The One Training Hack That Increases Strength, Power and Stamina! (Cue Eye Roll)
Posted on July 23 2019
Get built like an ox.
Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame is well known for integrating sled work into his athletes training programs, viewing it as an incredible source for building and maintaining General Physical Preparedness (GPP) while increasing strength and stamina. In his book Special Strength Development for All Sports, specifically while discussing fight sports, he notes that “to achieve abnormal results, you’ve got to be abnormal.” He states that a fighter must work their stabilizers and get strong at odd angles, and therefore “lift rocks or sandbags and do lots of towing.” Meanwhile, walk into any gym on base and most of you are doing curls in the squat rack (Yes I know I use that example all the time and yes it bothers me. Some of you a**holes are even wearing gloves).
While most people think of a sled and imagine a slow walk with it dragging behind you, the sled is actually incredibly versatile providing a full body-workout and allowing you to hit every exercise and muscle group saving you thousands of dollars in gym equipment. Yet I would argue that the sled is even better because as opposed to a lot of machines in the gym, with the sled you’re making every movement a compound movement, burning more fat and building greater strength across your entire system, from your toes to your traps.
Additionally, it will develop more power than a barbell. How? With a barbell, in the development of power, you can only push for the first part of the lift (how far will depend on the weight on the bar). Then you essentially slow or stop pushing and ride it to the top so that the barbell doesn’t fly out of your hands or hyperextend your elbows or pop your shoulders out of place. With the sled and a strap, you can push or pull all the way through and the sled will simply keep sliding, riding out its own energy without you blowing out your shoulders.
With that, here are a few of the best movements you can perform with a sled:
- Power Walk: Starting with the most basic, the power walk is equivalent to the non-motorized treadmill, you know, the one that costs $5k. Attach the weighted sled to a waist belt and take long strides, striking your heel to the ground first. Heavy sleds can be done for posterior strength, medium-weight for strength and endurance, and lighter for restoration or general conditioning. Your legs will hate you.
- Power Pull: Walking while dragging the sled really hits your hamstrings so to build balance, we’re always going to recommend turning backwards and pulling. Same as with the walking but facing backwards moving toes to heel, drag the sled in the same manner. Your quads will scream.
*Note: For the lower body, work on different angles. So instead of always using a belt around the waist, attach the straps to your ankles or throw the handles over your shoulders and get lower to pull the sled, similar to a truck pull.
- Pull Through: Much like the kettlebell swing, straddle the weight strap with your hands grasping the handles between your legs. Pull all the way through using your legs, hips and lower back.
- Row: Facing the sled, pull the handles and sled towards you, squeezing your back. Again, work various angles, pulling low into your stomach, mid-chest, shoulders or even face-pulls. You’ll likely need to adjust the weight on the sled depending on your hand positioning (Face-pulls will likely need to be lighter than a chest row).
- One Arm Pulls / Lawn-Mower Pull: This is separate from the above because with just the use of one arm, you are able to twist your upper body, feet planted, working your obliques and building stability.
- Throw: Another great oblique and full-body movement, start by facing the sled, row to one side, twist, step forward and throw up and over your shoulder. Switch sides with each repetition.
- Chest Press: With the sled behind you, lean into the handles and press. Again, work varying angles to focus on your chest or more shoulders.
- Fly’s: Similar to the above but with your hands out wider, pull the sled by keeping your arms partially extended and bringing your hands together.
- Overhead Tricep Extensions: With your back to the sled, pull the handles over your head extending your arms, pulling the sled forward.
- Tricep Kickbacks: Facing the sled while leaning forward, elbows back and hands down, pull the sled by extending your arms back behind you.
- Curls: As long as there’s no squat rack around, it’s ok to do curls here. Face the sled and curl the sled into you.
When programming sled movements, we really need to emphasize a push/pull mentality. So, if you’re doing tricep extensions, then also do the curls. With the sled, you’re only utilizing the concentric part of the lift, a significant issue with working purely on power movements. Here’s what I mean: With a bench press, you are mainly focused on the chest and the triceps to push the bar away from you. But your back and your biceps become engaged on the way back down to prevent it from falling uncontrollably and smashing you in the face. With a sled movement, that is unnecessary and only your chest and triceps do the work. A well balanced, injury free athlete then must work antagonist muscle groups.
Cue sales pitch: Yes we offer sleds for purchase and it would be great if you purchased one from us. One of them even transforms from a sled into a pack. Ours are through Spud Inc and we chose them specifically because you can roll them up and stuff them in a pack to take with you wherever you go. And if the Spud Inc sleds are good enough and durable enough for the U.S. Army with their enormous budget, well then, they must be good sleds. But whether you buy from Sheepdog Strong or elsewhere, I hope you consider integrating sled work into your program. The benefits are undeniable in building strength, power and stamina in the Tactical Athlete.