After request for video we did some video of a session that demonstrated some key aspects of the proper use of sled training. Don’t be fooled by gurus that think that loading up a sled and pushing it is going to be the most effective way of using the tool as their own youtube clips prove they don’t understand speed. When doing sled work the key is to allow the athlete to improve acceleration mechanics by learning to apply force the right way. I am not against sled work that has moderate loads and is done for conditioning purposes but don’t think that getting single leg strength with sled marches is developing speed unless your athletes are lacking in global strength. The sled work is to improve acceleration by connecting the power of the athlete into speed on the track or field.
Coaches need to conserve their time and athlete’s energy on the classic lifts and coach them better. When adding more exercises they can drain precious resources on something that may not expand an athletic quality. Sled marching proposed by many doesn’t raise maximal strength, maximal power, or has the kinetics and kinematics to transfer into good speed work. Those looking for the best bang for their buck are being penny wise and pound foolish with regards to the benefits of sled pushing. While they may claim core strength and conditioning benefits to convince others of the exercise greatness, are they really developing speed? Remember, what is the purpose of the exercise.By looking like Buck in the Call of the Wild when Heston’s character Thornton has him pull a 1000 pounds is not speed work. Just because your legs are pushing back doesn’t make it specific or very special. In fact the best example of why the slave’s building pyramids is a poor option is by looking at their ankle joint. Watch them get into excessive dorsiflexion by overloading the plantar flexors and teaching collapsing instead of teaching rapid stiffness.
The video above is an example of stiffness at the ankle joint. While the left foot drops a little (something we identified and are working on) the right foot seemingly sticks on landing and allows the legs to push. Stiffness or reducing muscle slack is what speed is about and athletes that push the overpaid coaches SUV are just destroying a very demanding quality to develop. The other aspect that is important is that knees are not allowing the feet to open up too much so shin angles are in more acceleration mode. The reason athletes don’t open up, is that the sled they are pulling uses a harness to reduce air time by keeping the athlete down by virtually leashing them. Preventing excessive hinging of the knee will teach athletes to push back more, something that a load of near 10% of body mass will do. I will write more on the subject later but when it comes down to it those that reenact the Conan the Barbarian wheel scene are not truly taking advantage of the tool.