While prowler sleds are typically found scraping the floors of CrossFit boxes or dotting the sidelines of pre-season football fields, Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., CEO and owner of TS Fitness in New York City, has been known to incorporate them into the strength-training workouts he programs for endurance athletes. Here’s why.
The Benefits of Sled Workouts for Cyclists
First of all, a sled workout is a full-body workout. Whether you’re pushing, pulling, rowing, or rotating a sled, you’re engaging all muscles involved in cycling, from your legs and glutes to your core, back, chest, and shoulders. And because it only takes a couple of yards to get your heart rate elevated, moving a sled can also improve your endurance and challenge your cardiorespiratory system.
“It’s also great because it doesn’t put stress on your joints while building strength and endurance,” Tamir says. But don’t confuse low-impact with low-intensity. Sled workouts—including Tamir’s two-part circuit below—are tough. So don’t be afraid to start with light weights and gradually increase your load.
How to use this list: Tamir recommends dividing this workout into two separate sections. First, complete 3 rounds of the marching sled push, lateral sled pull, and sled pull, resting 2 minutes between rounds. Next, complete 3 rounds of the low sled push, sled rotation, and sled row, resting 2 minutes between rounds.
Each move is demonstrated by Tamir, a certified trainer, in the video above so you can master the proper form. You will need a sled and straps or a suspension trainer.
1. Marching Sled Push
How to do it: Facing sled, grip the upper portion of poles with both hands, straighten arms, and step feet backward so that body is leaning toward the sled in one straight line. Engage core and flatten back. This is the starting position. Push sled forward, lifting the one knee to hip height with each step. Push sled 10 yards.
2. Lateral Sled Pull
Why it works: Most cycling is in the sagittal plane [characterized by forward and backward movements], but when changing direction, you also benefit from strength in other planes of movement, Tamir says. “The lateral sled pull is in the frontal plane [characterized by side-to-side movements] and works the obliques and stability.”
How to do it: With a strap attached to the bottom of the sled, stand a few feet from the sled with right side facing the anchor point. Grip the handles of the strap with right hand and, keeping chest lifted and shoulders level, step right foot in front of left, then step left foot beside right. Continue to step the right foot in front of the left, pulling the sled to the left for 10 yards. Repeat on the opposite side.
3. Sled Pull
Why it works: The sled pull is great for working the posterior muscles of the legs, specifically the calves and hamstrings. This helps to balance out the body and reduce the chance of injury in cyclists, Tamir says, while building your power-providing muscles.
How to do it: Facing sled, stand with feet hip-width apart, knees bent in a quarter-squat, hands gripping the upper portion of poles. Engage core and, maintaining a flat back and straight arms, walk backward using small steps. Keep chest up and be careful not to round shoulders. Pull sled 10 yards.
4. Low Sled Push
Why it works: The low sled push requires a lot of use of the upper body stabilizer muscles to keep the spine steady. It’s also very quad dominant, which is important for fast-paced cycling, Tamir says.
How to do it: Facing sled, grip the middle section of the poles with both hands, straighten arms, and step feet backward so that body is leaning toward the sled and your torso is parallel to the ground. Engage core and flatten back. This is the starting position. Taking small steps, push sled forward 10 yards.
5. Sled Rotation
How to do it: Facing sled, stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, hands gripping the upper portion of poles. Allow the elbows and knees to bend slightly. Engage core and use both arms to rotate the sled a quarter turn to the right. Pause, then rotate the sled passed your center and a quarter turn to the left. Do 6 reps in each direction.
6. Sled Row
Why it works: The sled row works the posterior muscles of the upper body to help cyclists with a more upright position. It also works the quads because of the squat position you get in prior to the row, Tamir says.
How to do it: With a suspension strap attached to the bottom of the sled, stand a few feet from the sled facing the anchor point and hold a handle in each hand. Straighten arms (make sure you’re far enough from the sled so that the straps are taut), bend knees, and lower hips into a squat. This is your starting position. With palms facing each other and elbows tucked in close to torso, pull handles toward chest in a rowing motion to drag sled toward you. Step back, straighten arms, and repeat. Pull sled 10 yards.