When it comes to sled work, most people automatically associated it with lower-body training. While sled pushes and drags are both great exercises with which to strengthen and condition the legs, it might be surprising to learn that sleds can be repurposed to train the upper body as well.
Upper-body conditioning usually comes in the form of closed chain exercises like push-ups, dips, inverted rows and pull-ups. Such movements are great for building functional strength and teaching the body to act as a unit, but do not have the same capacity for overloading compared to their open chain siblings.
But open chain upper-body training exercises don’t have to be restricted to your typical assortment of rows and presses; hauling a weighted sled towards you is an old-timey but proven way of pushing the limits of your upper-body strength. Progression is simple enough – you just add more weight over time. It’s brutally simple, but oddly effective in delivering the goods.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
Sleds come in various shapes and forms, but most if not all will feature a set of posts or a ring at each end to affix attachments. While the ring setup is the most straightforward, you’ll need a rope with a carabiner fixture to make it work. A more stripped-down method would be to knot one end of a rope around the centre post of the sled. Make sure it’s tight – you don’t want to lose your knot and go tumbling back midway through your pull!
Once you’re good and ready, take the other end of the rope and walk the slack out. From here, hold it tightly in one hand and sit back into it, using your body as a counterweight. Once the rope has taken the full amount of tension and you feel a stretch in your lats, begin your pull. The movement itself should come naturally, but remember to keep your shoulders drawn down and your elbows pointed towards the ground. This will ensure that your back and arms do most of the work instead of your shoulders.
While a repetition typically ends once you’ve pulled the sled completely towards you, you can turn it into a more complete set by resetting the distance and continuing the movement. You can do this via two methods: walk the sled back to its starting position, or walk the length of the rope out again (space permitting). If you’re training with a partner and the setup allows for it, you can even tie ropes to each end of the sled and take turns pulling it between the two of you. Whether you choose to go for distance, time or load, the sled pull is a wonderful addition to any athlete’s toolbox that brings novelty to training while preserving its efficacy.