Preface: This article was written along time ago but I still do all of these to this day. To date, I have been sled dragging for over 20 years. I have added hundreds of variations over the years and this is just a basic run down to get you going. Sled dragging is simple way to get rep work in and add volume to your training. It is a easy way to pump blood, increase aerobic capacity in training and in general work on movements you dislike in general. Sled dragging is great for rehab as well. You also get some fresh air and step away from the general gym formats that are driven by the masses and social media. Enjoy this time and detox your brain!
20 Upper Body Sled Exercises
All of these exercises should be done for reps. We work on a track and set the rep number and then flow from one exercise to the next with the same rep scheme.
1. Pec Fly: The basic! Put your hands inside the loops of the upper body strap. Raise your arms until they are perpendicular to your shoulders with a slight bend at your elbow. As you walk forward let the weight pull your arms back like doing a traditional pec fly on a machine. Go to the point you feel most comfortable and then contract like you were going to clap your hands only with your arms extended. As you walk forward, repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Try to keep tension on the strap at all times.
2. Bench Press With A Sled (with no bench, weird huh?): There are two types of presses. Sled press number one is simply a bench press with the upper body strap. Place your hands inside the loops with strap pressure in palms of your hands. You will set up as if you were lying on a bench holding the bar over your chest. As you move forward the straps will pull your hands back. When you reach your hands reach your chest or a little deeper past the chest, press the straps out until your arms are locked. You can tuck the elbows in by your sides or hold them high like a bodybuilder press. Basically, you are performing a standing, walking bench press.
The second option is to press with a light bar or a stick of some sort like a broomstick. Run the stick through the strap loops. Hold the stick at whatever grip you want to work, pressing and walking the same as if you were just using the straps. Bring the bar back until it touches your chest like in a true bench press.
3. Overhead Triceps and Lateral One Arm French Press: This two hand overhead triceps extension starts with the hands holding the straps, arms straight overhead. As you walk forward, bend your arms at the elbows then extend them straight up again. You will find a rhythm as you begin walking and the weight will pull your arms back. I use this exercise a lot especially when my shoulders are beat up from static work. Basically it will look like a dumbbell French press behind your head.
The one arm is different in that you will walk sideways (laterally) holding the loops in one hand. Your arm will start straight overhead and as you move laterally, let the arm bend at the elbow. When your hand gets behind your head, simply extend the arm back to the locked position overhead. Repeat and repeat and repeat…
4. Overhead Triceps Shoulder and Triceps Roll: This rotational exercise starts with your hands inside the loops of the strap and arms fully extended at shoulder height in front of you. Keep your arms locked as you move forward. Once you get moving, your hands will move up as you bend them. They will look like they are coming at your head (which they are, sort of!) Once your hands reach eye level, you start to rotate from your shoulder (not your arms) behind your head until they can go no further. Then extend them back out to the start position. This is one of my favorites for triceps and shoulder work.
5. Triceps Kickback While Walking Backwards: This is one where you will be walking backwards while bent at the waist with your tail pushed back. It is the same as a two handed dumbbell kickback only you use the straps and sled. With your hands inside the loops you will bend over. As you walk backwards let your arms bend at the elbow. Then extend backwards behind you as far as possible. You will be in the bent position the entire time so make sure you are pushing your tail back and loading your hamstrings or your low back will start to complain.
6. Two Handed Backwards Rear Delts: This exercise should be a staple in your rear deltoid arsenal. Grab the strap on the outside of the loops. As you walk backwards, extend your arms away from you (straight out in front). When they are full extended pull them back and up slightly so you look like a “Y”. (Whatever you do, don’t break out into YMCA by the Village People. That would be very bad for your bad ass sled dragging image.) Keep your arms locked as much as possible on the contraction (pull). Contract your delts hard at the top of the “Y”. Release the strap until your arms are fully extended again and the strap tightens back up again. Here is another way to think about this exercise. Hold your arms up in a “Y” positions and then keep them straight while you clap. Your hands will end up around waist level for the clap, then back out for the “Y” rear delt contraction. When you contract from the bottom position, your legs will push too. This is fine. Allow this to happen.
7. Front Raise: This is a forward walking movement. It is the same as a barbell or dumbbell front raise. Only your hands are inside the strap loops to start, palms facing behind your, arms by your sides. As you walk raise the straps until they are just past parallel to the ground. Keep walking forward and slowly lower your arms back to your sides. Keep tension on the strap the entire movement.
8. Rear Walking Low Row: This is a sled dragging modification of the seated row. You walk backwards till your arms are fully extended and then row the straps to your waist/sides. Keep tension on the strap the entire time.
9. One Arm Side Raise Laterally: Grab both ends on the straps with one hand. You will be walking sideways for this movement and your arm will be straight and almost locked. As you move sideways, move your arm across your body, when it can go no further, you
extend it away from your body just like a dumbbell side raise. Keep the tension on the strap the entire time. Switch sides after you reach your rep range or till you burn it out.
10. Backwards biceps and One Arm Curl: For the backwards bicep curl just grab the strap loops in each hand and walk backwards curling the loops towards your chest. As you release and walk backwards keep the tension on the strap the entire time. When your arms are fully extended in front of you again, repeat the curls. The key is the constant tension on the biceps.
11. Forward Standing Rotator: Hold your arms bent at 90 degrees with the strap loops in each hand. Walk forward till the slack is out of the strap, then pull your hands down while keep the elbow at shoulder height so that the movement comes from the shoulder complex. Once you can go no further with the upper arm, walk forward pulling the sled. Allow the hand to go back up to the 90 degree position. You will look like football goal posts in the top position.
12. One Arm Rear Delt: Grab both ends of the upper body sled strap in one hand. You will be walking backwards. It is the same as the two handed rear deltoid exercise in essence but you are only using one arm. Your arm will be extended out in front of you. As you walk backwards the strap will lose its slack. When your arm is fully extended in front of you, then you will pull your arm out and away from your body. The end position will have your arm in the “Y” position like you were screaming “YEAH”. Concentration during this exercise is on the rear deltoid contraction.
13. One Arm Side Triceps Extension: This exercise is like the start position of a low cable triceps extension across the body. You will be bent over at the waist with your butt pushed back. You will walk sideways and as the strap pulls your arm across your chest, you will then reverse it and extend the arm away from your chest. Your fist will face the ground at the end of the movement. As you walk again, your arm will go back across your chest, let it bend at the elbow so your hand touches your chest. Your hand will be inside both loops with the pressure of the strap on the side of the hand/palm.
14. Backwards Front Raise: This is one of the more difficult moves because you have to walk backwards and keep your arms straight while trying to do the front raise. Arms start at your sides with your hands outside the loop holding the top of the strap loop. Raise your arms almost to a locked out military press, then release and walk backwards till the loops pull your arms back down to your sides and repeat! Very light weight or none at all is recommended.
Static Hold Exercises
All of these exercises are performed by getting into the correct position and then holding that position while walking with the sled.
15. Iron Cross: I hate this one! It is very easy to perform but hell to hold for very long. Begin by holding your arms by your sides at or close to shoulder height, parallel to the ground. You should have a slight bend (very slight bend) at your elbow like a pec fly movement. If you have seen the gymnastics dudes doing the Iron Cross on the rings, you are doing the same thing only holding the position and walking with the sled. We go a distance of about 25 yards before stopping to regroup. Hold on and pray!
16. Overhead Hold: This exercise requires you to put your hands straight overhead and walking while holding the straps in side the loops and on the lower part of the palm. A trick I like to use is to keep the arms locked but allow them to move backwards some so it resembles an overhead locked Olympic Jerk or Snatch. You should allow your shoulders to pack into the socket for more stability.
17. 90 Degree Rotator Forwards and Backwards: These exercises are executed holding the arms and elbows in a 90 degree position. To perform each, one is walking forwards and the other is a backwards walk. The backwards is the hardest to hold and work. You can hold the loops which is tougher or you can put your arms inside the loops and pull the loops up onto your biceps (if they fit) for more support.
18. Press Positions (Lower with a Pec Stretch and High Bodybuilder Press Holds): For the lower pec hold grab the strap loops and hold them with your elbows tucked at 45 degrees, like a normal bench press. The hand position is right at chest level or slightly above. (It can also be where you feel you are weakest on the bench). Hold this position and walk forward.
The bodybuilder hold is simply a press where the arms and elbows are at shoulder level and 90 degrees. Press positions can vary to any part of the press where you feel weak. Hint: Move the positions up and down and try to feel where it is hardest to hold and work on that. The hands are inside the loops with the bottom portion of the palm where the strap will sit on the hand.
19. One Arm 90 Degree Military and One Arm Overhead: This static exercise starts with one arm straight up and the other one in a 90 degree position. You will walk forwards and hold as long as possible then switch positions on each side so it is opposite of the first one. Alternate back and forth.
20. Backwards Row Hold: This static move involves walking backwards with the upper body strap pulled close to the sides and around the belly button area. Push the chest up and contract the shoulder blades while pulling. Basically, you are holding the ending position of a seated row. Hold this while walking backwards as long as possible.
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