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Sled Training for Creating Better Movement

When I began coaching in the late 90’s, it was a totally different time. The idea of venturing out of the very standard forms of lifting and the tools we did so was not really heard of. You were expected to fall into the worlds of Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, or Bodybuilding, that was about it. Depending upon your favor, you saw the exercises fall into these categories. For example, someone who believed in Olympic lifting would tell you a Clean was a must, while a Powerlifting based coach would tell you Box Squats were where it was at. Heck a Bodybuilding based coach would tell you that hypertrophy and “feeling” the muscle connection was key to success.

That is why functional training ushered in such a unique time. The original intent of functional training had nothing really to do with focusing on any of the standards that had been set forth. Instead, functional training was going to do something radically different, it was going to look at how our body functions in life and sport to produce movement (hence the name “functional”).

That did welcome in TONS of new ideas and approaches to getting fitness results. Of course, one has the simple question, “is this better?” My answer typically is, if what we were doing worked so well, we wouldn’t be looking for other options. At the end of the day, we don’t look for new unless we feel that it isn’t the best we can do.

I got exposed to this in a simple way as I too became exposed to functional based training. The idea of moving in different patterns, training kinetic chains instead of muscles, trying to integrate multiple fitness qualities at once seemed awesome, but was also overwhelming. The problem I encountered then was the one I believe many see today. That is we didn’t know HOW to take these new ideas and put them into use in a manner that did create superior results.

Quickly I learned that such things don’t have to be overwhelming or complex. The first way I saw the light of how easily and different functional training could be used was my first purchase of a piece of equipment that wasn’t part of the common gym…that was a sled.

I became intrigued with sleds after reading how Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell was using them to build more than just conditioning. He was using sleds to fill in the holes of his Powerlifters’ training as well as recovery and yes, work capacity. In many ways, he was being very innovative of a practical side of functional training.

Almost instantly I fell in love with the versatility, power, and ease of use of sleds. What has saddened me though is to see what commonly happens in our industry. The sled went from being this incredibly versatile and effective tool to simply being an alternative form of running.

Yes, pushing and dragging sleds are great, but that is one tenth of what you can accomplish with them. Most people don’t realize that you can train different angles, positions, planes of motion, and create powerful progressions with this simple tool.

That is why in this month’s Metabolic Stability I wanted to open our minds to how sleds can be more than just “conditioning” but used to teach more progressive movements and concepts of functional training that make our clients and our programs more successful.

With that said, I also want to educate our industry on how sleds are different. I’m focusing on two of my favorites today. The Perform Better Drive Sled II and our ARES (adaptable resistance exercise sled). While they are both sleds, they actually favor different uses, but to understand them lets just quickly understand what you need to know about the basics of sleds.

It should be obvious, but most people focus on what they put on the sled and not the base of the sled. What do I mean? Sleds create friction on the ground, the Drive Sled II for example has four smaller bases so the loading is going to be different than our ARES which has one giant base for friction. Which is better?

Neither really, the Drive Sled II lends it self to very heavy pushing, while our ARES is more about creating different movement patterns. They work in reality very synergistically and best of all can fit any fitness and ability level. When I break down the functional training concepts with both these sleds, you are going to see how fun, challenging, and versatile they can both be in your programs.

While the technique of sleds is not complex, you do need to know some functional training concepts to really appreciate what sled training can bring to your workouts. Like everything in our industry the tool gives us the POTENTIAL to achieve great things, understanding give us the know how! If you are ready to see how to help build smarter corrective exercises, better metabolic programming, improvement stability and strength at the same time, you are going to love this month’s Metabolic Stability.


Equipment Used:

-Mini Bands
-Ultimate Sand Bags
-ARES Sled
-Drive Sled II

Josh Henkin, CSCS is creator of the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system and has been a kettlebell instructor since 2003. His work has had him teach at world class fitness events and teach his DVRT program in over 13 countries worldwide. Don’t miss the upcoming DVRT programs in