By Tony Gracia, Head Coach and Co-Founder at Industrial Strength.
I have been a full-time professional in the fitness industry for 12 years, and over that time I have seen a lot of people come in with pre-conceived notions about what exercises are good and what they should be doing for their training. While many of these exercises are ones that I would also consider good, unfortunately sometimes people are a little closed-minded about trying other exercises that are also awesome, and in many cases would be a better fit for that person in terms of meeting their goals & needs. This series of articles will highlight fifteen of my favorite exercises that I think are awesome and do not get the appreciation they deserve.
UNDERRATED EXERCISE #2 = HEAVY SLED PUSH
There are few things that compare to a heavy sled push when it comes to training for and measuring functional strength. They work essentially every muscle in your body all the way from your toes to your hands, they are simple to learn, they are easier on the joints than almost every other strength training exercise, they leave you less sore than most other exercises, and best of all you can work extremely hard at these while simultaneously having an extraordinarily high level of safety. If you have sensitive knees these might be a great fit for you – many people who have mileage on their knees and have trouble squatting or lunging can still perform sled pushes very heavy without knee pain.
One thing I love about heavy sled pushes is they are a bit of an “equalizer” in terms of strength exercises. What I mean by that is I have seen some people who are very strong on squats and/or deadlifts really be challenged to push a heavy sled, while other people who maybe are not putting up big numbers on traditional barbell lifts can still crush it on a sled push. One reason for that is that for a barbell lift the lifter can take all the time they need to get tight and wedge, and also the lifts are (ideally) perfectly symmetrical. On the other hand, sled pushes require the lifter to utilize more reflexive stability, meaning they need to find stability quickly on every stride (and on only one leg at a time) and do so repeatedly for the entire set. This type of strength / athleticism hybrid is a huge benefit of heavy sled pushing and is something you will not get from traditional barbell training alone.
Lastly, sled pushes offer a few other unique benefits. First off, they are one of the only movements that use the entire kinetic chain (including your toes and feet) to move a weight horizontally – almost every other exercise moves weight vertically against gravity. If you think about athletic events such as blocking or tackling in football, fighting for a takedown in grappling, boxing out someone in basketball, or even just sprinting, these all require the athlete to move their opponent and/or their own body horizontally (to some degree), and to have good coordination throughout their entire kinetic chain from the toes upwards. Even if you do not participate in these type of athletics, maybe you will be in a situation where you need to push a car out of the road … you will be glad you spent time training your sled pushes.
HOW TO DO THEM
- Maintain a strong forward lean at all times
- Stay on your toes throughout the set, you should never have your heels touch the floor
- I recommend straight arms with locked elbows, although some people do prefer to bend their arms all the way as if they were starting a military press
- Maintain a “positive shin angle” throughout the set, meaning that your knee should always be in front of your ankle (and probably in front of your toes too) – if you take too long of strides you won’t be able to maintain the correct alignment
- Try to finish your strides all the way, forming a straight line from your shoulders through your hips, through your back knee, all the way through that ankle
- At our facility we have 50-feet of turf and tend to push our sleds down & back once as a set, using a weight that takes 20-30 seconds to cover the 100 feet. I would recommend starting at a weight that takes at least 25 seconds to cover 100 feet and then working your way down to 20 seconds before bumping the weight up.
Thanks for taking the time here. Stay tuned this week for more on the list of 15 underrated strength and power exercises. If you like what you see, please do us a huge favor and share, comment and repost. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or DM us.
Tony Gracia / Head Coach / Co-Founder @industrialstrengthgym