Want to do something awesome? What if I told you sledding in Minnesota was one of the top things you could do to be more awesome? The answer may surprise you…
You may be asking yourself “What the heck is this guy talking about? There’s NO snow right now… we can’t sled… stupid Texan.” 🙂
Well, the “sledding” I’m talking about isn’t exactly you’re grandma’s idea of sledding. No, the “sledding” I’m talking about is using sleds as a training tool to get you stronger, faster, leaner, and more awesome.
Sled dragging is one of the most versatile strength practices in existence: pushing, pulling, walking, sprinting, forward, backward, laterally, heck, even upper body work can be done with a sled.
It’s one of my FAVORITE tools for high-economy (i.e. large overall performance return per movement, think squats versus leg extensions) “energy system” work.
For years it was the famous method used by “the strongest gym in the world”, Westside Barbell (home of multiple 1000 pound squats and 8-900 pound bench presses), to increase general conditioning, or GPP (general physical preparedness). It’s one of the favorites of Joe DeFranco (“The ProMaker”, running one of the beastliest gyms around) who, every year, has athletes on the “top performers” list at the NFL Combine, and even Christian Thibadeux who helps develop some of the biggest bodybuilders in the world.
What is it about sled dragging that makes it such a great a tool?
#1: It’s awesome. Throwing something heavy onto something you can drag and pulling it is awesome. Why do “cardio” on a treadmill when you can get stronger, faster, more explosive AND get ripped by dragging heavy sh#$?
#2: Eccentric-less volume (get work in without getting sore). You know that lovely feeling you get the day after heavy, high-rep squats? That DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) really hits the spot sometimes, but it can also leave you unable to perform to your potential for a few days. This is because of the eccentric, or lowering/stretching portion of the movement. Sled dragging allows you to PUT IN WORK without a loaded eccentric component, essentially allowing you to get A TON of high quality strength work WITHOUT excessive soreness (and without effective the training sessions of the next few days). Now THAT is AWESOME!
#3: Versatility. It’s probably beyond the scope of the blog other than a few scientific muscle-heads out there like me 🙂 but sled dragging allows you to develop EVERY ONE of the body’s energy systems highly effectively depending on how you set up the training. I tend to use sled work for two main purposes: alactic capacity development (developing the ability to perform more high-intensity work without getting into that lactic acid/”dead legs” environment), and for aerobic development (dragging at a lower intensity for a longer period of time), essentially as a form as a cardio.
Sled work can also be HUGE for speed development through training proper acceleration mechanics. Many so-called “strength coaches” bastardize this practice and completely miss the boat on this, but pushing a sled like the Elite FTS Prowler or dragging a sled attached by a belt as fast as you possibly can over shorter distances (10-15 yards is what I use with my athletes) with AMPLE RECOVERY TIME is by far one of the best ways to improve an athletes acceleration mechanics and strength/explosiveness in the “go” muscles.
#4: Challenges and competition. There’s nothing that get’s athletes going more than a good competition, and sleds are a great way to facilitate that. Every once in awhile, it IS good to try to put yourself through something a little crazy, do prowler suicides, go until you can’t walk, etc. I wouldn’t make the mistake of doing it every workout, but a challenge just to make sure you’ve still got the guts is GREAT every once in awhile, and you can feel AWESOME for having done something that you know 99% of the rest of the population doesn’t have the balls to do.