Sleds are a marvellous implement that can be used for just about any training purpose. Strength? Yep. Conditioning? Double yep. Fat-loss? Try doing intervals with a loaded sled and then get back to me (if you have enough breath left). Typical usage of the sled involves the lower body to a large extent, but it can be tweaked so that it focuses more on the upper body instead.
While the sled pull is a great exercise for building the muscles along your back, it’s very much a “slow strength” exercise. “Fast strength” or power has a greater carryover to certain sports like rowing or boxing, and can also be useful in triggering greater gains in muscular hypertrophy. A powerful contraction of the back can be seen in training movements like the Pendlay row – another useful exercise for back training.
The act of pulling a sled can be easily modified to achieve a similar training effect. Either a long rope pinned under weight plates or a TRX attachment can be used with a sled to allow one to perform the sled yank.
(video shown uses the “high elbow” placement)
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
In essence, the sled yank is an explosive face pull-horizontal row combo. There are two ways you can perform the sled yank. Positioning the elbows near shoulder height utilises more of the middle back and the posterior shoulder, while keeping the elbows closer to the torso (about 45° from it) allows you to engage the lats to a greater degree. You can even combine both forms of movement into a combo, alternating between one and the other as you pull the sled.
Despite its use as an upper-body power movement, the sled yank lends itself well to conditioning protocols as well. Like other sled-based movements, the sled yank is a concentric-only exercise. This means that there is no eccentric portion of the movement (where the muscle lengthens), allowing for a greater training volume and frequency without adverse effects.
The sled yank works best when it’s loaded heavy, otherwise the sled will almost quite literally come flying at you when you pull on it! Other than that, it’s important that you practice proper bracing during the pulling portion. Even if it is an upper-body exercise, you’re still exerting force into the ground. So, be sure to pack that torso!