The Wingate test is the gold standard for measuring power. If you’ve ever been subjected to this torture test, you know it’s an absolutely miserable 30 seconds.
But there are problems with the Wingate test. If you don’t know how to properly cycle (yes, pedaling correctly is more complicated than most people think), it can be difficult to get a true measure of your peak power or the amount of work you can do over time. Also, you need expensive lab equipment to perform the test.
For these reasons, the Wingate test isn’t practical for the vast majority of athletes. And they have few options for measuring their power and testing their progress. There’s simply no equivalent to a one-rep max for power, which is a problem considering that an athlete’s power output and ability to maintain their power are two of the the most important athletic attributes.
That’s why Garrett Nelson, co-founder of Victory Athletics (Murrieta, California), sought to develop a power test that any athlete can perform. His solution: the Sled Push Test, which he chose for a few reasons.
First, most training facilities have some type of Prowler or push sled, and they are available for a fraction of the cost of the high-tech stationary bikes required for a Wingate test.
Second, Nelson believes it’s a more appropriate test for strength and power athletes who have more experience lifting weights than riding a bike.
Finally, it’s incredibly easy to perform as long as you follow a few key guidelines:
Load the sled so the total weight is equivalent to 50 percent of your Back Squat one-rep max. Most sleds weigh about 75 pounds, but it’s a good idea to check with the manufacturer or even weigh the sled if possible.
Create a 25-yard course on field turf or even a parking lot. Rougher pavement is best because it actually provides less friction, making it easier to push the sled. The surface should be flat and consistent. Mark the start and finish lines with cones or tape, and position the sled so the front of it is on the starting line.
Use proper Sled Push form by keeping your core tight, placing your hands on the poles 1.5 inches from the top and positioning your body at a 45-degree angle in a straight line. Drive backwards into the ground with your legs by fulling extending your hips and knees.
To start the test, push the sled as quickly as possible for the full 25 yards. Rest for 30 seconds and have a partner turn the sled around to face the course. Repeat for a total of 10 Sled Pushes. Have a partner time and keep track of each sprint—the timer begins when the front of the sled crosses the starting line and ends when it crosses the finish line.
Adjust the weight if needed. Your first sled push should take about 4 seconds. If you move too quickly or too slowly, add or subtract weight from the sled. The exact amount of weight depends on the sled and the degree of friction from the surface.
Consistency is absolutely critical. When retesting, you must use the exact same setup and conditions or the test will not work.
Does performing 10 pushes sound difficult? That’s the purpose. The Sled Push Test is designed to push your body to the absolute limit so you can accurately measure your ability to produce power.
As you progress through the test, your push times will gradually increase. Some athletes can maintain push times of 4 to 6 seconds throughout the test. Others become so fatigued that it becomes next to impossible to push the sled for 25 yards.
“Some guys will crap out if they’re not in good shape around five or six sets, and you’ll start seeing Sled Pushes that are around 30 seconds instead of 6 seconds,” he says. “You will get maybe six reps and you won’t be able to feel your legs.”
“If you can’t finish, that’s an indicator you may not have the anaerobic capacity needed for your sport and is something you might want to improve on a regular basis to become more powerful,” he adds.
If you have difficulty with the test, Nelson recommends taking a two-pronged approach. Perform Sprints and Sled Pushes in a fashion similar to the test, resting three to five times as long as it takes you to complete a set. Second, build an aerobic endurance base to help you recover faster between pushes, which you can do with HIIT, the Maffetone Method, mobility circuits and many other aerobic conditioning strategies.
Retest a month later to see if your numbers improve. A better score means you will be able to produce more power for longer durations in your sport. That equates to faster and longer sprints and other improvements in repeatable explosive skills.
This test also has some limitations. It’s not ideal for novice athletes. They need to be able to handle a one-rep max Squat test. Also, consistency is absolutely essential. But for the everyday athlete, it’s a great way to actually see yourself becoming more powerful.
RELATED: Condition Your Body With Tempo Runs