Improve Conditioning With The Sled


Conditioning work does not have to be boring nor does it have to beat you up. Developing your General Physical Preparedness (GPP) can add value to your training sessions and as well as break up the monotony.

One of the mistakes I see athletes make with their conditioning is not having enough variance in terms of energy systems development.

The emphasis more times than not is on “longer, slower sessions” because most think “more is more.”

Besides, is it really possible to derive results from sets that only last 10-15 seconds!?

Yes, of course, it is!

Put simply, many athletes are not educated when it comes to energy systems and likely aren’t aware of the holes they may have in their game.

I get it, the nuances of conditioning can certainly be confusing and if you didn’t do your own homework you might never know where your conditioning is lacking.

Bridge the gap with the sled

An effective way to train all three energy systems can be done by regularly including sledwork into your program.

Because sledwork does not require a high level of skill to perform max effort sets, it’s a great choice for athletes of all abilities.

Sledwork also does not come with any axial loading and being more “concentric” in nature you won’t incur excessive muscle-soreness that could impair your other training sessions.

Top it off with the fact that sledwork can double as “unilateral” work allowing you to also work asymmetries.

With all of that considered it would be hard to imagine why anyone would NOT want to include sledwork into their program.

How to incorporate

Adding sled work into your schedule so that it doe not interfere with your current program is relatively straight forward, but we’ll need to have a clear intent in terms of the energy demands of each session.

The placement of each session must align with our other programming in terms of volume/intensity with high-threshold work being separated by a minimum of 72 hours.

First off, we are going to implement this conditioning in a manner that allows us to work all three energy systems.

A typical weak breakdown will look something like this:

Day 1: ATP-PC Capacity Intervals: Empty Sled Sprint Work with full recovery between bouts. Efforts will be 100% and recovery will be 15-20x longer than the amount of work. This work helps to improve the ability to maintain explosive power for an extended duration.

Day 2: Strongman Endurance: Longer Duration Sledpulls and Loaded Carries. This will enable us to improves areas of core muscular endurance, posture, and grip strength.

Day 3: “Finisher”: Mixed sled/carry work for longer durations (no longer than 10 minutes.) This work improves our ability to sustain anaerobic energy production for extended periods of time.

Now that we know how each day will be broken down, let’s talk about the specifics of each session and the training intent.

As you can see from above, we are targeting each energy system each with specific goals/outcomes.


Sledpull Powerwalk

Other options with the Sledpull Powerwalk:

  • Farmer Carry – two kettlebells or dumbbells by your side
  • Wheelbarrow – if you have access to wheelbarrow this can be added with your sledpull
  • Front Rack Carry
  • Overhead Carry
  • Crossbody Carry

Sledpull Holding Medball

Sledpull Rows

Sledpull With Straps Between Legs

Sledpull Triceps Extensions

Sledpull Backpedal

The Plan

Day 1, ATP-PC Capacity Intervals:
Empty Sled Sprints: 10 x 10-15s of Work. Rest 2:00
**You should be able to sustain work-output, but keep in mind with “capacity” work if the output drops slightly that’s perfectly fine. If you feel completely drained, end your session.
**If you’re a CrossFittter this can be done a lower-body intensive day

Day 2, Strongman Endurance:
1) Sledpull Powerwalk: 10 x 60 yards. Rest 60s. Load on your sled should be moderate and you should be able to be forceful on all steps.
2) Farmer Carry or Yoke Carry: 10 x 20 yards. Rest 60s-90s. Use a load that’s challenging.
*Done as it’s own conditioning session

Day 3, “Finisher”
One of the above variations for a distance of 400-800 meters for time.

This work can be varied quite easily to keep things fresh, but the most important thing to remember with these sessions is that our objectives should be clear in terms of work-output, duration of sets, and recovery periods needed between sets.

Additionally, you will need to adjust the recovery periods to align with your capacity. For some, these rest intervals may not be enough so increasing the rest interval by 60s would be appropriate.

Bringing it all together

One of the best aspects of performing conditioning work with a sled is that it’s efficient, it can be varied a number of ways so we don’t get bored, and it does NOT take away from other aspects of your current training programming.

This work can actually add to your current plan allowing you to get more from your main training sessions.

Most importantly, you’ll be less likely to have holes in your conditioning game, and will see a huge carryover to your other CrossFit-specific metcons.

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