Often when you think of Sled Workouts, you think of sprints. You think of burning legs and a cardio workout that leaves you panting.
Because the Sled is not only a great strength training tool but also a great cardio workout.
However, the Sled isn’t only a great tool to work your legs – it is a great way to get in a full-body workout. With the Sled you can work your legs, core, back and shoulders.
Sled Training is also a great way to create body composition changes, especially when you use it for short, high intensity intervals. And because the sled is an intense exercise that works your entire body, it is also a great way to get in a quick workout when you are short on time.
If you want a great full-body workout using the Sled, try the exercises below. And if you don’t have a sled, we’ve given you some great Sled Variations to try!
The most basic of Sled Exercises, the Sled Push is a killer full-body exercise that will elevate your heart rate and get you breathing hard. While it does really focus on your legs, the move will also get your core, lats and shoulders, especially if you extend your arms out in front of you.
To do the Sled Push, place each hand on a pole of the sled. Then straighten your arms out overhead, engaging your core. Begin to run/sprint/walk/jog, pushing the sled.
Change up the length of your stride to work your legs in different ways. Try shorter, quicker strides or super long, big steps. Try completely planting your foot flat on the ground as you stride or staying more up on the balls of your feet.
You can also vary the weight depending on what your goals are for the sled push. If you are doing short, power intervals, you may want to go as heavy as possible and sprint all out for 5-10 seconds.
Or maybe you are working on endurance so you will want to go lighter at a moderate pace for a longer time.
By changing up the weight you can also focus more on perfecting your sprinting mechanics (going lighter) or on developing strength and power (adding weight).
By varying your stride, pace and weight you can get in a variety of different workouts use the same Basic Sled Push! You can even use the Sled Push for an active RECOVERY workout because the sled push movement is focused on the concentric portion of the lift and not the eccentric so that you won’t tear down your muscles near as much while still strengthening your legs.
Low Sled Push:
You can also change up the Sled Push by either holding on a lower handle or by simply holding lower down on the poles.
By holding lower, your body is closer to parallel to the ground and your quads are forced to work harder.
This position also mimics the Drive phase of the sprint if you want to work on that first step speed and initial acceleration.
Make sure that when you do the Low Sled Push, your arms are still straight when you push the sled even though you are holding lower. Also make sure your core is tight to protect your low back.
Sled Bunny Hops:
Bunny Hops are a great jumping exercise that you can weight down with the sled to work your glutes and legs and improve your power. They are a harder exercise though, so make sure to start light and stay explosive with the movement even as you add weight.
Like with the Sled Push, you can hold lower or higher to perform the Bunny Hops. Make sure to engage your core to protect your low back as you straighten your arms out to hold the sled.
To do the Bunny Hops, hold the sled with your arms out straight. Your feet can be together or wider apart, about hip-width. Sit your butt back and bend your knees. Then push the sled as you jump forward, extending your hips. When you land, bend your knees and sit your butt back again before pushing forward, extending your hips as you jump to power the movement.
Make sure that you are pushing forward as you jump and not just jumping straight up and down. Also make sure to really use your glutes to power the hops forward.
To make the move easier, do the move with a lighter sled or pause in between each jump to reset. However, even if you are pausing in between jumps, do not land with your knees locked out. Make sure to use proper landing mechanics.
The quicker you go from one jump right into another, the harder the move will be. No matter what, though, make sure to keep the hops quick and explosive.
While the sled is a great tool to improve your leg strength and even your running and sprinting, you don’t have to use it for only sagittal plane movements. With Sled Fighting, you can work your entire body and move in every direction.
Sled Fighting is a great exercise to do for short, intense intervals. Focus on using a heavier weight and trying to move quickly in every direction.
To do Sled Fighting, pick out a square or rectangle of space. Move the sled forward a few steps. Then turn the sled. The move it diagonally. Then rotate it around and move the other direction. Pivot the sled, push and pull, moving it only a few steps in each direction.
Keep your movements quick and short around the space. Be careful though pulling it straight back. You will want to move in angles or straight ahead.
The Sled Drag is a great way to focus on your posterior chain and work your glutes, hamstrings, calves and even improve your posture.
To do the Sled Drag, you will need straps (we used a Suspension Trainer) or a rope that you can hook to the sled and hold to drag the sled behind you. You can also use a harness, however, you then don’t get the benefit of having to grip and drag it.
Once you have the sled set up, hold a handle in each hand with the sled behind you. Your arms should be straight down by your sides as you lean forward a bit to place tension on the straps and sled. Keep your back flat and core engaged.
Then begin to walk, run or even take big stomping steps forward. What gait you use will be dependent on what you want to get out of the move and how much weight you are using on the sled. If you walk or stomp, use a heavier weight. If you plan to run, you may want to go lighter and work on being explosive.
The Sled Drag is also a great leg exercise for many people with knee and back pain, just make sure to start lighter and keep your core engaged.
Reverse Sled Drag:
If you want to work your quads and back, the Reverse Sled Drag is a great exercise to include.
To do the Reverse Sled Drag, set up the sled with a rope or straps to hold. Hold a handle in each hand and face the sled with your arms straight out. Then sink down into a higher squat, keeping your chest up and your back flat. Begin to walk backward.
Do not let your back round as you drag the sled. Play around with taking bigger or smaller and quicker steps.
You can also even row the sled in so that your hands are at your chest as you drag the sled walking backward. This will be even more challenging for your back so make sure to keep your core engaged and chest up as you drag while holding an isometric row.
Also the lower in the squat you get (the closer your quads get to parallel to the ground), the harder the move will be.
Anyone with knee pain can do this move to strengthen their quads; however, stand up taller to do the movement instead of sinking into a low squat.
Sled Drag and Row:
The Sled Drag and Row is a variation of the Reverse Sled Drag except that it is less focused on the legs and more focused on your back.
To do the Sled Drag and Row, set up like you would for the Reverse Sled Drag with your arms out straight in front of you. Make sure there is tension on the sled. Then row the sled in, driving your elbows down and back as you row. Make sure to pull/row the sled in using your back.
Feel your back work to pull the sled as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and drive the elbows back.
Then walk backward, staying in a low squat until there is again tension on the sled. Then perform another row. Make sure that as you walk and row, you maintain a nice tall posture. Do not let your back round.
Keep your shoulders wide and chest pressed out as you walk and row.
Lateral Sled Drag:
The Lateral Sled Drag is a great way to work your body in the frontal plane of motion instead of only using the sled for sagittal plane movements. It is a great movement to train lateral movement and even isolates each leg more so that your stronger side can’t take over as much.
The Lateral Sled Drag can help you develop great hip and glute strength as well as adductors and abductors strength.
To do the Lateral Sled Drag, attach a rope or handles. Then standing with your side to the sled, you can hold a handle in each hand or hold the handles in the hand closest to the sled.
Staying sideways to the sled, lean away so there is tension on the straps. Then step the foot closest to the sled across your body before stepping back to the side with the other foot to move laterally.
Do not rotate open toward the sled. Stay sideways and step your foot over and across to move laterally. Complete the drag one direction then go the other way, stepping across with the other foot. Really make sure to push off with that foot you are stepping across.
Keep your core tight and your chest up tall as you step laterally.
You can change up your pace and stride length as well as the weight you use on the sled to vary the intensity and exactly how your body is worked.
Crawl with Sled Drag:
Crawling is a great full-body cardio exercise and when you add in the sled drag you make it even harder as well as more glute intensive. The Crawl with Sled Drag works your entire core while also improving your hip extension strength.
To do the Crawl with Sled Drag, attach a rope or straps to the sled that you can use to pull the sled. Set up at the end of the handle on your hands and knees with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Flex your feet and lift up onto your hands and toes.
Reach one arm back and grab the strap. Driving through your heels, push forward extending your hips to pull the sled toward you. As you pull the sled, your arm should extend up under your body toward your shoulders and head.
Then release the strap and crawl forward until the strap is back at your heels. The crawling movement should be opposite arm and leg moving forward together. Keep your knees close to the ground as you crawl and your core engaged.
Reach back through your legs and grab the strap again. Sit your butt back as you grab the strap. Then drive your hips forward and pull the sled toward you, pulling your arm and the strap up toward your shoulders.
Repeat crawling forward before again pulling the sled.
Really use your hips and not just your arm to pull the sled. By sitting back as you reach through, you load your glutes so that you can extend them to use your butt to power the pull of the sled.
This is a tougher movement. Beginners may need to crawl from their knees and simply reach back and out without using the sled.
If you want a full-body, killer cardio workout, then you need to try this sled series. While each of these moves can be done on their own for a great workout, combined the toast everything in just a minute or two.
To do the Sled Series, you will need a battling rope to hook up to the sled. We used a 1.5 inch, 50 ft rope with one end tied to the sled. You will then do Tsunamis, a length pulling the sled toward you, a length pushing the sled back and then a reverse crawl back to the starting position.
Click here for the Full-Body Sled Series Workout!
If you don’t have a sled, you don’t have to miss out on all of the benefits of sled exercises. Instead you can just use other pieces of equipment to mimic pushing and dragging a sled.
Below are four great tools you can use to do Sled Workouts if you don’t have a sled – kettlebells, boxes, heavy bags and sliders/other human beings!
Double Kettlebell Sled Push:
To do the Double Kettlebell Sled Push, we used competition kettlebells. Place them on their sides with the handles pointing toward you. Place a hand on each bell with your arms straight out. Then begin to run/jog or sprint forward pushing the bells.
Keep your back flat and core tight. Make sure to press the bells down into the ground as you push forward. Also, pick a heavy weight that challenges you.
This is a low push so it will work your quads more. Also, make sure that you don’t just round your back to reach down to the ground for the kettlebells.
Single Kettlebell Sled Push:
You can also use just a single bell if you only have one available or a super heavy bell. Remember it is still a super low push, which will be more quad intensive.
Just like with the Double Kettlebell Push, make sure to keep your core engaged and your arms straight. Do not let your back round. You do not want to feel this in your low back.
Kettlebell Sled Drag:
Kettlebells or even plate weights are also a great way to do sled drags if you don’t have a sled available. You can even do Reverse Drags, Drag and Rows, Rope Pulls or even Crawls with Drag using a weight and handles or a rope.
Just hook up the plate weight or kettlebell to a rope or handles and drag it along. Make sure to maintain proper form for whichever drag variation you do.
In the video above, we demonstrate a beginner Reverse Kettlebell Sled Drag. The move is easier, and more knee friendly, when you don’t squat down as low as you walk backward. Make sure to keep your chest up, back flat and shoulders wide as you drag the weight and walk backward.
Box Sled Push:
If you have a plyo box that will slide, it is also a great option for a substitute sled. To weight down the box, put sandbags, dumbbells, plate weights or even kettlebells on top. Just make sure they won’t shift as you push.
Plus, you can use boxes of different heights to change up the type of “Sled Push” you are doing.
To do the Box Sled Push, weight up the box. Then standing behind it, place your hands on the top edge of the box with your arms out straight. Keeping your back flat and core engaged, begin to run/jog/sprint pushing the box. Just like with the Sled Push, you can take longer or shorter strides to change up the movement as well.
And, if you want to do a variation of “Sled Fighting” the box would be a great substitute for a sled.
Heavy Bag Sled Drag:
If you have a Banana Bag or a Heavy Bag, it can be a great weight to drag. Just like with the kettlebell, you can do any of the drag variations (Drag, Reverse Drag, Drag and Row, Crawl with Drag…) by simply attaching handles or a rope to the bag.
In the video, we demonstrate the Heavy Bag Sled Drag. Attach handles to the bag and then hold a handle in each hand facing away from the bag. Keep your core tight and chest pressed out as you hold the handles with your arms extended down by your sides. Then begin to walk or run forward.
You can vary the length of your stride as well as the speed at which you pull the bag to change up the Heavy Bag Drag.
The Heavy Bag is also an ideal sled substitute for the Lateral Heavy Bag Drag.
Slider Partner Sled:
One of the most fun Sled Variations, is the Slider Partner Sled. Plus with this variation, both people will be working hard at the same time!
To do the Slider Partner Sled, one partner will stand on sliders (Valslides) or towels. That partner will make sure their feet are fully on the sliders. They will then squat down, sitting their butt back while keeping their chest up.
The other partner will stand facing them and grab their hands. Both partners will straighten their arms out.
The partner not on the sliders will then begin to walk backward, pulling their partner along. Start slow and gain speed so your partner isn’t pulled forward off the sliders. The partner on the sliders will have to make sure to sit back as their partner walks backward.
The partner walking backward can squat down lower to make the move more challenging. Go as fast as you can while still working together.
Both partners need to engage their cores and keep their chests up. Do not round forward and let your butt go up in the air.
Also, make sure that if you are on the sliders, you do not squat down too low or straighten your legs. Maintain a nice low squat to about parallel to make the move easier on your partner. Also do not let your knees cave in as you hold the squat.
Both partners will, and should, feel their quads working! Once one partner pulls, switch positions and have the other person be the sled on the sliders.
These Sled Exercises, and Sled substitutions, are a great way build strength while also getting your heart rate up. You can use one or two moves in a workout or you can do a whole workout using only the sled.
For more Sled Workouts, check out our Elite Workout Library.
Hello. Thanks for the article. Regarding biomechanics, What is the difference between having the arms extended and flexed (with the shoulders “in”) in the high push? Thanks!
It actually works your back and arms in different ways. Both can be good. I like the arms locked out as I find more clients engage their back more with it 🙂
It seems as my shoulder pain has activated again once I started pushing the Sled this week. Any idea what I could be doing wrong?
Are you pushing with arms out straight or with hands in at the chest? Either way it may be possible you aren’t engaging your back properly.
What is the name of the sled used in the video?
Not sure sorry! But it is from Battlehouse Fitness!
I took both my kids out for a walk in their sleds, and found that i could feel it in my elbows. I’m glad I was able to find something to help me learn correct form so I can take my kids out all winter long without injuring myself.