Eyes wide with a sense of impending doom, the stuttering statements often go something like this: “Wha-wha-what are we going to do with that?”
Or sometimes it’s a simple direct plea: “Put that thing away.”
These are common reactions from my clients when the sled is brought out.
Most of them are fearing I’ll make them push the sled down and back and down and back. While I certainly do so other times, the sled is a wonderful tool of torture that can be used to challenge more than your legs. What I love about the sled is that even the moves that are more focused on the upper body still often require significant contribution from the legs and core.
If you’re ready for a grueling workout that gets serious results, check out these 10 sled exercises that challenge your entire body.
1. Sled Push
It only feels right to begin with the classic. When people see a sled, this is probably the exercise they immediately think of. The sled push can be done with light weight at fast speeds, with heavy weight at slow speeds, or anywhere in between. The Sled Push can be made more challenging by adding distance or by doing drop sets (taking a short break only to remove some weight from the sled and then immediately resume the pushing).
2. Sled Leg Extension
The Sled Leg Extension is a move I picked up years ago. Strap two thick bands onto the handles of the sled so you can firmly lean your lower back into it in a squat position. Next, mimic the traditional leg extension exercise by extending one leg at a time, propelling yourself (and the sled) backwards.
3. Sled Back Pedal
This is another common sled exercise. Ideally, you’ll have a suspension trainer attachment you can utilize for this. Attach the handles to the sled, face the sled, grab the handles, and start pulling. Really sit back as you pull as try to maintain a squatted position throughout the exercise.
4. TRX Sled Chest Press
The sled can be a great tool for training the upper body, as well. For the Sled Chest Press, attach the handles of a suspension trainer to the sled. Maintain an athletic position as you push forward. This can be done with lighter weight as explosively as possible, or with heavy weight to get a great chest pump.
5. Sled Press to Push-Up
There are several variations to the Sled Chest Press to Push-Up. The first (and easiest) variation is to remove the Push-Up completely. The second includes the Push-Up and will truly tax the chest. For each press of the sled, do one Push-Up. To make this even more challenging, try a Push-Up ladder (e.g., 1 Push to 1 Push-Up, 1 Push to 2 Push-Ups, 1 Push to 3 Push-Ups, etc.
6. Sled Overhead Press
This shoulder exercise burns! This one is similar to the Sled Chest Press, but you want to angle the suspension trainer handles upwards, pushing them more toward the ceiling. If you struggle to get fatiguing direct shoulder work, this is going to be a great exercise for you.
7. Sled Reverse Fly
You will likely need to use much lighter weight for the Sled Reverse Fly compared to the aforementioned exercises. Start very light and go from there!
Hook up the suspension trainer to the sled. With an athletic position and arms out straight in front of you, complete a reverse fly by pulling your arms backward and pinching your shoulder blades together.
8. Sled Row
This is a great exercise to target the lats. Maintain a quarter squat position and row the suspension trainer in just like how you would do on a seated cable row machine. This exercise can also be completed unilaterally (with one arm) to integrate anti-rotation core strength. If done unilaterally, keep your core engaged so your torso does not rotate as you pull.
9. Sled Cross-Body Chop
The Sled Cross-Body Chop is a great exercise for rotational athletes as well as for anyone who wants to add some variety into their core training routine. To do this exercise, just imagine the same movement as swinging a baseball bat. Actively focus on engaging the core muscles and using them to create rotation along with the hips.
10. Sled Curl
We’ll end the sled training routine with a little gun show. Use the suspension trainer handles and grab said handles, facing the sled. As you curl the sled toward you, don’t let your elbows drop down. Keep them parallel with the ground. Curl, take a step back, then repeat.
Depending on load and speed, the sled can be a great training tool for a wide variety of goals. It can be used for conditioning, fat loss, strength training, building muscle, and athletic performance enhancement. Mix and match these movements to create a killer sled workout, or add a couple into your next workout for a challenge that’s truly worth your time.
Photo Credit: Jason_V/iStock