Unlock Your Speed Potential: Will Pulling a Sled Make You Faster?

Written By Michael Hall

Proud father of two beautiful daughters and a seasoned ISSA certified personal trainer with over 15 years of experience in the industry. 

Sled pulling is a popular form of resistance training that has been gaining traction among athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and even everyday people looking for a challenging workout. It involves pulling a sled loaded with weights across a distance, using various equipment such as ropes, harnesses, and sleds.

Sled pulling is a highly effective exercise for building strength, power, and endurance, and it can be customized to fit a wide range of fitness levels and goals.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting out, sled pulling can provide a unique and effective way to improve your fitness and reach your goals.

The importance of speed training in various sports

Speed is crucial in many sports, from track and field to team sports like basketball and soccer. Speed training involves exercises and drills that improve an athlete’s ability to move quickly and efficiently, aiming to enhance their performance on the field or track.

In addition to enhancing overall athleticism, speed training can also help prevent injury. By improving athletes’ balance, coordination, and agility, they are better equipped to handle sudden changes in direction or unexpected movements on the field or track, reducing the risk of sprains, strains, and other injuries.

Overview of sled pulling as a training method

Sled pulling is a form of training that involves dragging a weighted sled or sled-like object along a surface, typically on grass or pavement. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts often use this type of training to improve their strength, power, and overall conditioning.

The Science Behind Sled Pulling

The concept of resistance training

Resistance training is a form of exercise that involves using external resistance, such as weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight, to create tension in the muscles and promote muscle growth and strength. The concept of resistance training is based on the principle of progressive overload, which states that in order to improve muscle strength and size, the muscles must be exposed to increasingly challenging levels of resistance over time.

Resistance training can be tailored to the needs and goals of the individual, whether they are looking to build muscle mass, improve athletic performance, or simply maintain overall health and fitness. It is important to use proper technique and gradually increase the intensity and volume of resistance training in order to avoid injury and achieve the desired results.

How sled pulling targets specific muscle groups

Sled pulling is a type of resistance training that targets specific muscle groups in the body, primarily the lower body and core muscles. The resistance the sled provides creates tension in the muscles, promoting muscle growth and strength.

Additionally, sled pulling engages the muscles of the core, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae. These muscles work to stabilize the body during the movement, maintaining proper posture and alignment to prevent injury.

Benefits of Sled Pulling for Speed Enhancement

Increased lower body strength

When performing sled pulls, the muscles of the lower body are primarily targeted, including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. The movement of pulling the sled requires the muscles of the legs to work together to generate force and move the weight. The hips and glutes also play a significant role in the movement, as they drive the body forward and provide power.

Improved power and acceleration

Studies have shown that sled pulling is an effective training method for improving power and acceleration, particularly in athletes who require explosive movements such as sprinting, jumping, and changing direction quickly.

The resistance provided by the sled creates a load that the athlete must overcome in order to move forward, which helps to develop explosive power in the muscles of the lower body. This increased power translates into improved acceleration, as the athlete is able to generate more force against the ground to propel themselves forward.

Enhanced muscle recruitment and activation

The specific muscle groups targeted during sled pulls can be further emphasized by adjusting the angle of the pull, the weight of the sled, and the distance and speed of the movement. For example, pulling the sled at a steep angle will emphasize the glutes and hamstrings more, while a more horizontal pull will target the quads and calves.

Development of proper sprinting mechanics

Sled pulls can help to improve the athlete’s stride length, stride frequency, and overall running mechanics. Firstly, sled pulls can help to improve stride length by strengthening the muscles of the lower body, particularly the glutes and hamstrings. The resistance provided by the sled forces the athlete to drive their legs back further with each stride, which can improve their overall stride length.

Secondly, sled pulls can improve stride frequency by improving the power and explosiveness of the athlete’s stride. As the athlete becomes stronger and more explosive, they will be able to take more strides in a given amount of time, which can improve their overall sprinting speed.

Finally, sled pulls can help to improve overall running mechanics by promoting proper posture and alignment. The resistance provided by the sled forces the athlete to maintain an upright posture and engage their core muscles to maintain stability and control throughout the movement.

Implementing Sled Pulling into Your Training Routine

Selecting the appropriate sled and harness

When selecting a sled, consider the following factors:

  • Size and weight: The sled should be appropriate for the athlete’s size and strength level. A heavier sled will provide more resistance and may be appropriate for more advanced athletes, while a lighter sled may be more suitable for beginners.
  • Surface: The sled should be designed for the surface on which it will be used. Some sleds are designed specifically for use on turf, while others are suitable for use on concrete or other hard surfaces.
  • Durability: The sled should be made of high-quality materials that can withstand the rigors of regular use. Look for sleds made of heavy-duty steel or other durable materials.

When selecting a harness, consider the following factors:

  • Size and fit: The harness should be appropriate for the athlete’s size and shape, with adjustable straps to ensure a secure and comfortable fit.
  • Material: The harness should be made of high-quality materials that can withstand the resistance of the sled without breaking or tearing.
  • Attachment points: The harness should have sturdy attachment points that can securely connect to the sled.
  • Comfort: The harness should be designed to distribute the weight of the sled evenly across the athlete’s body, minimizing discomfort and the risk of injury.

Overall, selecting the appropriate sled and harness for sled pulling is essential to ensure that the athlete can perform the exercise safely and effectively, while also targeting the appropriate muscle groups and movement patterns.

Frequency, duration, and intensity of sled-pulling workouts

The frequency, duration, and intensity of sled-pulling workouts will vary depending on the athlete’s goals, training level, and overall training program. For most athletes, one to three sled-pulling workouts per week is sufficient to see results. However, it’s important to allow for adequate recovery time between workouts, especially if the athlete is also engaging in other types of high-intensity training. 

Sled-pulling workouts can range from short, high-intensity sprints lasting only a few seconds, to longer endurance-style pulls lasting several minutes. Workouts can also vary in the number of sets and repetitions performed.

The intensity of sled-pulling workouts will depend on the athlete’s training goals and specific workouts. Intensity can be adjusted by changing the weight of the sled, the distance or duration of the pull, or the speed at which the athlete performs the exercise. Heavier loads and shorter distances or durations can be used to improve power and explosiveness. Lighter loads and longer distances or durations can be used to improve muscular endurance.

It’s important to note that sled-pulling workouts should be incorporated into a comprehensive training program that includes strength training, conditioning, and skill-specific training for the athlete’s sport.

Examples of sled-pulling exercises and drills

There are many different sled-pulling exercises and drills that can be incorporated into a training program. Here are a few examples:

  • Forward sled pull: This is a basic sled-pulling exercise that targets the muscles of the lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. The athlete attaches a harness to the sled and pulls it forward, focusing on driving through the legs and maintaining proper posture.
  • Backward sled pull: This exercise is similar to the forward sled pull, but the athlete pulls the sled backward instead. This exercise targets many of the same muscle groups as the forward sled pull but may require more core stability and balance.
  • Lateral sled pull: This exercise involves pulling the sled laterally, or side to side. It targets the muscles of the hips and legs and can help to improve lateral movement and agility.
  • Sled sprints: This exercise involves sprinting with the sled, either for a set distance or time. It targets the muscles of the lower body and can improve power, speed, and explosiveness.
  • Sled drags: This exercise involves dragging the sled behind the athlete, either walking or running. It can target the muscles of the upper body, including the back and arms, as well as the lower body.
  • Hill sprints with sled: This exercise involves sprinting uphill while pulling a sled. It can be an effective way to improve power, speed, and endurance.
  • Farmer’s walk with sled: This exercise involves carrying two sleds (or heavy weights) in each hand and walking forward, targeting the grip strength, upper back, and core.

When incorporating sled-pulling exercises into a training program, it’s important to vary the exercises and adjust the load, distance, and intensity as needed to continue challenging the athlete and promoting progress.

Potential Limitations and Precautions

Overtraining and injury risks

Like any form of physical activity, sled pulling carries some risk of injury if not performed correctly or if overused. Overtraining and injury risks of sled pulling can be minimized by following proper technique, gradually increasing intensity and volume, and allowing for adequate rest and recovery between workouts.

Sled pulling can place stress on the muscles and joints of the lower body, particularly the hips, knees, and ankles. Common injuries associated with sled pulling may include strains, sprains, and tendonitis. To minimize the risk of injury, athletes should use proper technique when performing sled-pulling exercises, warm up adequately before each workout, and gradually increase intensity and volume as tolerated.

In addition to these risks, sled pulling may also place additional stress on the spine and lower back, particularly if the athlete maintains improper posture during the exercise. It’s important to maintain proper form and avoid rounding the spine or hunching the shoulders during sled-pulling exercises.

Ensuring proper technique and form

Proper technique and form are essential for safe and effective sled pulling. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

  • Set up the sled properly
  • Start with a stable base
  • Engage the core
  • Start the pull slowly
  • Use proper posture
  • Drive with the legs
  • Use the arms as needed
  • Control the sled on the descent
  • Rest and recover

It’s important to consult with a qualified coach or trainer to ensure proper technique and form when performing sled-pulling exercises. They can provide feedback and corrections to help you perform the exercise safely and effectively.


In conclusion, there is no doubt that pulling a sled can help you increase your speed potential. It’s a great way to build explosive power, improve your acceleration, and develop your running form. However, it’s important to remember that it’s just one tool in your arsenal. You also need to focus on other aspects of your training, such as strength, endurance, and agility.

Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance or simply seeking to switch up your workout, sled pulling is definitely worth incorporating into your fitness regimen. With a variety of sled types and attachments available, it’s easy to customize your workout and target specific muscle groups. So why not give sled pulling a try and see how it can take your fitness to the next level?