THE SLED PUSH
The sled push is a lower body exercise that develops the posterior chain [glutes, hamstrings, calves], and acceleration technique. The sled is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used to improve athleticism in a number of ways. In this post, we’ll stick to discussing the sled push in specific, which in and of itself can be manipulated in a variety of different ways to make you stronger, faster, more powerful, and more resilient to injury.
In my opinion, the sled push should be a part of just about every youth athlete development program. Here at the Youth Athletic Development Academy, we use different variations of the exercise for everyone from our 17 year old rugby players to our youngest Mini Movers.
Extra benefits of the sled push
Ease of use and safety: When compared to the other compound [multi-joint] lower body exercises like the squat, deadlift, clean, etc; the sled push has a very low technical barrier to entry. These exercises typically take more time to teach and require certain levels of mobility and stability to perform, when compared to the sled push, which requires less variables to perform, for most. You also cannot cheat the sled push by making compensations. If your technique is not perfect, you will not be able to move the load and your body will sense that something is off. The low technical skills required to perform the sled push leads me onto our next point: safety. Injuries often occur in the gym because people are lifting with poor technique. This means the sled push is much safer to load heavy with less risk of injury, simply because technique is less of a barrier. Additionally, the sled push is a safe alternative to the traditional spinal loading that you get from barbell squats and deadlifts.
Fast recovery time: The sled push is a concentric only movement. Without going too in-depth here, this basically means that there is less muscle damage when compared to traditional exercises. Less muscle damage means that your recovery time is dropped significantly. This is especially useful for athletes training in season that can’t afford to worry about muscle soreness and being fatigued for game day.
Specificity to sprinting: Acceleration is king for so many sports. The sled push is very specific to the acceleration phase in sprinting, putting you into very similar body positions which helps to reinforce proper acceleration mechanics. This allows you to apply force horizontally [same as sprinting], unlike squats and deadlifts that require you to apply force vertically [more specific to jumping].
Posture: Put your body into a 45 degree lean, with your arms reached out in front of you, holding onto the sled. You may have seen this exercise being performed with bent elbows, which is fine, although I personally prefer straight arms as it increases the demand for extra stability through the trunk [core].
Push: Contact your left foot into the ground behind your body, applying as much force into the ground as possible — this will propel you forwards. If your ground contact is not back far enough, you will not get enough leverage to apply adequate force behind you. You are looking for full triple extension through the ankle, knee and hip.
Punch: Punch your right knee up hard, ensuring you have a positive shin angle on that leg, and that you are actively pulling your toes up towards your shin.
Repeat on the opposite leg continuously for an effective sled push.
When training, it is key to know what your training goal is, based on your current needs, training phase, time of year, injury history, etc. In the case of the sled push: are you looking to build strength, or are you wanting to improve power? Are you in-season, off-season, or pre-season? I could go on for days, but I think you get my point.
If you need any help in ensuring you are using the sled push appropriately [in terms of training and/or load], don’t hesitate to reach out.
*Please note that when referring to the sled push compared other lower body exercises like the squat and deadlift, I am not saying that squats and deadlifts are bad or ineffective — I use them every day with athletes of every age and ability. They are great exercises, and when executed and progressed properly, can be very beneficial for youth athletes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Harry Weatherstone is the founder of the Youth Athletic Development Academy and the head Strength and Conditioning Coach at St. Andrew’s Anglican College. He is an ASCA accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach and has a Bachelors Degree in Sport and Exercise Science and Sport Management. Harry has been a sports coach for the last nine years, surrounding himself in high performance sport, athletic development and performance throughout New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and now Queensland. He has dedicated the last six years of his life to creating this movement in youth athletic development; investing countless hours into his own professional development to create the best programs possible for his students, athletes and clients.