Dragging a sled: is it worth it?

Dragging a sled: is it worth it?

There are so many benefits to dragging a sled it's not funny. If you are new to strength training don't add too much extra conditioning. Once you reach an intermediate level you can, and should, add in some strength endurance training like hill sprints, interval training, prowler pushes, or sled pulls.

I was first introduced to sled dragging back in 2005 when a Rugby team mate started bringing his sled to training. I knew it would be a great addition to my strength training program as leg drive is a major component of the sport.

So Why Should I Pull A Sled Around?

The benefits of dragging a sled are numerous and include:

  • Strengthening common weak areas like the hamstrings, upper back, hips, glutes. Increased work capacity, improve deadlifts/squats.
  • Flexibility and mobility.
  • Restorative work for shoulder, knee, back, hip pain.
  • Reduce risk of injury from weightlifting.
  • Add variety to training. Get outdoors and use your body in a different way.
  • Easy to use and doesn't require a special trip to the gym.

Sled Exercises

There are a ton of different ways to pull the sled. Here are some of the variations I have used and benefit from.

Lower body

  1. Pull sled with straps attached to a weightlifting belt or harness from behind. Take long powerful strides with an upright body. This pull works the hips, glutes, hamstrings.
  2. With straps behind the back and below knees and torso bent over, take long strides forward. This pull is great for the hamstrings and posterior chain.
  3. Strap around ankles. For front hips, lower abs, and hamstrings, walk with the strap around your ankles. Take forceful steps and reap the rewards of this movement.
  4. Walk backward with strap attached around the front of your belt. This is great for quads and the front of hips.

Upper body

  1. Press - Walk forward with strap behind you, pressing like you would on a bench.
  2. Rows - Walk backward with strap in your hands in front of you. As you step back row the sled towards you, pulling your shoulders back and squeezing your lats.
  3. Rear raises, front raises - Use the strap as if it was a pulley and perform rear and front raises for shoulder health, strength, and recovery.

How many, How often, How much weight?

How many: For beginners try do 6 x 20 meter pulls per set, mixing up your sled pull exercise each set. Try do 4 - 5 sets, there are lots of option so be creative and challenge yourself.

How often: Start light and add weight. Have 1-3 sessions a week, each session a different weight, and use the taper method, heavier than lower.

How much weight: Start heavy on day 1 and reduce the weight each day for 3 consecutive days, then go back to a heavy weight the fourth day. Example: day 1 - 60 kg, day 2 - 50kgs, day 3 - 40kgs, day 4 - 60kgs.

You could also do light weight and sprints to work on speed and explosive power. There are endless ways to use the sled so get creative.

What to expect as a result of these??

Sled dragging has enhanced my overall physical fitness level. My squat and deadlift have benefitted from the lower body work and I’ve also found my recovery time to improve when I use a sled one to three times a week. The sessions should take between fifteen minutes and half an hour and it’s definitely worth it.

Next to a squat rack, barbell and pullup bar, I would say the sled is one of the top essential pieces of strength and conditioning equipment for any lifter.

If you are a beginner I would advise to take it easy with conditioning on top of your strength training program. That’s not to say you can’t try it out and still make good progress with your program, but it may slow things down if you do too much and don’t eat/sleep enough.

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