Do you want to increase your leg strength and overall fitness?
Let’s do some sled pushes. The sled push is an incredible exercise for your legs. It can be used to improve multiple physical activities. Simply put, the sled was designed to train an athlete to exert more forward force at a faster pace. Walk into any strength and conditioning facility and odds are you will see sleds. Why? Because they are incredible training tools for improving strength, power, and muscle endurance.
Sled Pushes for Strength
When performing a sled push with a heavy load, the legs and core muscles are exerting
massive amounts of force in order to move the sled. This exertion of force is training leg
strength. For a sports athlete this is training leg strength in a forward movement pattern with the
goal of improving running speed. This comes from your legs ability to now push more force into
the ground in order to move your body forward faster. For a strength athlete the benefits are
obvious when the legs can now produce more force against an external load, i.e. a barbell. But
how do you know if this has improved your leg strength? Track your load on the sled and set a
distance. If you can move a 200lb sled 15 yards, but one month ago it was a 150lb sled for 15
yards, then your legs have gotten stronger. A good load to start with for a beginner is 75 – 100%
of your bodyweight and perform 3-5 sets and rest as needed between sets. As you progress the
goal is to add weight to the sled.
Sled Pushes for Power
For improving power, the goal is to move the sled as fast as you can. By doing this you are
training the legs to exert more force in a shorter amount of time. This can be explained by
measuring the time it takes to move the sled a certain distance. For example, let’s use 15 yards
and 150 lbs on the sled. If you can move the sled that distance in 11 seconds, but a month ago
it was 15 seconds, then your legs are now exerting more power into the sled. You were able to
move the same load at a faster pace. When training power I would recommend starting with a
load of 50 – 70% of bodyweight and perform 3 – 8 sets. Rest as needed between sets, but keep
in mind the importance of moving fast with the sled.
Sled Pushes for Muscle Endurance
If you’ve done sled pushes before, you know how they feel. After about 5-10 seconds
your legs start to BURN and you’re only halfway there! Somehow you find the strength to finish
that rep and then your legs swell up like a balloon. That swelling is your blood rushing to the leg
muscles in order to remove the build up of lactic acid (which is what caused the burning
sensation). After a few sled push workouts you will start to notice your legs will not fatigue as
quickly and it will take more reps for that build up of lactic acid to occur. This means your leg
muscles have become more efficient at flushing out lactic acid and better at utilizing oxygen during muscle contractions. Now your legs can sustain more reps and push off fatigue for longer
amounts of time, hence the improvement in muscle endurance. A good place to start when
training muscle endurance is a light load of no weight on the sled to 40% of bodyweight on the
sled. I would pick a distance that takes you around 30 – 40 seconds to complete and repeat for
3+ sets. Keep your rest periods between 2 – 4 minutes.
How Often Should You Use the Sled?
Like most exercises, it depends on you as an individual and your goals. If you have a well
rounded fitness program I would do them a maximum of 1/week – 1/month to add variety. If you
are training for a specific event and/or sport then maybe 1 – 2/week becomes the minimum
depending on the athlete and the sport. For example, a football athlete or wrestler should use
the sled more than a cross country athlete or regular fitness enthusiast.
So Why Should You Do Sled Pushes?
Well if you’re like me and you want to be efficient with your time, then doing one exercise that
can improve strength, power, and muscle endurance sounds like a good idea. The benefits of
the sled push carry over to many other movements. To name a few: squats, lunges, deadlifts,
running/sprinting, jumping, cycling, rowing. In my opinion, when the legs are used to exert force
for any length of time, sled pushes can help.
If you have any questions about how to best use sled pushes for your goals please comment
below or shoot me an email.