Many Strength and Conditioning professionals include sled training into their programming these days, and for good reason! The sled, or "prowler", is an amazingly simple tool that has the ability to produce some truly amazing results. One of the great things about the sled is that it allows us to work on different qualities of training with just one tool. By varying the weight, direction, and intensity of the sled exercise, we can manipulate the environment to work on specific qualities thus improving our athlete's performance. As with everything we do here at Bullet Performance Training, sled training is designed to maximize performance for all our athletes.
There are a number of different types of training sleds on the market. They range from taller, bigger sleds that you stack a lot of weight plates on (these are the ones we use here at BPT), to smaller, lower to the ground sleds that you stack weights on (but do not permit as much weight) to simple mats that lay on the ground that you can place weights on and drag behind you. There are also fancy magnetic-resistance sleds with wheels that can be used on many different terrains. These are amazing tools but also come with a very high price tag. We find the larger sleds we use here at BPT help place our athletes in an optimal position to perform variations such as "marching" or "sprinting". Having the hands at a correct height on the sled's poles ensures the back and hips can stay in a good position to create proper force production. Our sleds also have wider poles and one side and slightly narrower poles on the opposite side to fit different body types pushing the sled. We love the fact we can really load these sleds up with plates for our strong guys and gals to really push some major weight across the turf.
We use heavy sled marches to work on the qualities of strength and acceleration. If an athlete is struggling with the acceleration portion of their sprint then a heavy sled march can be a great exercise to implement. Increased weight on the sled forces muscle recruitment and helps the athlete work on force production into the ground. Greater force production means a more explosive athlete and quicker acceleration times for that athlete (There are many factors that go into faster acceleration times, not just being explosive). It can also mean greater jump height and jump distance. All of these are extremely important components of being a well-rounded, stand-out athlete.
We use light sled sprints to work on the qualities of power, speed, and acceleration. By having less weight on the sled, we greatly reduce ground-contact time and accelerate the speed at which hip flexion and extension are taking place. If we have an athlete who is struggling with their top-end speed, we can utilize light sled sprints to gain those qualities of speed and power. As with all things training, the intent is everything. If the athlete is not going all out during the sled sprints, they will not be gaining the qualities we are shooting for. Even though we aim to be more explosive during our sprints, we do not want to sacrifice form. Maintaining a neutral spine, adequate front-side hip flexion, ankle dorsiflexion, and full back-side hip extension are all things we look for when performing sled sprints.
We often times utilize medium-weight sled work to promote muscular endurance in our athletes. This involves marching and/or performing slower-paced runs with the sled for times and/or distance with various rest periods. Movement with the sled isn't just limited to the sagittal plane. We also have athletes execute backward and lateral sled drags to work on all planes of movement.