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The weight sled is easily one of the most underrated pieces of equipment out there when it comes to training athletes and just about anyone looking to improve their level of fitness and conditioning.
Sled training is no joke, if you haven’t used one before you will be in for quite a surprise when you get started as to what a workout it really is.
In this article, we are going to go over the benefits of weighted sled training and give 13 killer weighted sled workouts.
Let’s get to it.
Benefits of doing weighted sled training
Weighted sled training is a great total body cardiovascular workout that every athlete should be doing.
Here are just some of the benefits:
As an athlete, acceleration is vital. Using a weighted sled particularly for sled pulls is an excellent tool for athletes to develop better acceleration when performed correctly. When the athlete is giving high effort, using appropriate loads and is also using proper mechanics, you should be able to increase your acceleration after a period of training. For more proof, you can take a look at this study of rugby players who performed sled training and experienced significant increases in their 5-meter test by performing sled pulls twice using 13% of their body weight a week over a 6 week period.
Sled pushes are a great leg and total body exercise
While pushing a sled is truly a full-body workout you will feel it mostly in the legs. On top of the legs, doing sled pushes also works your core, shoulders, chest and triceps. Sled pushes also make for a great finisher after leg day.
On top of that, you can do sled drags and rows to work the back muscles as well. In truth, you can work every muscle in the body with a weighted sled if you use the right exercises.
Weighted sleds are great for workout finishers
If you are one of those people who likes to use a finisher at the end of your workout for added fat burning and cardio then the weighted sled is for you. We cover the finisher in greater detail in our article 7 Brutal Workout Finisher That Blast Fat, but you can use a variety of sled exercises to make a great workout finisher.
Weighted sled pushes, pulls and drags are harder than they look. Push a moderately loaded sled as fast as you can for 50 yards and you will be sucking wind when you are finished. Now repeat that 5 times. Add sled exercises to your regular routine and you can build an impressive engine in no time.
Let’s be honest, doing the same exercises and cardio can get pretty old. Adding in some sled training is a great change of pace from the same boring exercises. You can even take it outdoors, to the track or football field for a nice change of scenery and some fresh air as well
You feel like a badass
Using a sled that is loaded with weight is another one of those exercises that just makes you feel like a badass when you are doing it. It’s right up there with heavy tire flips and heavy deadlifts for leaving you feeling like a complete beast.
Weighted sled exercises are functional
Weighted sled exercises are something you might actually have to use in the real world. Let’s say some old lady’s car runs out of gas 200 yards from the gas station, while it sucks for the grandma who is out of gas, you get to be the hero and amaze the people passing by as you push grandma’s car to the gas station. She will be so happy that you helped she will give you a nice butterscotch candy for helping her (sounds like something an old lady would do).
Also who knows what else you may have to push or when landscaping your yard or moving heavy furniture. Calf raises aren’t’ going to help you move that heavy fridge.
Shorter workout time
With the weighted sled, you get as good of a workout in 10 minutes as you can in 45 minutes on the treadmill. Granted sled training is a lot more intense than jogging on a treadmill but if you are a busy person who is short on time or someone who is easily bored then doing some weighted sled training is a good option.
Little to no muscle soreness
Another thing to like about sled training is that you won’t be sore the next day (unless you are new to training). This is because there is no eccentric phase to sled training, therefore there is usually no muscle soreness the next day so you can keep that ibuprofen on the shelf.
Different Kinds of Weighted Sled Training
There are many different ways you can train with a weighted sled, these are the most common.
Weighted Sled Pushes
This is the most common exercise done with the sled and the one people usually associate with it.
Whether you are pushing lighter weight for distance or loading it up and pushing as much weight as you can a short 10 yards you will feel it afterward.
Some sleds feature a low bar which has you pushing the sled at a lower angle closer to the ground, this can make the breathing even more challenging so be prepared.
There are 2 ways you can go about doing this exercise. You can do it like the picture above with a long rope and just stand in one place and pull the weighted sled back to you. As cool as this looks, most people don’t have a long rope or the room to perform this so they have to do it another way.
With the second version, you have a shorter rope or TRX strap. You plant your feet and pull the sled to you in a rowing motion. You then step back and row again and repeat.
Whichever version you choose, this exercise will fry your back muscles, biceps and grip.
This exercise is great for building acceleration as we mentioned earlier. You should not use as heavy of a load with this one though if you are working on your acceleration, using about 10-20% of your body weight is optimal.
Some sleds out there can actually be converted to do wheelbarrow training, the poles move down into slots to be wheelbarrow handles and you use a bumper plate as the wheel. If you have ever tried moving a really heavy wheelbarrow you know how much it can kick your ass. This is actually a pretty cool concept and a nice change of pace that delivers a killer workout.
I personally own the Rogue Echo Dog sled which is awesome, but as I am writing this, part of me is thinking it would have been cool to go with a sled that converted to a wheelbarrow. At the time I figured it was a feature I would rarely if ever use but now that I have a sled I realize I definitely would use it for wheelbarrow workouts. Hindsight is always 20/20 I guess.
Wheelbarrow sleds aren’t all that common, the one pictured above is from getrxd.com. It’s actually priced pretty reasonably too if you are interested.
Sled Pull Back
This is simply grabbing the sled by the handles and going backwards with it. I actually did this as part of my sled workout last night and it REALLY hits the quads. Just make sure to watch out so you don’t run over your toes with the sled. Also note that this is not a rowing exercise, this is simply dragging the sled backward.
There are also rope attachments you can use to do this but they cost extra of course.
Killer Weighted Sled Workouts
It’s common for someone to buy a sled then wonder exactly what to do to train with it, other than just randomly push it around. Here are some killer workouts that will leave you on the floor.
#1 Sled Push and Pull Back
This is one from our article on workout finishers.
You will want to use a light to moderate load on the sled for this one. Simply push the sled as fast as possible for 20 yards, then pull it back by dragging it while walking backwards as we described earlier
. Make sure to keep good posture throughout. Repeat this back and forth as many times as you can for five minutes. Add one minute each week of training until you reach 10 minutes. At that time, add more weight and repeat the cycle. Enjoy!
#2 Sled Suicides
You probably remember doing suicides in gym class or any sports you may have played growing up. If you remember them the same way I do they totally sucked.
Now at a sled to it and you have a really brutal workout,
Here’s how it goes:
Perform 5 rounds
- From a starting point push the sled 5 yards, then push it back 5 yards
- Now push it out 10 yards, then push it back 10 yards
- Now push it 20 yards then push it back 20 yards
Rest 2 minutes between rounds
Note: It helps if you have a sled with poles on both ends, like below for this workout. Otherwise, you will be spending half of the workout just turning the sled around.
#3 Long-distance Sledding
- Push the sled 400 yards
- Rest 5 minutes
- Pull the sled 400 yards
#4 Death By Sled Push
I would use a medium weight on this one but you can tinker with going heavier or lighter until you find that sweet spot.
This one will be easy for the first few minutes but it gets difficult quickly after that.
- Minute 1: 10-yard sled push (your rest is the remaining time in the minute after the sled push is over)
- Minute 2: 20-yard sled push
- Minute 3: 30-yard sled push
- Minute 4: 40-yard sled push
- Minute 5: 50-yard sled push
- Continue until you cannot meet the yards required for that minute
If you can make it to the 10-minute mark you are in really good shape.
#5 10 Yard Max Sled Push
Start with a medium to heavy weight, push the sled 10 yards. Keep adding weight until you can no longer push the sled for 10 yards.
*you can also do this dragging the sled
#6 100-yard Sled Push and 100 Burpees
Load the sled with a moderate to heavy weight for this workout.
- Push the sled 10 yards
- Perform 10 burpees
Repeat until you have pushed the sled 100 yards and done 100 burpees. The more weight you put on the sled the harder it will be.
#7 Sled Rows
Use a moderate weight for this one. You will also need a rope or TRX type attachment
Plant your feet and pull the sled toward you using your arms in a rowing motion, step back to make the rope tight and repeat.
Continue doing this for twenty yards.
Perform 4-5 sets
#8 Icon 6
This workout was created by CrossFit legend Chris Spealler and it is brutal.
EMOM for 20 Minutes (Every Minute On the Minute)
- Push the sled 100 feet Men use 90 lbs, women use 50 lbs
- Do burpees for the time remaining in the minute
- Repeat for 20 minutes
Total # of burpees completed is your score
#9 The Speed Builder
This workout is NOT a killer, it is meant to build speed and will be using shorter sprints with lighter weight and longer rest periods.
Load the sled up with 10-20% of your body weight
- Perform 5 sprints of 20 yards pulling the weighted sled
- Rest 1-4 minutes between sprints
Be sure to use proper mechanics when sprinting with a sled.
If you would like more info on sled sprint training this article by speed coach Jim Kielbaso should help.
#10 Heavy Pushes
Load the sled up with 150-200% depending on how you feel that day.
Push the sled for 30 yards
Perform 5 sets
Rest 60-90 seconds between sets
#11 Wheelbarrow workout
We mentioned earlier how some of these sleds can be converted to give you a wheelbarrow workout using a bumper plate as the front wheel, if you are lucky enough to have one of those this workout is for you. I suppose you could also do it if you have a single wheel wheelbarrow as well.
Load the wheelbarrow up with 100-150% of your own bodyweight.
Walk the wheelbarrow as far as you possibly can until you have to put it down.
Rest 2 minutes
Now walk it back to the start taking as few breaks as possible.
#12 Increasing Load
- Start with an empty sled
- Push the sled 20 yards
- add 45 lbs and push the sled 20 yards
- add 45 lbs and push the sled 20 yards
- Continue until you can no longer push the sled 20 yards
Females may want to go with 25 lb increases instead of 45 lbs.
#13 Sled Push/Farmer’s Walk Combo
This one combines two of the toughest forms of metabolic conditioning to make a truly brutal workout
Use a lighter weight on the sled that you can sprint with for 20-30 seconds.
You should have the weight for the farmers carry ready at the approximate spot you will finish your first sled push
- Push the sled at high speed for 30-60 yards
- Grab your weights and do the farmer’s walk back to where you started the sled push and set the weights down
- Your rest is the time it takes you to walk back to the sled
- Push the sled back to where the weights are
- Repeat for 4-6 rounds
Let’s Wrap it Up
Sled training isn’t just great for athletes looking to increase acceleration and power. They are also great for bodybuilding and all fitness types looking to burn fat, build muscle and get in some metabolic conditioning. If you haven’t tried sled training you should give it a shot, it’s a great change of pace that can deliver some killer workouts.
Ryan is a former college wrestler and lifelong fitness fanatic. He has run half marathons, done mud runs, placed in body transformation contests, coached wrestling and now coaches girls soccer. Not to mention he has also tried literally hundreds of supplements over the years and has a vast and thorough supplement knowledge. He has written for Muscle & Strength, Testosterone Junkie, The Sport Review and other publications. He is also the editor in chief of this website. Feel free connect with him on his LinkedIn page below.