Workout Routines

The Beginner's Guide to Sled Training for More Power

Here’s how to push it—push it real good—with this versatile training tool.

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Sled Training
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Typically, athletes who explicitly train for greater power need explosiveness to perform at their peak: sprinters, powerlifters, baseball pitchers. And while power is essential for them, it’s also a great asset for lifters with other goals, too.

“Training to produce power is as important for overall strength and muscle size development as it is for an athlete’s performance development,” says Jordan Brown, a performance specialist at EXOS in San Diego.

One great way to do that is with a sled. “The beauty of sleds is that they allow for fast, explosive movements with higher relative loads through full ranges of motion, whereas traditional lifting equipment has to be decelerated to avoid launching the weight,” Brown says. In other words, with a sled, you can throw around some serious weight without (as) serious risks.

But make no mistake: Maxing out isn’t the goal when loading the sled. “Power is about being able to move the weight at a high rate of speed,” says Brown. “If the weight is too heavy and you begin to slow down—or the surface is rough or sticky and causes higher friction—you are no longer training your muscles for power properties.”

To add sled training to your workouts, you can either dedicate a day to a power-focused workout (like the one below), or by replacing some of your traditional slow-paced strength exercises with power ones—just do the power moves at the beginning of a session, when you’re freshest. “Power training requires a great deal of energy and central nervous system recruitment, both of which decline as a workout continues,” says Brown, who also cautions that your rest period shouldn’t be rushed: “Training for power requires high-intensity output for low repetitions or short duration with full recovery. If you don’t feel like you’re fully recovered for the next round, give yourself a little more rest time—these reps are meant to be purposefully powerful!”

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The workout

Depending upon your strength and the friction of surface, your load should be between 0.75 and 1.25 times your bodyweight).

Sled circuit 1: Power push (do 3 circuits)

  • Do a 10-yard sled push, then rest 20 seconds. That’s one interval.
  • Do 3 intervals in each circuit.
  • Rest 2 minutes between circuits.

“The power sled push requires maximum lower-body power, while maintaining pillar and shoulder stability, and transferring the force to the sled,” Brown says. 

Sled circuit 2: Row and drag (do 3 circuits)

  • 5 sled rows
  • 5 sled drag walking lunges (each leg) 
  • 10 body saws

Do not rest between exercises. Rest 2 minutes rest between rounds.

With all of these exercises, focus on explosiveness of each movement—you’re not rowing that sled like it’s a cable machine, you’re mustering up a serious total-body yank. Even as you drag the sled in the walking lunges, you want to push off the front leg energetically. For the body saws, do a forearm plank in which you rock your body forward and back, without bending at the hips.

Sled circuit 3: Arms and legs (do 3 circuits)

  • 20-yard backpedal sled drag
  • 20-yard crossover step sled drags for 20 yards
  • 10 sled curls (with handles)
  • 5 sled chest press (with handles)

Rest 2 minutes between circuits.

Those backpedal drags are great for quad power, while the crossover steps are essential for hip strength and mobility. Sled curls (again, think explosively) make bicep curls fun again, and the sled chest press powers up the horizontal press pattern.

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