Programming SledworkAug 20, 2021
Conditioning work does not have to be boring nor does it have to beat you up. Developing your General Physical Preparedness (GPP) can add value to your training sessions and as well as break up the monotony.
One of the mistakes I see athletes make with their conditioning is not having enough variance in terms of energy systems development. The emphasis more times than not is on “longer, slower sessions” because most think “more is more.”
Besides, is it really possible to derive results from sets that only last 10-15 seconds!? It sure is and if you’re not utilizing these time domains you’re leaving gains on the table.
Bridge the gap with the sled
An effective way to train all three energy systems can be done by regularly including sled work into your program. Because sled work does not require a high level of skill to perform max effort sets, it’s a great choice for athletes of all abilities.
Sled work is also devoid of axial loading and is more “concentric” in nature so you won’t incur excessive muscle-soreness that could impair your other training sessions.
Top it off with the fact that sled work can double as “unilateral” work allowing you to work on asymmetries simultaneously.
With all of that considered it would be hard to imagine why anyone would NOT want to include sled work into their program other than the fact they simply don’t have access to one.
The good news for around 80-100 bucks you can purchase your own sled.
How to incorporate
Adding sled work into your schedule so that it does not interfere with your current program is relatively straightforward, but we’ll need to have a clear intent in terms of the energy demands for each session.
The placement of each session must align with our other programming in terms of volume/intensity with high-threshold work being separated by a minimum of 72 hours.
A typical weak breakdown could look something like this:
Day 1: ATP-PC Capacity Intervals: Empty Sled Sprint Work with full recovery between bouts. Efforts will be 100% and recovery will be 15-20x longer than the amount of work. This work helps to improve the ability to maintain explosive power for an extended duration.
Day 2: Strongman Endurance: Longer Duration Sledpulls and Loaded Carries. This will enable us to improve areas of core muscular endurance, posture, and grip strength.
Day 3: Finisher: Mixed sled/carry work for longer durations (no longer than 10 minutes.) This work improves our ability to sustain anaerobic energy production for extended periods of time.
Some of these methods may look foreign to you as many of these methods are ones we cover extensively in my programming playbook but think of it as a high-medium-low approach in terms of demand on the nervous system always being mindful of the fact that our highest intensity work requires more recovery between sessions.
And no, performing high-intensity work daily is not advised contrary to what you may see on IG.
Sledpull + Wheelbarrow or Farmer Carry
Sledpull Holding Medball
Sledpull With Straps Between Legs
Sledpull Bear Crawl
Lateral Sledpull Holding Medball
Upper-body Sled Work
Ask just about any coach and they'll tell you how great of a tool the sled is for the lower body, but the reality is that the sled works just as well (if not better in some cases) for the upper body. Here's what you need to know...
- Upper-body sled work can be used on conditioning only on training days
- Upper-body sled work can be used as a 'finisher' at the end of your upper session
- Upper sled work can also be used as a primer for your upper session
- Upper sled work can help with both rehab of an injury and prehab against future issues.
- Upper sled work is effective and easy to recover from (it won't screw up anything else you have planned in the rest of the week.)
In order to effectively utilize the sled best for upper-body development, I'm going to provide you with scenarios that match all of the above points so you know exactly how to plug this bad boy into your training plan, but first here's a full list of all the upper sled variations you'll see in this article:
- Sledpull Facepulls
- Sledpull Facepulls + Rows
- Sledpull Rows
- Sledpull Overhead Carry
- Sledpull Presses
- Sledpull Extensions
- Sledpull Rope Facepulls
- Sledpull OH Rope Extensions
Upper Sled Conditioning
AMRAP 15 utilizing a heavy load:
90 Ft. Sledpull Facepulls
90 Ft. Sledpull Rows
25 Bamboo Bar Bench Press
Rest 90s between rounds
400 Meters utilizing a light to moderate load:
Sledpull Triceps Extensions
Minute 1: 90 ft. Sledpull Facepulls
Minute 2: 90 ft. Sledpull Extensions
Minute 3: 90 ft. OH KB Carry
Minute 4: 90 ft. DBall Floor Presses x 25
800 Meters with a light load:
Sledpull Facepulls + Rows
20 minutes of max distance:
*Alternate between the two every 100 yards.
Upper Sled Finishers
200 Meters of each with a heavy load:
AMRAP 10 with a heavy load:
0:00 - 5:00
Max Distance Sledpull Facepulls
5:00 - 10:00
Max Distance of Sledpull Presses
4 Rounds of with a heavy load:
180 ft. Sledpull Facepulls
4 Rounds of with a heavy load:
Sledpull + OH Carry x 90 ft.
For time a light to moderate load:
400 Meter Sledpull OH Carry
Upper Sled Warm-ups
3 Sets with a light load:
90 ft. Sledpull Facepulls
90 ft. Sledpull Presses
3 sets of with a light load:
90 ft. Sled Facepulls
90 ft. Sled Rows
1 set of with a light load:
2:00 Sledpull Facepulls
2:00 Sledpull Presses
200 meters of with a light load:
Alt. between 3 upper sled variations
Reps of 15-10-5
1a) Sled Facepulls
1b) Sled Presses
The sled, like most training modalities, can be used in a variety of practical and effective ways to build strength, and endurance, without sacrificing recoverability. This article will hopefully give you an idea of how to use the sled for both the lower & upper body.
One of the best aspects of performing conditioning work with a sled is that it’s efficient, it can be varied in a number of ways so we don’t get bored, and it does NOT take away from other aspects of your current training programming.
This work can actually add to your current training plan allowing you to get more from your main training sessions.
Most importantly, you’ll be less likely to have holes in your conditioning game, and will see a huge carryover to other aspects of your fitness, like strength endurance and aerobic fitness