If you want a new, slightly unconventional way to boost your speed, strength and fitness, weighted sled training could be for you. While it's not something most people are familiar with, sled sprints increases acceleration, reinforce correct running technique and overload your hamstrings, glutes and calves, claims strength coach Joe DeFranco, owner of DeFranco's Training in New Jersey. When adding weighted sled work into your routine, you need to program it correctly to get the maximum benefits.
What is Weighted Sled Training?
A weighted sled is a flat metal plate with a central pole that rises up vertically. The diameter of this pole is slightly smaller than the diameter of the hole on an Olympic weight plate, which allows you to add weights to the sled. At the front of the sled is a length or material that attaches to a harness that can be secured around your waist or torso. Once attached to the sled you can pull it along while you sprint, which adds resistance to your usual running drills.
Just like wearing a weighted vest for pushups makes them harder or holding weights while doing squats increases the difficulty, adding weights to your sprint training makes it more of a challenge. You have to work a lot harder to get moving and maintain this effort to keep up your speed. You also need to keep a low body position, otherwise the sled will stop moving. This reinforces an advantageous sprint position, which carries over to your performance on the sports field and boosts your power output, according to sports conditioning website Peak Performance Online. Not only that, but weighted sled sprints increase the difficulty of your usual sprint training, which can lead to greater calorie burn and faster fat loss.
It's often recommended that you don't add more than 10 percent of your body weight to the sled and don't let your speed drop below 10 percent of your regular sprinting speed. However, this isn't necessary and can actually limit progress, claims Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Massachusetts. You want your sprints to be quick, so add as much as you need while maintaining a quick pace. Perform sled sprints once a week. After a thorough cardiovascular and muscular warm up, sprint with the sled for 50 yards. Rest 90 seconds then sprint again. Do eight sprints in total, aiming to maintain your speed. Each week add one extra sprint, or increase the weight on the sled slightly.
If you don't have access to a weighted sled, you can still perform resisted sprints. A weight vest is a slightly cheaper, more portable alternative that you can wear to sprint in or even run hills. You can also try a pushing sled or prowler. This is a triangular metal frame with a pole sticking up from each corner. Like a sled it's designed to glide across any flat surface and you can add weight to it, but instead of pulling, you push it. Keep your hips low and drive with your glutes and hamstrings. Alternatively, you can improvise your own prowler by placing weight plates on top of a gym mat and pushing it across a smooth wooden floor.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.