Keep It Simple - Sleds 101

by Westside Barbell on March 25, 2020

The Basic Sled Pull

(Posterior Chain & General Conditioning)  

To perform the basic sled pull the athlete should have their weight belt centered over the navel with slightly more space between the belt and the body than what he or she would traditionally have when squatting. The belt should be secure, but not overly tight, this will allow for safe and comfortable movement in the torso.

With the straps centered in the small of the back and the feet slightly wider than the athlete would traditionally walk around with the pull is initiated by lifting the foot and opposite arm.

The knee can be lifted to a preferred height if needed, but the heel to toe angle (roughly 30-35 degrees) providing the potential for the heel strike is far more important. Upon returning the foot to the ground the heel should strike prior to the toes and the athlete should then “pull-through: with the entirety of their foot while taking their next step with the opposite foot.

From step to step, the movement should be smooth and rhythmic, not overly labored in which the sled stops all forward movement. If the sled is stopping completely between steps the athlete may need to reduce the pulled weight to provide a smoother pace. Alternating steps are then completed with the arms pumping to maintain a steady cadence.

If the arms and heel strike are in sync and performed properly the user will notice a side to side shift of their slide while it is simultaneously being pulled forward. This is our indicator that the pull is properly recruiting the hip flexors into the motion and, once the form is perfected will be about the only thing a coach will need to look for to ensure their athletes are getting the most out of their sled training, This side to side shift will be present in both heavy and light pulls.

The Reverse Sled Pull

(Focus: Quadriceps)

To begin ensure that the sled straps are centered on the front of the weight belt and that there is an appropriate amount of space between the belt and the body. Once the athlete is set stand with the feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider and then initiate by taking a step to the rear. The heel will still come in contact to the ground first, but the “strike” will not be as intense as it would be in the traditional sled pull.

Ensure that the arms move naturally so that the stride continues to “fire” the hip flexors. If you are uncertain as to whether or not the hips are being utilized watch the sled.

While in motion the sled should also be waving from side to side. This side to side shift is our indicator that the hips are indeed working during the motion.

The Bent Over Sled Pull

(Focus: Glutes)

For the bent over sled pull there are a few high points we are looking for. The first being an unnaturally wide width between the feet. This will allow for maximal hip and glute recruitment, as well as provide space at the groin for the arms to fit through so a good position can be maintained.

The goal is to walk forward with the head in line with the hips or even slightly below. This bent over position is the difference between targeting the glutes and simply “using them.” As the athlete moves forward ensure that the heel strike is still maintained with each step. This is a very uncomfortable variation for many people, because of this many folks will begin to “race: through the movement to complete by relying on momentum and inertia versus focusing on each step and keeping the effort concentrated where it is supposed to be,

If you find that the puller is standing upright, or unable to stay in position for the duration of the recommended pull lighten the load. They may also need some independent lower back work if the claim of back pain is made. We have found that moderate and light weight longer pulls work best for this set up.

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