Every client that walks through our doors starts their training session the same way- some form of sled work. I believe that sled work is something that is non-negotiable to any comprehensive and effective strength and conditioning program (if you have access to it). Many commercial facilities have your typical “cardio equipment”, but lack turf and space for sleds. At ECF we have a handful of different sled options that allow our clients many sled work variations. Overall, there are many benefits to sled work and adding it to your programming.
Sled Work During Your Warm up
“Statically” stretching before a training session might not be the best option of warming-up. An analogy I like to use is this, if you put a rubber band into the freezer and try to stretch it, what do you think will happen? It will probably snap. Well muscle is very elastic in nature, so stretching a cold muscle would not be the best option. Increasing your core temperature, breaking a slight sweat, and increasing blood flow to the muscle are your main keys for an effective warm-up. You will be hard-pressed to find a better option to get your blood flowing than pushing and dragging sleds. At ECF we typically start our clients with sled drags or pushes as part of their warm-up for that main reason.
Sled Work to Build Work Capacity
Sled work is yet another way to improve work capacity. Without a decent level of work capacity and general physical preparedness (GPP), weight training is going to be significantly more difficult. If clients to do not build a general foundation for training and work capacity, sustainable success is doubtful. The days of “out-of-shape” lifters are over. What good is a Ferrari with no engine? Sled work and work capacity create a powerful engine. One goal of ours at ECF is to get clients to either push a sled 600 feet, drag a sled for 10 minutes, or both! This is to get clients to feel good and ready to go before they start any other work so that they can maximize the performance and experience the true benefits of their training program.
The other side of building work capacity would be at the end of the training session. Let’s say we go through a pretty heavy squat or deadlift session. A session like this would have put a ton of vertical pressure on our spines and can be very intense and damaging to our central nervous system. A great way to add more work to our training session without putting any more pressure on ourselves is through sled work. We can add as much sled work as we would like in this instance, gaining benefit without additional soreness or damage to the nervous system.
The last way to add sled work to a training program would be on off days or light training days. These are days that should fall after a more extensive heavy training session, with the purpose of simply getting blood moving. Pushing, dragging, pulling, pressing, or extending the sled is a great start for those types of training sessions for all of the same reasons stated above: Get blood moving, Raise core temperature, Reduce Soreness, and Introduce added work with our CNS breakdown.
Most of the time people think that beating yourself up day after day, week after week, is going to result in the biggest successes and improvements in the gym. They may be right in the short-term, but what happens when you start to break down? When you start to feel fatigue very quickly during your training? When your numbers slowly start to decrease? We need to step back and look at the bigger picture- the longevity of your progress. Our “training life” should last longer than three months “balls to the wall” and then crumble from exhaustion, fatigue and being overworked. Long term consistency and dedication is the only way for true success in this game, and it all starts with the necessary pieces to a training program to build the proper foundation. Sled work is one of those essential pieces.