Sled work is incredible for developing strong muscles, blasting fat, and creating a metabolic engine that won't quit. The issue a lot of people have with sled work though is that it can become monotonous.
Even the most dedicated among us might throw in the towel if an exercise gets boring. If you're fortunate enough to have a sled at your gym, here are a few new exercises to try.
1 – Banded Sled Side Steps
These are great for developing the adductors and abductors (inner and outer thigh muscles). Using two bands tied to the end of the sled allows for minor oscillations to occur which increases the demand for stability. This forces all your lower-body stabilizers to kick in to make your steps smooth and rhythmic. This exercise also gets you out of the overemphasized sagittal plane.
How to Do It
- Maintain a wide base of support, low center of gravity, and a flat back while stepping.
- Don't cheat by getting too much body lean in the direction you're going.
- Think "push" with the leg closest to the sled and "pull" with the leg further away from the sled.
- Point your toes forward, but maintain a knees-out position. One of the goals here is to minimize any knee caving or valgus collapse.
- Move with force and intention, but don't shuffle too quickly since it'll change this exercise from a muscle-building move into a conditioning exercise.
2 – Banded Sled Backpedal
This hammers the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Using a band increases the demand. It's far more difficult to pull with a band around the hips than it is holding onto straps and pulling backward.
Just like with the side steps, using multiple bands creates small movements in the sled, so you have to continuously adjust. This makes it a great stabilization and balance exercise.
How to Do It
- Hinge at the hips so your butt goes back and your shoulders move forward. This position will allow you to load your glutes better.
- Focus on pushing through your toes first and your heel second so you walk "toe to heel."
- For better engagement of the hamstrings, slowly extend your knee as you drive through the heel. You should feel your hamstrings lengthen as your knee extends.
- Move smoothly and methodically so you can feel the burn creep up on your glutes and hams.
- Don't lean backward. That cheats the movement, allowing the weight of your body to do most of the work. It also puts most of the work in your quads, not allowing you to develop the glutes and hamstrings as intended.
3 – Banded Overhead Sled March
This is an athletic way to develop shoulder and core stability. Focus on maintaining a relatively upright torso and driving your knuckles up towards the ceiling. The demand for core and shoulder stability increases with a more upright body angle.
How to Do It
- March forward while maintaining an upright torso with your arms reached overhead.
- Focus on punching upward so that your shoulders stay tight throughout your set.
- Continuously brace your core so you don't overarch your back and experience pain.
- When marching, forcefully drive your foot into the ground. This will enhance your ability to produce force and will give an added stability challenge to your shoulders.
- Do NOT excessively lean forward. Doing this changes the stability demand placed upon your shoulders and core.
Less is more with this movement. Instead of loading the sled with a ton of weight, focus on keeping a good upright body angle.
4 – Single-Arm Sled Drag
This is an anti-rotational exercise for the core and an upper-back strengthener that'll help out your shoulder health. Move slowly while keeping both shoulders squared up to the sled. This trains you to create stiffness through your core, which will transfer to all your other lifts and develop total-body athleticism.
How to Do It
- Hinge at the hips while maintaining a strong, flat back.
- Lock your shoulder blade into place by squeezing it down and back. You should feel your lats "turn on" which will help keep your arm pinned to your side.
- Don't allow rotation to occur through your torso while you backpedal.
- Backpedal using smooth and steady steps to keep constant tension on your upper-back musculature.