Do you think that sleds are only meant to be dragged by huskies? Think again!
Sled drags are one of the most underrated exercises that you can do.
And that is a shame because sled drags are one of the best ways to develop strength, power, and conditioning in your lower body.
In this article, we will discuss what muscles are worked during a sled drag, what benefits you can expect from doing them, and what types of training they are good for. Let's get started!
What is a Sled Drag vs. Sled Pull vs. Sled Push?
Sled exercises are functional full-body movements that targets your quads, glutes, hip flexors, calves, hamstrings, core, triceps, chest, and shoulders.
Depending on which type of sled exercise you do, some muscles might see more attention than others.
There are three main types of sled exercises:
This is when you attach the sled to your waist and walk forward, pulling it behind you. This is the most common type of sled drag and what most people think of when they hear the term.
This is when you are facing the sled and walking backward, pulling the sled with you. While you can use a rope or strap, many lifters opt for the two solid bars on both sides of the sled.
The term “sled pull” can also refer to a barebones sled that only have a space for the weight without bars on the side. You can attach a rope to this type of sled, walk several yards away, then pull the sled toward you with the rope.
This variation of the sled drag can only be performed with the bars on the sled. You will face the sled, placing one hand on each bar, then push it forward. While this might seem like an upper body-dominant movement, all your power is coming from the lower body.
How to Perform a Sled Drag
We have a hunch that the reason most people don’t perform sled drags is because they don’t know how to do them correctly!
And this is one exercise you want to learn now because sled drags are an incredibly effective exercise for building strength and power.
Here are a few tips on how to properly execute a sled drag:
- Start by attaching the sled to a rope or strap.
- Next, position the sled so that it’s behind you and your feet are shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees and hips so that you’re in a low squat position.
- Keeping your back straight, begin dragging the sled forward.
- As you drag the sled, make sure to keep your arms straight and your shoulders down.
- Keep going until you reach your desired distance.
- Some fitness experts suggest focusing your walk on the heel with the toes up for greater activation in the glutes.
If you are performing a sled pull with a rope, here’s how to do that:
- Attach a strong rope to the weighted sled.
- Walk away the desired distance with the end of the rope in hand.
- Get into a half squat position with a strong low back and shoulder blades.
- Begin pulling the sled toward you, focusing on a hand over hand pattern.
- Once the sled reaches you, walk to the other side of the room and repeat.
Finally, here’s how to do a sled push:
- Place your hands on the standing bars of a weighted sled.
- Get into a forward leaning position so that your body is in a straight line but angled forward. (Similar to the bend in a barbell bent-over row.)
- Maintain this low position with a neutral neck as you begin to walk forward, pushing the sled as you move.
- If you really want to challenge yourself, try sprinting a lap every few turns.
What Are the Benefits of Sled Drags?
Sled drags are an incredible exercise. Here are some of the benefits of sled drags:
Sled drags help you develop raw power and explosiveness. This is the ability to generate maximum force in a short period of time.
The latter is especially useful if you’re in sports or training for the armed forces. This is what allows you to sprint faster, jump higher, and hit harder.
Incorporated into any hypertrophy-focused routine, sled drags can help you to build functional muscle mass.
Even if you don’t use them for the purpose of muscle building, they make a great alternative to cardio days.
You can walk a few warm-up sets then turn up the intensity to burn more calories and reduce body fat.
By performing sprints, sled drags are a great way to burn fat and support weight maintenance.
One of our favorite benefits of sled drags is its ability to help you build bone density. This is important for preventing injuries and keeping your bones healthy.
What’s more, bone density is often overlooked in fitness programs and yet it’s one of the most important predictors for longevity and independence later in life.
Total Body Conditioning
Sled drags are also a great way to condition your body. This is because they tax your cardiovascular system and help you build endurance.
What Types of Training Are Sled Drags Good For?
So, you know that sled drags are a great way to build strength, power, and muscle while burning fat and boosting endurance. But how does that translate into real world training?
Here are some of the best ways to use sled drags in your training:
Armed Forces Training
Sled drags are often used in armed forces training. This is because they help you build the strength, power, and endurance that you need to be successful in combat training and pass your Combat Fitness Readiness Test.
Sled drags are a staple in strongman training because of the focus on building raw power and strength; two attributes that are essential in Strongman.
While sled drags aren’t one of the three exercises that powerlifters focus on, they can help to develop hip mobility, strength, and explosiveness. Again, these are qualities that can make or break your powerlifting career.
Sled drags are used in most football camps, but they can also be used in other sports-specific training. Football coaches use sled pushes because they help to build insane explosiveness, speed, and power.
What if you just want to build a healthy and safe body; one that is ready to deal with the day-to-day without the worry of injuries? Sled drags can help with that too.
Sled drags are also popular in functional training circles because they strengthen your core, the place where all movement originates. They also help you build a strong cardiovascular system.
Add Sled Drags to Your Workouts
Sled drags are a versatile exercise that can be used in a variety of ways regardless of your fitness goal.
Whether you're looking to build strength, power, or muscle; sled drags should be a part of your training program.
We recommend using all three variations if you’re able to. Now, get out there and start dragging!
- West DJ, Cunningham DJ, Finn CV, Scott PM, Crewther BT, Cook CJ, Kilduff LP. The metabolic, hormonal, biochemical, and neuromuscular function responses to a backward sled drag training session. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):265-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182948110. PMID: 23575361.