Drag a Sled, a Prowler, or a Tire
Weight sleds used to be something you’d only find at private gyms and team training facilities, but now many commercial gyms and CrossFit boxes feature a turf area with sleds or Prowlers. So let’s learn some new, effective ways to use them.
Most are already familiar with the conventional sled training exercises like pushing the sled, pulling it forwards or backwards, rowing it as you walk backwards, etc. The conventional sled moves are great, but there are other ways to use the weight sled. And if you don’t have access to a sled, you can always drag an old truck tire.
1 – Push-Drag with Straps
Yes, you’re dragging the sled behind you, but you’re also pushing against the suspension trainer straps or ropes. Hence the name “push-drags.” The fact that you’re holding on to two unstable handles forces the upper body and core muscles to work harder than they would with the stable, upright pole handles of the Prowler-style sled.
2 – Single-Leg Pushes and Pulls
Single-leg sled pushes and pulls involve emphasizing one leg to move the sled on each step, which is especially good if you’re trying to focus on a weaker side. An easy way to implement these single-leg sled push and pull variations is to simply perform half the distance or duration with one leg and do the second half with the other leg.
3 – Ab Strap Drag
Using the abs straps when dragging the sled forwards or pulling it backwards is especially great while dealing with that nasty hand, wrist, or elbow injury that prevents you from holding anything. Sure, you can also use a shoulder harness to do that, but the ab straps also integrate upper-body pushing (when dragging while facing forward) and pulling musculature (when dragging it while walking backwards).
4 – Straight-Leg Walk
Most sled dragging exercises really fatigue the quads, but this version is designed to focus on the hamstrings. You’ll need a waist harness to perform this one.
As the name implies, you walk while keeping your legs straight. Paw your feet into the ground as you take each step. Try to keep your hips underneath your shoulders throughout – resist the waist harness from pulling your hips backwards.
5 – Crossover Steps
Crossover sled pulls provide a lateral force production component to your sled training tool box. You’ll need to use suspension training straps or ropes with handles.
If you’re moving to your left, the sled will be on your right side. You’ll pull the sled towards your left by continuing to cross your right leg over your left leg. Then, go the other direction by positioning the sled on your left side and dragging it towards your right side by continuing to step your left leg in front of your right.
You’ll want to use a weight that’s heavy enough to force you to lean away from the sled, which also forces you to drive with both legs.
Straight Arm vs. Bent-Arm Sled Pushes
There are variables when it comes to sled pushing, like the height of the handles, the height of the pusher, and whether you push the sled with straight arms or bent arms. Since the bent-arm style usually involves a slightly more upright torso position, it tends to create a shorter stride length than when you push on the handles with your arms extended.
Most people can push more weight on the Prowler-style sled with the bent-arm pushing style, so the weight-load you use can influence your arm position. When you’re pushing heavier loads for shorter distances or durations, you may want to choose the bent-arm position. Conversely, when you’re and pushing the sled for longer distances or durations with lighter loads, you may want to go with using the straight-arm position.
Here’s how to take advantage of this straight arm/bent arm distinction and get more out of your Prowler work:
- Straight-Arm, Then Bent-Arm With Same Weight: Take advantage of the fact that the bent-arm position is slightly easier because of the reduced range of (stride) motion. You can increase your work volume by extending a set of pushes by switching from the straight-arm version to the bent-arm version when fatigue starts to set in.
- Straight-Arm, Then Bent-Arm With Heavier Weight: Do 2-3 sets of straight-arm pushes. Then do a few more sets of bent-arm pushes using a heavier load for roughly the same distance or duration.
- Bent-Arm, Then Straight-Arm With Lighter Weight: This is the reverse of the previous strategy. Do a few sets of pushes with bent-arms, followed by a few more set with a straight-arm using a lighter weight. In this scenario, the bent-arm sets are done first using heavy loads for shorter distances or durations. You then do the straight-arm sets with lighter loads for longer distances or durations.