Sled training is a prime example of functional fitness. The use of weighted sleds is nothing new, athletes have been pushing and pulling sleds for quite some time now – even Rocky was pulling a sled through the snow back in the 80s. Sled training can be used for a number of purposes from power development, muscular endurance, aerobic training or any combination of those. Short bursts of sled training has the effect of testing your aerobic fitness! Here are some reasons why you need to start training with a sled.
If it Works For a Horse
There’s a reason why Clydesdale horses have been bred as draught horses, because you have to be big and strong to effectively drag a sled, and push one for that matter. Sled drags are most commonly associated with sprinters – strapping a lightweight sled around their waist and doing sets of sprints to increase force output. Sled drags can also be a great strength building exercise by piling on the plates and struggling against the drag of the sled. It will work your entire legs, glutes, back, core and shoulders and give you a great aerobic workout by placing stress on your entire frame and muscular system. Keep a straight back and drive through your legs
When you look at the exercise of pushing a weighted sled, it’s quite simple to see its benefits. Each push has a lot of the benefits that both barbell squats and deadlifts bring. It is a closed chain leg extension and works the entire leg from the glutes to the calves and feet, while also developing a strong back and core. Pushing a sled is like doing leg presses from a sprinters stance, and is close to a mimicry of a rugby union scrum. Pushing a weighted sled is like being a number 8 in a scrum and driving through the legs with a strong back. Try doing 4 heavy sets on the sled push and your legs will be pumped, leaving you feeling like jelly as you walk out of the gym. Which is what we want.
Load the sled up with weight and attach a rope or straps to the base (most sleds have hooks for rope attachments). Step back away from the sled until the rope is almost taut, then brace your legs into a semi-squat position, keep your back straight and strong and row the sled towards you, pulling the rope until the sled is almost at your feet. Step back and repeat. This is obviously a great exercise for the back and will also work your legs and core. This can also be adapted to a squat and row by completing a full squat at the beginning of the exercise and then rowing the sled towards you before stepping back and repeating the exercise.
I think this is what Rocky was doing with that sled in Rocky IV, at least it looked something like bear crawl, just a little more dramatic. Bear crawls requires you to strap on a vest and pull the sled along while you crawl on your hands and feet, maintaining a neutral spine. Do this exercise crawling for distance or for a set period of time. Just a tip – you will most likely struggle with this exercise to start small and build up to longer crawls.
It’s Hard Work
No matter how you do it, push pull or drag, sled training is hard work, the type of hard work that will shock your muscles, instigate growth and give you a hell of an aerobic workout. A lot of gyms are now starting to bring in weighted sleds with runways into their functional fitness zone so if your gym has one, then give it a go. And if your gym doesn’t have one, then consider changing gyms. Sled training is worth the move.