The Best Sprint Sleds For Speed & How To Use Them
I’ve used many different sprint sleds over the past 15 years, and in that time I’ve found that not all sleds are created equal. Sleds vary in quality, utility, use ability, and overall value.
What makes a good sled for sprinting?
Different users may have varied priorities in what they want out of a sled, but in general there are a few common themes that people care about with a sprint sled. The sled should be durable, light weight, and should be able to fit enough weight.
Cheap sleds will often not fit 45lb weight plates, or the overall build quality may be lacking. These may work better than no sled at all, but the cheapest product doesn’t necessarily provide the best value.
The Best Sprint Sled For Sprinters
Though not the cheapest, the Sprint Start Sled is arguably the best sled for sprinters because it allows them to perform block starts using the sled.I personally own this sled and purchased it with my own money.
Most sprinting sleds are built to sit low on the ground, which means you can only use them when going from start that doesn’t use blocks. Sleds can be a great tool for improving rate of force development, and the Sprint Start Sled allows you to work RFD in the most race specific positions possible, coming out of the blocks with resistance.
For track and field athletes who sprint from blocks in competition, the Sprint Start Sled will give you the versatility to use them in any manner of starting you want.
I bought this sled because I believe it is a unique skill to push against the vertical face of the blocks, and never felt that the sled pulls I was performing from 3 and 4 point stances without blocks were transferring well to the my block clearance or initial launch out of the blocks.
After using this sled, I had a big personal best in my 30 meter sprint time from blocks, measured using a Freelap Timing System.
The Best Sprint Sled Under $200
The best sled under $200 is the First Place Sled Dawg by Perform Better. This simple sled is well built, durable, and can hold 200lb or more.
The weight section is covered to prevent metal-on-metal damage from taking place, and the option for a quick release harness gives the sprinter versatility in how they use the sled.
Unlike other sleds, the Sled Dawg harness is anchored to the center of the sled, rather than the legs.
There is the option to use either standard plates or Olympic plates. Most people should likely order the Olympic plate size, as this fits the typical weight plate you are used to seeing at your local gym. The "standard" plates are far less common these days and have a smaller opening than your typical Olympic plate. This sled also comes with a quick release option, giving the sprinter versatility with how they use it.
If you want a basic sled without breaking the bank, the Sled Dawg might be the way to go.
The Best Sprint Sled For Sled Pushes
If you prefer to do sled pushes rather than sled pulls, such as you would do with a prowler, then the best pushing sled is going to be the Power Systems Granite Series Sled.
The Granite Series Sled is very well built and can take some serious usage. This sled is versatile in that you can either perform sled pushes or sled pulls, depending on how you set it up.
To perform sled pushes, you can insert the vertical push poles which allow you to get a good grip, a low push angle, and a great whole body workout. If instead you are looking to perform sled pulls using a harness, you can take the push poles out and attach a harness instead.
The fact that you can choose to do either pulling or pushing with this sled makes it a winner, as well as its high quality build and durability. This sled is great for personal use or for use in a commercial gym.
The Best Lightweight Sprint Sled
If you’re looking for a low profile, lightweight sprinting sled for less than $200, the Gill Athletics Speed Sled is a great option.
Weighing only 7 pounds, this sled makes it easier to do sled pulls regularly, since the sled itself is easy to transport. If you dread lugging a heavy sled to the track, this sled will help you get the most out of resisted sprinting if it makes you more likely to do sled pulls to begin with!
Because of the light weight design, you will be limited to one weight plate at a time. Fortunately, most athletes will only need one plate at a time when they perform sled pulls, making this sled useful for most athletes.
The combination of the affordable price, portability, and overall quality make this low drag sprinting sled a great option for athletes looking to get resisted sprinting workouts in conveniently.
The Best Alternative To A Sled
While sleds are very useful and I use them regularly, some athletes find it challenging to haul around the sled and the weights to the track. If you have a long walk to the track or bring a lot of other equipment with you, it can be inconvenient to bring out a sled and weight plates.
The Exer-Genie is a sled alternative which applies friction to a rope to create resistance that ranges from very light to extremely heavy. In this article on resisted sprinting, I mention the Exer-Genie and why it is sometimes more convenient than a sled.
The Exer-Genie allows you to perform many different exercises, such as resisted sprints, resisted bounds, resisted lunges, and many other exercises.
Essentially, you anchor the Exer-Genie to a pole or fence, set the resistance level, put on the harness, and perform your exercises.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Sprint Sled
Whichever way you go, it will be a good decision to buy a sled. The important thing is that you use the sled properly and consistently over time to get the full benefits of resisted sprinting. That way, you can get the best adaptations from your sprinting workouts using the sled.
There are different ways you can use a sprinting sled, such as:
- Sled pulls with no non-resisted sprints.
- Resisted sprints followed by non-resisted sprints.
- Sprints followed by resisted sprints.
- Contrast training, alternating between resisted and non-resisted sprints throughout the workout.
One progression could be to start with sled sprints alone, adding in contrasts with non-resisted sprints after a while. When needing to emphasize some technical aspects, sleds can used first to slow down the movement and tune into things at a different speed.
Typically with a sprinting sled, I’d avoid going over 20 meters in most cases. First, I think sled pulls are most important for early acceleration. Second. I worry about hamstring strain risk if heavy loads are used over longer distances where the leg is more obtuse and perpendicular to the ground.
Intensity should be high but proper technique must be emphasized. If athletes go hog wild and their ground contacts are all over the place, chances are the sled won’t be as useful. We must ensure that proper technique is used when performing resisted sprinting.
I like to emphasize that athletes aim for low shin angles and attacking backward at the ground. Posture should be such that the athlete neither leans significantly nor pops straight up.
What’s better, chest or waist harnesses?
It is believed that waist harnesses allow for greater horizontal force production, while the chest harness may activate muscles in the upper body differently.
Personally, I’d prefer whichever harness allowed the athlete to exhibit the best technique, but tend to use the waist harness more than anything. It really places the loading emphasis on the legs, and allows you to project low without falling.
When To Avoid Resisted Sprints
Resisted sprints are great, but any training modality we use should only be used if it will not further an injury we currently struggle with. For example. If someone has Achilles tendinitis, I’d likely avoid fast sled sprints and intense jumping activities with them until they were healthy and pain free, within a thought out progression.