About 2 months ago I badly hurt my lower back. I was deadlifting and my form was off (I’m not mobile enough to be pulling from the floor, which I stubbornly ignored until it was too late).
I exacerbated the problem by going to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class the next day, and anyone who does BJJ knows what it can do to your back.
Boom. In the infamous words of Mike Tyson, “I broke my back”. No squatting, deadlifting, or BJJ for at least 6 weeks.
Lower body strength and muscle is important to me (and should be for anyone), but what was I going to do without squats and deads?
Enter the sled.
Anybody who’s ever watched athlete training montages will see the sled and be inspired by it. I was always obsessed with it, even when I never had access to one. It is far more than a gimmick or novelty exercise, like we see all over instagram and social media.
During my back injury, I replaced all heavy lower body movements with heavy sled pushes or drags. I’d load it up heavy and go for 3-4 sets of 15-20 meters (avoiding using weights so heavy I’d have to stop in the middle etc).
After that, I’d so some single leg work (split squats etc) and some light hinging (i.e. pull-throughs). I’m happy to say that during this time I’ve pretty much held on to my leg size and feel very, very strong.
Athletically, its even better. Playing football for the first time in about 6 months, I felt fast and dynamic. Not squatting and deadlifting wasn’t the end of the world, after all.
I will be continuing this kind of training for a number of months until I feel confident enough to reintroduce squats and deads.
Sled work can improve conditioning, leg strength (and even foot strength as your feet have to grip the floor), as well as reducing body fat. Furthermore, the sled won’t wipe out your nervous system the same way squats and deadlifts do, nor will it leave you sore (there is no eccentric component). It also feels better on your joints then heavy squatting!
Admittedly, the sled isn’t the most effective tool for people merely looking to put mass on their legs, but when you add in other more traditional leg exercises, it is the perfect supplement to a training regime.
Regardless of whether you’re an athlete or just looking to get stronger and improve your looks, I recommend using the sled for heavy sets rather than simply doing sprints all the time.
Pushing heavy weights WILL melt fat off you.
Throw in sprints occasionally, but by and large, aim to get stronger with the sled over time.
Try to avoid too many sets where you have to ‘grind’, legs about to fall off, stopping halfway through etc. Go heavy, but keep it just about manageable.
If you don’t have a sled, I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a sled ain’t one. In all seriousness, you can always do plate pushes (put a heavy plate on a suitable floor and push it). Not quite the same, but it will have to suffice.
By the way, I’m not suggesting you cut out squats, deads etc. You can and should do them if you’re capable of doing so and confident in your form. But the sled is a fantastic tool for pretty much anybody, athlete or not.
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