Get faster and gain lower body strength with sled training. Weighted sleds are a popular form of training for the energy systems, and to gain power, strength, and muscle mass in the lower body. Sled training can also increase the speed at which you accelerate, allowing you to out-sprint opponents. And a new study shows you can get faster after only four weeks!
Published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, this study used national team sprinters and long jumpers and had them do either weighted sled sprints or a traditional short-sprint program. Both groups also performed their regular resistance training protocols.
After four weeks, the weighted sled group increased acceleration more than the traditional sprint group. By training acceleration, the sprinters are able to reach top speed during the transition phase (between 15 and 30 meters) of a 50 meter sprint faster. Training with the sled increased contact time, which was an adaptation that allowed the athletes to apply more force with each step. They also increased stride length by 2.7 percent after sled training and improved their maximal speed (distance from 30 to 50 meters) by 1.3 percent—not a dramatic amount, but valuable since these national team sprinters are a highly trained population.
To increase running speed, do weighted sled runs of 15 to 25 meters—any further and running form deteriorates. Try pairing a 15 or 20-meter sled run with regular sprinting to take advantage of the fact that the lower body muscles are already activated. This will also reinforce correct running mechanics—just like if you are going to train heavy partial squats in the gym, you need to perform a set of full-range squats at a lighter weight so as not to compromise range of motion.
To read about how to incorporate sled training into a 12-week squat program, check out the 12-Week Training Program for Squats
Alcaraz, P., Elvira, J., et al. Kinematic, Strength, and Stiffness Adaptations After A Short-Term Sled Towing Training in Athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and science in Sport. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.