The Ultimate Football Sled Conditioning Workout

STACK Expert Erick Avila explains why Sled Pushes are a better exercise for football conditioning than traditional sprints or gassers.

Football players across the nation are about to start two-a-days to get in shape for the season. One of the most popular methods for conditioning is running laps or 50-yard gassers. Tiring, yes. But they might actually make you slower and more susceptible to injury.

Instead, I recommend athletes try this Sled Push workout for conditioning. Sled Pushes can be a more efficient use of time than spending an afternoon running slow-paced gassers, and they can improve specific football skills and attributes such as acceleration, conditioning, and strength—while also lowering the risk of injury.

Acceleration

Sleds are great for developing acceleration, which is one of the most beneficial attributes for a football player. Studies have shown both light and heavy Sled Pushes improve acceleration in the 5- to 20-meter range. Most of the players on a football field run less than 20 yards on most plays, so this directly benefits them. And for skill positions like receivers, improved acceleration means they're able to reach their max speeds quicker than other players, which in turn improves their overall speed.

Conditioning

Sleds can develop improved conditioning. By varying the load, distance and rest intervals, you can develop all your energy systems. To develop the aerobic system, use lighter loads and run for longer distances. To develop the anaerobic system, use a moderate weight and move as explosively as possible for a short distances.

Strength

Sleds can be excellent tools for developing strength, both explosive and maximal. As with other resistance exercises, you can develop strength with gradual progressive overload by adding weight to the sled. A major benefit for football players is that the muscle groups used for pushing a heavy sled are the same ones used for delivering powerful blocks and tackles, making this a sport-specific type of strength.

Low Injury Risk

When using properly loaded sleds (excessively heavy loads can alter biomechanics), you reinforce proper running mechanics, which makes for safer workouts and, over the long term, more efficient running habits that leave athletes less susceptible to injuries. In addition, there is no eccentric loading on Sled Pushes, which means the body suffers less wear and tear. This makes them ideal for football players with two-a-day practice schedules so that they can be fully recovered before their next workout.

Sled Push Workout 

The workout is simple. Sprint for 20 yards, resting for 1 to 3 minutes between sets. Repeat for a total of five sprints.

But to put this into practice, you need  to load the sled properly for your specific goal.

  • Conditioning: 10% loads are sufficient as they allow athletes to move fast, covering good amounts of distance without compromising their technique. For a 210-pound athlete this would be a load of 21 pounds.
  • Power/Acceleration: load with 30% of your body weight. A 183-pound athlete would use around 55 pounds.
  • Strength: Load with 100% of your body weight or more. The initial load depends heavily on the individual athlete's starting strength.

Perform this workout 2 to 3 times a week for best results.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: FOOTBALL | EXPLOSIVE TRAINING | WORKOUTS | POWER | ENERGY | OVERLOAD | GET IN SHAPE | ENERGY SYSTEMS | MAXIMUM STRENGTH | SPRINTING | SLED TRAINING