ONE SLED: TEN MOVES
|19/10/2021 | Andrew Tracey Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.|
Despite being a time tested staple in the conditioning programme of athletes and sports people alike, the sled has only recently gained traction in the workout roster of more mainstream trainees.
And this is a very, very good thing.
Unlike traditional training tools that can sometimes draw a hard line between ‘designed to build muscle’ and more cardio oriented pursuits, the sled represents an almost perfect hybrid- one that won’t just work miracles for your muscle mass, but also increase your conditioning and endurance across the board, speed up your recovery and provide an unparalleled work around for athletes suffering from niggles and injuries.
Whether you’re looking to blow the dust off of the sled in the corner of the gym and hit the turf, or seeking some inspiration for when you finally make the jump and buy your own, here’s our top ten picks for movements you have you have to try.
Smoking your quads, glutes, grip and upper back whilst delivering a hefty blow to your core as you work to maintain an upright position. Reverse drags are the perfect solution for trainees suffering with or recovering from knee injuries who are looking to add mass to their quads. At the end of each step you hit ‘terminal knee extension’, locking out your legs and fully flexing the muscles of the quadriceps, but without the heavy, top down loading usually associated with movements such as squats or leg extensions.
Try a moderate weight for sets of 20-30m, or use as ‘drag back’ after a forward push variation.
Conjuring up images of an adolescent Conan the Barbarian transitioning into the man mountain that is Arnold Schwarzenegger, via a never ending wheel of forward marching; the forward push really is that effective. Targeting your quads, hips and calves as well as strengthening your shoulders and triceps, the forward push is the ‘default’ movement when we think of sled push, and for good reason- it works.
Try working to the heaviest set you can push unbroken for 15-20m, or stay moderate and alternate between forward pushes and reverse drags.
Low forward push
Hitting all of the same notes as the regular forward push, but with the added spice of a much more compromised, low position. The close grip on the handles will force your shoulders to work overtime, while the force coming down the line will build ‘pillar strength’ as your body is forced to work in a single, strong column to maintain rigidity throughout your march.
Try lighter loads and sprint efforts with minimal rest in this position, but have a bucket ready. You’ve been warned.
By attaching a strap or harness around your waist, we’re able to transform the reverse drag into a lower body only affair; perfect for working around injuries or longer duration efforts where your grip may become the limiting factor.
This one is made for putting some serious metres on the legs. Try a light load for 15-20 min AMRAPs, or go all out with a mile long odyssey.
Single arm power row
Holding a single strap or handle attached to your sled, take a step back, root your feet and row the sled towards you in a single, powerful motion, quickly step back and repeat. Working your entire posterior chain including your upper back and rear deltoids as well as your biceps, the explosive, single arm pull builds strength and stability through your midline by resisting rotation, helping to build an unshakeable core.
Keep it light and use a traditional rep scheme such as 3-4 sets 10 on each arm.
The forward push’s fiery little brother. With a light to moderate weight, get low and explosively push the sled away, as far as you can, quickly close the gap, reset your position and push again, repeat until you’ve covered your target distance. More upper body inclusive than other entries, but still no doubt a full body offering, this move is perfect training for combat sports or anyone looking to get a high octane conditioning hit.
With a light sled, aim for distances of 15-25m as quickly as possible, ensuring each rep is a maximum effort push. For added conditioning effect, throw in a burpee before every push.
The perfect way to bring your sled back to the start line after a set of power pushes. With twin handles, gym rings or a large strap- use two hands to explosively row the sled towards you, jog backwards as quickly as possible until your straps are tight again and repeat, hitting your full body with a special burn on the upper back and rear delts.
Combine the power push and pull for forward/ backwards sets of 15-25m to light up your entire upper body and ramp up your stamina.
The lateral march takes stability and anti-rotational movements such as the pallof press and turns them up to eleven. Hold a straps or set of handles in front of your sternum, sideways on to a moderate to heavy sled. Begin marching laterally up your track, using the anti rotational muscles of your core to keep your torso upright and facing forward.
A great finisher or accessory movement, try a 10 minute AMRAP of 20m lengths, alternating sides each length. Rest as necessary to maintain a strong, rigid core against the rotational pull of the sled.
A bicep building, strongman staple. Attach a rope to a moderate to heavy sled, grab the far end and hinge over until your torso is parallel to the ground (or sit down). Using long reaches and consistent but powerful pulls, draw the sled all of the way in. It might be a back and bicep pumping power move, but with no ‘eccentric’ (lowering portion), it’s perfect to throw in between upper body sessions to drive blood into the muscles and speed up recovery.
Try a heavy, ten minute EMOM of a 10 metre arm-over-arm pull, followed by a sprint push back to the start line.
Grab your rope again and lay flat on your back for a variation that will hit your lats and biceps, and if you keep pulling, your triceps too, making it seriously effective tool for an unparalleled arm pump. Lay at the far end of your rope, with the sled behind you, reach behind your head and begin pulling the rope, drawing the sled in. Elongate each pull, beginning with your arm straight ahead and ending when your arm is at full lockout at your waist.
Try working to the heaviest weight possible, before halving the weight and attempting some max speed sets.
You may think of your weight bench as more of an ‘accessory’ than a piece of kit in it’s own right. But if you think your bench is designed solely for, well, ‘benching’, you’re not using it to it’s full potential.
Add some of these movements into your rotation and upgrade your bench game.
We touched on everything from coaching biases, nutritional myths and philosophies, and how, even though science is incredibly important, it isn’t completely infallible, and that it’s important to develop our own compass especially when it comes to nutrition and training. Enjoy!
On Episode 28 of The Bulldog Gear Podcast AT goes solo to answer some of your burning questions.