Sled pulls also known as sled drags, hand over hand sled pulls and rope pulls are an excellent functional exercise for the upper body that targets the core, back, shoulders, arms, forearms and hands. This exercise involves using a rope to pull a weighted sled toward you. If you don’t have a plate loading fitness sled, sled dawg or prowler you can make your own using an old tire, loaded pallet or wheel barrow with wheels and legs removed and U-bolt attachment. Note – the amount of friction (resistance) produced can vary greatly depending on the coefficient of friction between the surface of the sled and the surface that it is sliding on.
How you train with the sled should depend on your fitness goals. Loading the sled with a minimum amount of weight and training for longer distances will help build local muscular endurance. Using heavy weights over shorter bursts will help develop muscular strength and power.
How to do it:
- Attach a 1 ½ to 2- inch rope to the sled.
- Place the appropriate weight onto the sled.
- Hold the other end of the stretched rope as far from the sled as possible.
- Face the sled, straddle the rope and grip it tightly.
- Start from an athletic stance with the hips and knees bent, head and shoulders up, back flat and legs shoulder-width apart or wider to ensure a stable base.
- Set the abs and pull the sled toward your belly button with a hand-over-hand action until the sled is up close to you and you’re out of rope.
- Start with five sets of 75-feet pulls if you have the room. Reduce the length of the pull by 10-feet for each 10% increase in weight.
- Make it harder by progressively adding more weight to the sled to increase strength. Turn the sled around and walk away from it until the rope is pulled tight again to ensure adequate recovery. Rest 2-3 minutes between reps and sets.
- Make it more explosive by reducing the time required to pull the sled forward. Turn the sled around and walk away from it until the rope is pulled tight again to ensure adequate recovery. Rest 2-3 minutes between reps and sets.
- Add an endurance component by turning the sled around and jogging away from it until the rope is pulled tight again. Repeat the process until you complete the desired number of reps and sets. Rest 30-90 seconds between reps and sets.
- Add a mobility component by turning the sled around and shuffling or backpedaling away from it until the rope is pulled tight again. Rest 2-3 minutes between reps and sets.
- Work both sides of the body by combining pushes and pulls. Push the sled away to the end point, jog back to the start and pull it back to you. Repeat the sequence until you complete the desired number of reps and sets. This is a good test of physical and mental strength and endurance and can be used as a finisher exercise. Rest 2-3 minutes between reps and sets.
- Avoid hunching over as you pull.
- Keep an athletic stance with the head, chest and shoulders up, core tight and back flat throughout the exercise.
Jose Vazquez, PT, CSCS is Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Texas Rangers.