the most versatile piece of gym equipment curl

The Most Versatile Piece Of Gym Equipment

In 2018, there isn’t much we don’t have in most gyms.

In most gyms there are squat racks and barbells a plenty, enough kettlebells and medicine balls, to get you jacked in no time.

I think we can agree there are still way too many treadmills and ellipticals though.

But what gyms don’t typically have is the best piece of equipment everyone loves to hate.

If you’ve used it, you know that it’s one of the worst pieces of equipment known to man. It has revealed more terrible diets in the toilets of the local gym than any other piece of equipment.

What is this dastardly tool of mass construction?

The sled/prowler.

This piece of equipment has been used to develop the aerobic system in many people, but if that was the only thing it was good for, you’d be sorely mistaken. The sled is an amazing conditioning tool, but also fantastic for knee rehab, an amazing core trainer, and the best way to get a supreme amount of training volume without getting so sore you can’t move from your bed the next few days.

Getting an idea on how to make a workout only with a sled is the aim for today. You can add the workout at the end as a recovery day, or add the exercises to your current workouts as accessory exercises.

So without any further adieu, let’s get into the article!

Use 1: Conditioning tool

This is the first and primary use that you have for the sled. When you consider the big tools you can use for conditioning, like rowing, running, and cycling, the sled is far superior to all of them for someone looking to build muscle.

This is because the sled is a tool that only uses concentric action as you push. This means the muscles in your legs only shorten as you push the sled, and they don’t have to absorb as much force as someone who goes running for 100k every week.

AND, for all the sled pushing you will do, it WILL not get you sore for your other workouts. Every client I have is always amazed after they’ve just died on the sled, they aren’t sore like they are after a killer split squat workout.

As you use it for conditioning, you can use it in the same way that you use a treadmill to develop the cardiovascular strength in an athlete. To develop the aerobic capacity, you can push it for a long time, with light weight.

To get your Anaerobic glycolysis system stronger, the one that typically is used when you’re playing sports like soccer or ultimate frisbee, you can do 6-8 intervals with a 1:2/3 rest to work ratio. THese will be heavy, but not heavy enough for you to need more recovery than you’re given.  Depending on how fit you are, you can increase the weight, increase the time intervals, or decrease the rest time. Your options are endless on how to make things more difficult, rather, make you a more fit and harder to kill.

Lastly, to strengthen the last energy system, this is all about max effort, leave it all on the table, with as much rest as possible between sets. This means you’re going to be pushing a buttload of plates, like my client here. Rest as much as possible between sets, and even though you’re not going to besore, you’ll definitely be fatigued.

USE 2: Joint Friendly leg trainer

If you’ve ever had any issues with your knees or hips, you will probably be the first to attest that squats aren’t the most friendly exercise for you. As good as they are, and as much as you know you need to do them, they make your knees feel like your knee joint has been substituted for rocks instead. Not an enjoyable feeling.

So if the almighty squat, the king of all exercises is out for developing leg strength and coordination, what do you use instead?

Thankfully you aren’t an idiot, so if you guessed sled you’re right.

The sled is easily the most joint friendly way of developing your legs. Even more joint frinedly than machines due to the fact it’s a closed kinetic chain exercise. This means the force you apply to move the sled forward is going through the floor rather than having your knee joint be the primary place your body is acting on. This makes the sled drag much different and much easier on your joints than a machine based knee extension exercise.

The second reason is because you don’t need the eccentric (lengthening) action of the muscle before you shorten it. Typically The lowering/eccentric part of the squat is usually what hurts your joints most. If you can remove the eccentric action for now, you can train your legs so that in the future they have the strength to handle squats and get back to training the movement pain free.

With the sled, you get the action of knee extension without actually needing to do the eccentric movement.

Use 3: Upper body blaster

If you’re thinking that the sled is equipment just for your lower body, you need to expand your creativity!

The sled can and should be used for your upper body. With a little creativity you can do it too.

One of the easiest ways to use it for your upper body by pairing the sled with a TRX and you have yourself a winning combo. This is the perfect combo to develop an explosive upper back, with lats and arms that bulge through your t-shirt. Using the same cues as you would use for a regular row, pull with your back then your arms, and do it real fast.

Feel one arm is stronger than the other? No sweat. Just do it with one of the TRX handles. Switch after you get to where you’re going, or after a certain amount of reps.

Using your chest and shoulders takes even more creativity, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. It just means you have to go to the right source for information.

That’s this article you’re reading right now. Good job friend.

So to make this work for your chest, you will lower the weight a little bit, grab about 25% height of the handles, lean forward, and press with all the piss and vinegar you had when you were 21. After 10-12 reps, you should feel your shoulders and almost nothing else. Either use these to push faster, or use them to push heavier.

Again, you’re only using the concentric action, so you won’t be able to get the same mechanical tension or muscular damage as you would with something like barbell presses or push-ups. BUT you can learn to develop speed, or get metabolic damage aka the pump.

When doing the shoulder press, it’s easy to drop your head down, roll your shoulders forward, and do damage to your shoulders instead of getting them stronger. Instead, keep your upper back tight, slightly look forward, and press the sled forward.

USE 4: Core strength

Get your legs stronger, improve your conditioning, AND develop a solid six pack that helps with lifting more weight and looking amazing? Sign me up!

The last major use for a sled is that when you reverse drag it, if you use a single handle, you’re going to keep your body perpendicular to the sled. By doing this, you’re obliques will be lit a blaze like you’re doing side planks. But instead of staying in the same place, you’re going to be moving, keeping the boredom you feel with planks at bay.

It would be silly not to put a program in for you, since the sled can easily be used as a solo day. You can use it as a recovery day or a conditioning day. Pick whichever you need more.

A1: 25ft Heavy Sled Push (4 sets)

A2: 25ft Reverse Sled Drag (4 sets)

Complete the following for 4 sets as a circuit.

B1: 25ft Reverse Sled Row

B2: 25ft Sled Shoulder Press

B3: 25ft 1 Hand Reverse Sled Drag L

B4: 25ft 1 Hand Reverse Sled Drag R

C: Fast Sled Push 5 Rounds (30 second work, 1:00-1:30 Rest time)

The longer you train in the gym, you either have 2 options:

  • Become set in your ways about pieces of equipment and think they have only one main function.
  • Use a little bit of creativity to develop yourself and gets stronger and fitter in ways you never thought possible.

Yes, the sled is one of the best conditioning tools you have at your disposal, but if you only think of it as a way to make you breathe heavy you’re missing out. It’s also a way to develop your entire body without the wear and tear of traditional barbell exercises.

Use the concentric action to help your joints feel great again, and get in amazing shape with the sled.

About the Author

Linden Ellefson is a personal trainer and online coach from Calgary, Canada. When he's not drinking coffee or playing with his dog, Taco, he's helping 30-40 year old guys get in better shape than they were in college. Find out more at