resisted movements for the lower body without loading the spine. They have the ability to be dragged, pushed, pulled, and towed in a variety of ways that complement the athlete’s goals. Programming can focus on pulling distance, load (resistance), most definitely a form of “Special Strength”. Special Strength is strength training that involves a normal movement (such as walking or running) or a sport technique (such as jumping or throwing) upon which a load is added in order to increase the strength needed to execute the movement. The load can be extremely heavy or can be very light so as not to alter the technique that is required to perform the skill/movement.
If you currently do not utilize sled dragging, then incorporating Sled Work into your programming is a must. The million dollar question is “what type of work capacity are you targeting for the athlete?” Do your athletes need more strength, power, speed, or muscular endurance? Remember, YOU GET WHAT YOU TRAIN!
SLED TRAINING BENEFITS
NO ECCENTRIC LOADING: Eccentric loading (the negative part of a movement) generates large amounts of muscular tension, causing muscular damage and soreness. Sled training won’t give you the same muscular and hormonal beat down that traditional strength training does, allowing you to program it on a regular basis without interfering with other training elements.
IMPROVES ACCELERATION: Acceleration is crucial to most sports. Sled training allows you to load traditional sprint-style work without interfering too much with sprint mechanics. Loaded sprinting forces the body to work harder and recruit more musculature, leading to notable power and speed improvements.
FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH & CONDITIONING: By functional, I’m referring to the ability to manipulate sled training versatility & programming to deliver many different muscular or energy system training effects. Try light sled sprints to build acceleration and speed, heavy maximal load pulls for lower body strength boosts, or sled pulls for time/distance for muscular endurance benefits. As most sports require you to overcome resistance during movement, sled training has a useful transfer to sport.
REDUCED JOINT & MUSCLE LOADING: The heavy nature of the sled will limit you to slow speed and/or low-duration efforts. This naturally reduces the loading on the joints and muscles. This is of particular interest to distance runners and other endurance athletes as it provides a means of conditioning without beating your body down or requiring huge periods of recovery.
INJURY PREVENTION & RECOVERY: The lack of eccentrics and joint loading that comes from sled training make it ideal for injury prevention or rehabilitation training for lower- body focused athletes. As a physical therapist, I have utilized this as a critical training tool to assess and prepare an athlete for “return to play/sport” activities.
VARIETY & FUN: Whether you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, sled training offers something different from normal training methods. While challenging, it also adds a truly unique element of fun and variety to your training.