If you’ve read much on current training methods for powerlifters, football players, and other athletes, you have probably heard about sled pulling. If you haven’t, learn now, because it’s a fantastic addition to any weight-lifting routine! While you most often read about sleds being used for explosive training and recovery purposes, they are a great tool for anyone looking to add mass. Read on to learn more about sled pulling for muscle building!
Concentric vs. Eccentric
One of the main benefits of pulling a sled is that any exercise you do will have essentially no eccentric phase. What does that mean? Almost every “conventional” weight lifting movement has an eccentric, or lowering phase, and a concentric, or lifting phase. When you squat or bench press, you begin by lowering the weight (that’s the eccentric portion), and you complete the lift by pushing it back up (the concentric portion). In fact the reason the deadlift is called such is that it starts “dead” on the ground – there’s no eccentric phase, you just rip it off the ground! With a sled, you pull or push, the sled moves, and that’s it – there’s no lowering phase.
Now, the eccentric phase of a lift can be extremely powerful for muscle building. When you lower a weight under control, a great deal of trauma and micro-tearing happens within your muscle fibers, forcing them to grow once you provide them with proper nutrients. However, this is also very stressful on the body, much more so than the concentric portion of a lift. Ever done a chest workout with lots of slow negatives and pauses in the stretched position? Your pecs are sore and useless for days afterwards!
More Volume, Better Recovery
As we’ve discussed, the eccentric phase of any lift has a lot going for it in terms of muscle building. And of course, you’re not going to stop doing heavy presses, squats, and pulls any time soon, even if the eccentrics are hard on your recovery abilities – those are your money exercises, the workhorses of your training regimen! However, you do want a find creative ways to maximize the amount of work you can do in the gym, while not exceeding your body’s capacity to recover. This is where sled pulling comes in.
With a simple sled and a couple of different rope attachments, you can do all sorts of exercises to work every muscle in your body. Basic forward and backward drags will torch your quads, hamstrings, and calves. Using two ropes or straps of equal length, you can also face away from the sled and “press” it at various angles, working your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Finally, you can work your upper back and biceps with all sorts of rowing movements by facing the sled and pulling the straps at different angles.
By adding these movements into the weight training routine you’re already doing, you can add a great deal of volume without seriously affecting your body’s capacity to recover. This is invaluable because the more work you can complete and recover from, the faster your muscles will grow!
Putting It All Together
So, how exactly should you add sled pulling into your muscle-building routine? The simplest and probably the most effective way is to just add sled work on top of your normal lifting for whatever muscles or movements you’re training on a given day. If it’s leg day and you really want to build your hamstrings, add some heavy backward sled drags at the end of your routine. If you’re benching, finish off your upper body training with some sled presses. Overall, just push, pull, or press the sled however you need to work that days’ muscle groups.
Another way you can use the sled to increase muscle mass is to add extra sessions for certain muscle groups throughout the week. Let’s say you really want to bring up your lats and traps, and you currently train them with regular movements once every four days. It might be too much to add another back workout during those rest days, but you’ll have no problem recovering from some extra sled work! Try doing some rows and face pulls with the sled on that second day of rest between full back workouts. The extra volume will make your back grow like a weed! Of course, apply the same principle to any other muscle groups you’re trying to improve.