Sled and prowler training offers a lot more benefits than you might think.
Not only can it help you achieve a greater top speed, but it can also build dynamic grip strength, a stronger core, a more powerful lower body, stronger pushing and pulling muscles, and better coordination.
Yet these days, we rarely see young athletes utilize sled training to help maximize their performance and develop athletic attributes. This is a missed opportunity!
Below are some guidelines/benefits that can help young athletes and their coaches maximize the use of a sled and/or prowler and take their training to the next level.
1. Social media will have you believe pushing and dragging massive amounts of weight is the key to successful sled use. It is not. The sled should usually be loaded with less than or equal to the young athlete’s body weight (the exact amount depends on their maturation level). If an athlete is performing a drill like Sled-Resisted Sprints to work on speed, you want to use a weight that results in their sprint speed being roughly 10% slower than it would if they were running without resistance. So if they typically cover 20 yards in 3 seconds, their optimal sled weight would be a load that sees them cover that same distance in about 3.3 seconds. For many people, this load will be about equal to 10% of their body weight.
2. Sled training allows kids to do more than just Push-Ups, Burpees and Jumps. While these exercises are extremely common in most competitive youth athletic programs, sled training helps kids get comfortable with moving an external load.
3. Sled training that is well-structured will enhance a kid’s overall fitness level, strength development, coordination, muscular development and toughness.
4. The vast majority of sled training contains no eccentric portion with the movement. The eccentric portion, or negative, during weight lifting is when you lower the weight. Think of lowering down into a Squat, or bringing the bar down to your chest during a Bench Press. The eccentric portion of a movement is what causes the majority of muscle damage and soreness, so by doing away with this, sled training allows you to recover more quickly and train more often.
5. Sled training limits isolation of one side of the body, encouraging better multi-directional and multi-planar movements.
6. The unilateral aspect of many sled training movements allows the athlete to control making dynamic improvements during the movement pattern.
7. Unlike what you experience on many weight machines, sled training heavily recruits stabilizing muscles, creating a stronger, more resilient body.
8. Sled training can also be a great way to enhance muscle balance and awareness.
9. Due to the variety of movements, sled training builds the type of core strength that fuels better athletic performance.
10. Sled training improves functions of the hip and helps stabilize the legs through dynamic movements/actions.
11. Sled training allows the athlete not only to train linearly, but also laterally. This maximizes pelvic stabilization, along with lateral hip and glute strength.
12. Great forms of single-leg and unilateral training.
13. Sled training helps athletes learn what it feels like to produce power, and what body positions produce power most efficiently.
14. Sled training develops bio-motor capabilities such as balance, stability, mobility, motor control, body alignment and posture, which are key factors to prevent injuries and improve performance respective to their training age.
15. Sled training allows young athletes to practice the same critical movements they’d encounter with Olympic weightlifting, such as triple extension, but in a much safer, easier-to-learn manner.
16. Thanks to the instant feedback of the sled moving either faster or more slowly, athletes are able to self-correct their own technique and biomechanics to enhance effectiveness and execution.
17. Teaches proper ankle, hip and knee extension.
18. Sled training allows the professional to implement new testing protocols, such as a timed Sled Push, Sled Pull, or Sled-Resisted Sprint for distance.
19. Sled training is extremely versatile, allowing the introduction of many new movements to the athlete.
20. Sled training can play a key role in the LTAD (long-term athletic development model).
21. Sled training can be a great way to enhance conditioning without subjecting an athlete to long-distance running and the pounding that can come along with it.
22. Sled training is full-body training.
23. Sled training improves the neurological processing through active and manipulative movements that can rewire the brain.
24. You can have kids race or perform relay-style events with the use of the sled. This promotes fun and competition to keep kids connected and engaged.
25. The variety of pulling variations through the use of straps introduces/encourages grip strength while targeting posterior muscle groups of the upper body.
26. Teaches toughness.
27. Teaches young athletes how to be explosive and move weight fast.
Training youth athletes doesn’t have to be difficult.
To keep both the coach and the athlete engaged, the training should be creative, diverse and effective. Lastly, the demand should and can match the intensity most face during their athletic competition.