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March 27, 2020 10 min read

Sometimes, the workout plan may seem too complicated or time-demanding. Set aside a day for this. And don’t leave it out! To build strength and muscle, you need weight training. If you aim to improve endurance and boost your metabolism, you also need to get cardio. How about a training tool that lets you do both at the same time, with a bonus?

Also known as a "prowler," the sled is a tool as simple as it is useful. You can quickly load the weight and slide it around. There's no need for barbells and a power rack. Any kind of weight plates will do. Initially, the sled should go across the turf, but this tool allows a lot of creativity. It comes in several versions, too.

The sled provides for a high-intensity exercise, good for CrossFit as well as a beginner's training. It engages a whole bunch of muscle groups, your back, hips, hamstrings, glutes, core, calves, shoulders, and triceps work simultaneously. Plus, it replicates the natural efforts that commonly challenge the body in daily life. It's an incredible total-body workout. On top of it all, it saves time.

Using a sled is simple. You need to move it from one point to another. Still, if you work it correctly and with persistence, you'll notice an incredible improvement in your strength, stamina, and stability.

The Weight Sled is Great for Beginners

There is not much technique required to work with a sled. The set of movements is pretty straightforward, with few details. Once you figure the right position, everything comes down to a push-me-pull-me model.

The surface, which you use the weighted sled on, impacts the difficulty of the move. You may choose anything from snow and grass to your garage gym. A snowy path is as good a surface for a beginner as well as an Olympic athlete. The less friction the sled creates, the easier the exercise. However, the snow brings more to it by challenging your stability muscles.

With the correct equipment, sled pushes are one of the safest workouts you can do. There is no risk of dropping something heavy on yourself or around you. However, don't improvise with something like a heavy piece of furniture. That could increase your risk of injury.

If you're brand new to sled pushes, have a trainer supervise your efforts for a while. You'll also want to start with low weight and push-pull your way up the scale. Up to half of your body weight is a proper place to start.

The Power, Speed, and Strength Training

The weight sled has it all.

The sled wants you to brace your core, flex your glutes, and extend your spine. The goal is to transfer the force through your legs upward and make the weighted sled move.

To do an initial sled push, you grip its handles and lean forward slightly. Keep the tension in your back muscles all the time. Aim to maintain a neutral spine. Your upper body should stay tight and still, to serve as a stable base while your lower half is working hard. You don't want to round your back, but also don't overarch it.

Your lower body is engaged in forceful movements, while your upper body keeps an extended contraction. That is what makes the weighted sled pushes a great total-body workout.

When you perform in short bursts with the full effort, 100 percent effort, they become a great form of HIIT.

Your arms can be fully extended or bent, depending on the variation. With straight arms, your triceps and deltoid muscles have a role. To push the sled forward, you need to work your hamstrings and glutes quite seriously. Your core will be working a substantial shift, too, transferring the power from there through your torso to your arms and the sled. That means your abs, spinal extensors, and obliques will all turn to working-class heroes.

Your upper back muscles engage to keep your upper back straight. That means further involvement of lats, traps, and rhomboids.

What do you say the weight sled worth a try?

A man and woman working out with a weight sled.

How to Do a Basic Weight Sled Push

  • Wrap both hands around the sled. Level your elbows and wrists in line with your shoulders. 
  • Lock your elbows in place. Keep your back sturdy and chest in one straight line from neck to hips.
  • Start pushing forward as hard as you can. Walk on your toes and pump your legs as high and fast as you can.

It's crucial to stay on your toes when you push forward. That will help to maximize your force. Without a proper connection with the ground, you will move fast, but you won't be doing much. You need all your toes spread, to increase the stability of the base. Otherwise, arches of the feet may drop, putting your joints into risk of injury.

As you push, you need to keep flexed hips, flexed high knees, and flexed feet. This triple flexion makes your body move like a spring, releasing enough power to keep you and the sled moving. If you feel any strain in your hips or lower back, try to bring your hips more forward and your legs further back.

Aim to push hard for 15 seconds. Take a break for a minute or two, and repeat. As you progress, keep decreasing the amount of rest. You should aim for 30 seconds of a break for 15 seconds of work. Once you can do five reps with a 1:2 ratio, shorten the break more and start adding weights.

Weight Sled Exercises to Try

The Classic Weight Sled

Building strength with this exercise can also help if you hit a plateau with your standard leg routine. Start with the simple low push of the sled for 20 meters. Do four reps with two minutes of break in between. You should use a weight equal to your one-rep-squat weight. 

  • Lean forward at a 45-degree angle. Keep your hands close to your chest, similar to performing a push-up. Grip the sled handles.
  • Keep your toes in contact with the ground. Take large steps.

The Upper-Body Power Sled

The TRX power row is a way to use the sled and test your full-body power potential. You will be explosively extending the knees and hips. That is a great option to test your back with a minimum of lower back stress.

  • Connect the TRX to the sled.
  • Sit back into a squat position. Keep your posture straight and tall and arms extended in front. You should have full tension of the TRX. 
  • In one fluid move, go up and back down. Extend the hips and knees while pulling the sled towards your torso. 
  • Return to the starting position with extended TRX, take a break for 20 seconds, and repeat. Aim for four reps.
  • Pull the sled 20 meters at a time. Do four sets, resting two minutes between each.

The Conditioning Gauntlet 

This workout requires you to pull the sled 50 meters instead of 20. Use half of your squat weight one-rep maximum. To move a heavyweight at a consistent pace requires excellent endurance. It also helps your body get rid of some lactic acid.

The position is similar to the classic workout, except that you pull instead of push, and you go further.

Crawl and Drag

Crawling is a great full-body cardio exercise. The Crawl and Drag works your entire core and improves your hip extension strength.

  • Attach a rope or straps to the sled. Position yourself at the end of the handle.
  • Kneel with your knees under your hips and hands under the shoulders. 
  • Flex your feet. Lift onto your hands and toes.
  • Grab the strap. Extend your hips to pull the sled toward you. 
  • As you pull the sled, your arm must extend up under your body in the direction of your shoulders and head.
  • Release the strap and keep crawling until it's back at your heels. 
  • Engage your core. Keep your knees close to the ground as you crawl.
  • Reach back through your legs. Sit your butt back to grab the strap. 
  • Pull the sled toward you, driving your hips forward. It's essential to use your hips and not just your arm to pull the sled. 
  • Pull up your arm and the strap towards your shoulders.
  • Repeat crawling forward; repeat pulling the sled.

A man working out with a weight sled.

The Benefits of the Sled Workout

One of the best advantages of sled training is how it changes the contractions. Traditional weight lifting training forces your muscles to deliver two kinds of contractions. You need the concentric for the lift and the eccentric to lower. The absence of gravity makes the sled training only concentric contractions. That opens the road to more reps, less wear and tear on the body, and faster recovery time.

The Prowler sled is very easy to use, simple to learn, and not as technical as many other exercises. It is suitable for all fitness levels. A beginner can see swift progress without having to face the advanced forms of training too soon.

The sled is incredible for replacing body fat with muscles. There are many variations of the exercise to send your metabolism through the roof. Only a few other tools can compete with the sled in the variety of workouts, and the combinations are endless. And all you need is a sled, some bumper plates (or even a couple of sandbags), and you're good to go.

Sleds Provide Versatile Training 

The load of the sled never weighs you down, which provides more training variability. You can do power bursts to burn fat and calories. You can turn it to high-intensity work for conditioning. If you want to work on your lower-body strength, the sled is one of the best tools around.

Whatever your goal may be, the sled can fit into your program. Best of all, you don't need a performance facility. You can do the full-body workout with some weight and an empty road.

Arm Position Makes All the Difference

Your arm position, while doing basic sled pushes, adds to its versatility. When you begin with the sled pushes, keep your arms close to your body. Let your elbows bend to build spinal integrity and fix your posture. As you progress, start straightening your arms. Extend them forward and away from your torso. That brings you to a more vulnerable position but affects your shoulders, upper chest, and core. 

Your stability will improve. Think of a bridge. When the distance between shores is long, the most prominent force works in the middle, and the resistance needs to be well balanced. When you hold weight with extended arms, it activates your spinal erectors, scapular involvement, and anterior core.

Add An Extra Challenge for Your Legs

Some of the traditional legs exercises can put unwanted stress on your back. The sled can build superhero quads with minimum spinal stress.

Dealing with knee pain can be an issue too. Use the sled instead of squats to train with the heavier weights. When the load isn't piled on your vertically, you will release some knee pressure.

The Importance of Feet

The power is not only about high resistance and intensity. It is also good to refine the simple movements to give an extra kick to your explosiveness, lateral balance and stabilizing.

Simple movements are hopping, skipping, or jumping. When you learn to stabilize the joints during those moves, your muscles produce greater force through a full range of motion and keep the injuries at bay.

The set of moves you do with your feet while working the sled has a significant effect here. You place your foot while focusing on ankle and knee stability and alignment.

The Prowler sled is similar in nature to running, except that there's no way to cheat with your form, and you need no treadmills. If you want the sled to move, you need to do it right. That will establish proper motor patterns and strengthen the muscles essential for sprinting: the feet and lower legs, quads, core, hamstrings, and glutes. The Prowler will improve your ability to accelerate in any direction.

Power Sled

Increasing the weight of the sled and moving it as fast as possible, adds to strength development. You need to put force into the ground as quickly as possible.

  • Load the sled with Olympic plates to about 70 to 80 percent of your maximum weight. Push the sled for 10 meters as explosively as possible. Make five to ten rounds, with five minutes break after each.

Strength Sled

Pushing a heavy sled should be one of the staples for working on single-leg strength and leg drive. When you go for power, there is no need to push like there's a mad dog behind you, just try to keep the same pace through all the way.

  • Load the sled heavier than your body weight, but go as strong as you're feeling at the moment. Push the sled for 50 meters if the load is light, and 25 if it's heavy-duty. Make five to ten rounds, with a 60 to 90 seconds pause in between.

Speed Sled

The key to speed training is to apply more force into the ground as quickly as possible. When you load the sled with a lightweight, you can push it like a child's wheel and put more force into the ground.

  • Load the sled with 20 to 50 percent of your body weight. Start with 10 meters and raise the distance gradually with the progress. Push sled like someone is chasing you. Do five sets with a minute of rest after each and finish with a few unloaded sprints.

Multi-Distance Sled Marches

You should use the march to improve general fitness and conditioning.

  • Place 10 or 15 cones alongside a 100-meters track.
  • Attach a waist harness to pull the sled. 
  • March in a heel-toe manner to the furthest cone and back to the start. 
  • Rest up to one minute, and then repeat the march, but this time go to the 2nd furthest cone and back. 
  • Repeat by shortening the gap until you get to the closest cone. 

Advanced Sled Work

The design of the sled adds plenty of variety to your typical training plan. It can help you challenge yourself more and kick the monotony away. With the right diet, your body will turn to a fat-burning, muscle-building machine before you know it.

The basic sled workout hits your whole body, but you should explore the ways. Add a few sled straps. Attach a rope to make the sled an upper-body training tool, excellent for your back muscles. Pull the sled from a plank position to shred your core and build back strength. Add kettlebells or dumbbells to your push. Combine a loaded sled with the battle ropes for another incredible set of full-body exercises.

The options are hard to exhaust. Sled training offers many ways to push and pull you into sheer physical power. You can get all of the benefits of functional training even at your home gym. Enjoy finding them all.