If you’re looking for more versatility in your workout, as well as gaining muscle and endurance, then don’t overlook the power sled at the gym next time.
It can be a bit intimidating to see people pulling and pushing something loaded down with weights, but the payback for the effort is tremendous for overall conditioning. When done correctly, you can challenge a considerable number of muscles, grow stronger, build up your cardio endurance and burn calories.
Also called a prowler, the power sled is a double-sided platform and holds weights. You can pull or push it across turf, grass or concrete. The most common sled has two posts for handles and can be loaded in the middle with weight.
The rest is relatively simple: pull or push it from one point to the other.
BASIC SLED 101
For a basic sled push, face the sled and grab the handles. As you maintain tension in your back muscles, lean forward a little and drive the sled forward. Don’t round your back or overarch, just keep a neutral spine.
You will mainly be using your hamstrings, calves and glutes as you power through. Your abs, spinal extensors and obliques will also get a serious workout.
By keeping your upper back straight as you push, you can engage your upper back muscles. Start with your elbows bent, and after awhile you can do this with straight arms, which will engage your triceps and deltoid muscles. And don’t forget the abs and hip flexors.
You can also turn around and pull backward, engaging muscles in a different way.
BENEFITS OF THE SLED
If you have never pushed a weighted sled, get ready for a heart-pounding workout. It’s a lot tougher than it looks. Add weight to train for speed and power and add more weight for resistance and muscle strength.
You can chuck the weight and push at a faster pace to help boost your endurance and general fitness.
Training with the power sled can also be a lifesaver for those with back and leg problems. With leg exercises like squats, weight is loaded at the shoulders or above, which can place force on the spine and add stress to the knees. The sled may be a better option because the weight isn’t above you and adding pressure.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association suggests that to push a heavy object (moving furniture or pushing a stroller uphill, for instance) you need static strength in your core muscles and the proper hip angles to prevent lower-back injuries. Training your core muscles is exactly what you will be doing when training with the power sled.
Best of all, the power sled is adaptable to all fitness levels.
If you are just starting out or returning from an injury, leave off the weight and just push. As you grow stronger, add weight in small increments. For newbie’s to the sled, start in a more upright position with your hands higher. For more advanced, use a low-grip position.
Start slow with very little to no weight, use a basic running stance when pushing. Stay on a flat surface and take rests between sets, and if you feel any pain, stop and consult a personal trainer to make sure you are performing correctly.
The power sled is a versatile, full-body exercise that should be a part of your routine if it isn’t already.