June 24, 2024

Cool Rabbits

Healthcare Enthusiast

The Best Workout Sleds for Pushing Your Progress

Sleds aren’t just for snow days, anymore. In the fitness space, sleds can provide a bevy of training benefits that can help boost your strength workouts as well as your cardio endurance. These effective contraptions can also be great alternatives for athletes that feel a little intimidated by the traditional heavy barbell exercises typically found within a strength training regimen.

Because of their varying shapes and sizes, however, it helps to understand what to look for when opting to add this modality to your daily routine, as well as some of the perks that come with sled training. Before we hit the starting blocks and push into our top workout sleds, let’s get into these critical details.

The Benefits of Sled Training

It’s a full-body experience with an added dose of cardio.

Workout sleds can either be pushed or pulled throughout a set, depending on which muscles you’d like to target. Sled pulls target more of your posterior chain and can be a great modality for developing your lower back and hamstrings. On the other hand, sled pushes can be ideal for developing strong quads, calves and more. There’s also room for upper body targeting, depending on how you grip and move your arms through a given repetition. Sled training is also a compound movement, regardless of which modality you choose, as you’re using more than one muscle group to get the sled from A to B.

Additionally, all that pushing and pulling requires a lot of breathing and cardiovascular endurance, giving this training regimen another layer of performance potential. No matter how fast or far you tote your sled, odds are you’re going to be breathing heavier throughout the journey than you would be just walking or sprinting the track. This is why sled training is a favorite discipline among those looking to better their conditioning levels.

Sled training can help take the stress off your knees and joints.

Another great benefit to sled training as opposed to more traditional barbell movements is that these workouts are more concentric (where the muscles shorten) than eccentric (where the muscles extend). This means that less stress is placed across your knees and joints as you load up with the resistance of the sled. Additionally, you’re in full control of the weight and serve as the propulsive force within each movement, rather than in a squat or leg press where the weighted barbell is placing the strain on your frame as you work against gravity.

This lessened stress on your knees doesn’t mean that sled training is an easier modality, however. You’re still plenty capable of growing muscle and cardiovascular endurance through sled training, and the workouts can be quite taxing. This just means that throughout those grueling workouts, you can be more secure at the joints with less perceived risk of injury than you would pursuing the same results with gargantuan squat or deadlift numbers.

The modality is adaptable for varying ages and fitness levels.

Pushing or pulling a structure is rather intuitive, meaning workout sleds can be easily picked up regardless of your experience in the gym. The main goal is to move the resistance from its starting position to wherever you set your finish line, and there are a number of ways to go about this trip. Choosing a higher or lower grip when pushing — or pulling through your arms or waistline — is completely up to the athlete, and each option is able to work multiple muscle groups at once. As a result, sled training can be excellent for those with limited experience moving a barbell, as well as older athletes who may have less mobility or body control. You may not be able to squat with perfect form, but you can surely walk in a straight line from one end of the room to the other.

What to Look for When Choosing a Workout Sled

Sled Style

Workout sleds aren’t as universally shaped as you’d expect. There are a variety of styles that can better align with what you want out of your workouts.

Prowler sleds often feature a triangular profile with three bottom skis to glide across multiple surfaces and floorings, although they’re best suited for turfed tracks or asphalt. These sleds are typically used in pushing modalities, while some can also be used in pulling movements, depending on the presence of a loop or D-ring. Additionally, because of the sturdier triangle shape, these sleds can hold a ton of plates for really ramping up the resistance.

Push/Pull sleds, on the other hand, resemble more of that toboggan aesthetic with two rails that serve as the contact point between the profile and training surface. This point of contact makes these sleds excellent across a number of training areas. Push/Pull sleds can also be modified for various workouts through add-ons and accessories, providing a little more versatility than other Prowler models. The smaller profile also makes some Push/Pull sleds more travel-friendly for those free afternoons when you’d rather take your training outdoors to the nearby park or field. The slim silhouette does mean less potential resistance, however, as there’s less room to add an extra plate or two for more anaerobic training.

Lastly, Sprint sleds can be excellent options for those wanting to boost their explosiveness and speed out of the starting blocks. Similar in structure to a Push/Pull sled, these tools often showcase a lighter build that can house just a few plates of added resistance. After all, the main goal of this training method is to build explosive power, not brute strength.

Size and Portability

Workout sleds aren’t as cumbersome as other home gym equipment like a squat rack or GHD machine, but there are some models that are more accommodating to your traveling training needs. For instance, because of the larger silhouette and ability to house larger weight totals, it might not be efficient to choose a Prowler sled for on-the-go workouts. If you want your sled training to be more packable, I would suggest opting for a Push/Pull profile.

The portability of Push/Pull sleds is also great if you live in an apartment or don’t have nearby fields or open streets to easily train across. With Prowlers, you want to ensure you have the training space available to effectively use this device. I don’t expect everyone to have 50 yards of turfed track in their basement, but knowing you can actually push or drag your Prowler up and down your street or driveway without much inconvenience is a plus.

Ski Design

You also want to look at your sled’s ski design before purchase, as there are a handful of options that can be better suited for your typical training surface. Many sleds employ a plastic coating across their skis, which can be great for preventing scuffs and deterioration when training on asphalt or concrete. Plus, plastic doesn’t scrape as loudly when moved across sidewalks or streets, which can be a forgotten convenience until you scrape your all-metal sled for 20 yards down a silent pathway.

There are some workout sleds that forgo the ski design, though, and instead opt for a wheeled profile. These options can be excellent for any surface but often come at a higher price point due to the necessary braking mechanisms and other built-in components providing resistance outside of the added weight plates.

Available Attachments

While not an absolute must, choosing a workout sled that’s compatible with accessories can be a great way to mix up your training from day to day. Some sled silhouettes can house different grip bars for a change in height and point of leverage, while others may employ an arm drag system or belted pulley for different pull modalities. There are even some silhouettes that have your sled resembling lawnmowers or wheelbarrows for unique stresses across your frame (“work” is one half of “yard work,” after all).

If you really want to keep your training fresh, make sure these attachments are available for your chosen sled. Be warned, however, that all these accessories can begin to add up over multiple purchases.

How We Tested

collage of workout sleds

Ben Emminger

I’ve had experience training with workout sleds before (thanks to my past athletic endeavors) but just recently began employing them in my normal training regimen again for their total body benefits. Across multiple weeks and sessions atop asphalt streets, paved sidewalks, turfed indoor fields and carpeted basements, I got hands-on with a number of the below sleds, noting how easily these devices slid through each set, as well as how much weight they could easily hold without any jostling or inconvenience.

I also made note of how capable these sleds were in both push and pull movements, as well as the available accessories offering up more leverage points and training challenges. Additionally, portability was tested as I piled a handful of sleds into my car, especially after realizing my crowded basement wasn’t the most ideal for lengthier training regimens. Lastly, I looked at how easily each sled stored while not in use because let’s face it, a workout sled can still eat up a lot of floor space in storage, which may be too much to overcome for those with less available room in their garage or closet.

Now, let’s hit our marks, outline a route and get into the best workout sleds available today.

Titan Fitness Pro Sled System

BEST OVERALL WORKOUT SLED

Titan Fitness Pro Sled System

  • UHMW plastic ski liners help improve durability and glide easily across multiple surfaces
  • Heavier sled silhouette is not conducive to speed workouts

Thanks to the UHMW plastic ski liners, I found this Push/Pull sled from Titan Fitness to be excellent for varied training whether working out on asphalt, carpet or turf. The two included poles slide easily into each available slot for quick back-and-forth transitions, and the 650-pound weight capacity can make for some serious resistance training.

There are also a number of accessories and add-ons available for the Pro Sled System, allowing you to cater your setup to your liking. Unfortunately, the durable 11-gauge steel does not lend itself as much to lightweight portability — loading up this sled as well as the accompanying weight plates for an outdoor workout can easily become a hassle over time.

Torque Fitness Tank M1 Push Sled

BEST UPGRADE WORKOUT SLED

Torque Fitness Tank M1 Push Sled

torquefitness.com

$849.00

  • M1 console provides data readouts for up to four athletes in one session
  • Wall storage is a near necessity given the lengthier profile

Training with a partner (or three) and really want to survey how much work you’re putting into your workout? The Tank M1 from Torque Fitness features an available console display that can showcase your distance traveled, calories burned, wattage output and more. Plus, the console can toggle through statistics for up to four athletes, so switching between users mid-set is just one button away.

I also really appreciated the varied training levels that provided enough resistance to accommodate my daily training needs, and the easy-to-use handle was great for making adjustments on the fly. Plus, the dumbbell cradle accessory is a convenient add-on that allows you to add weight without the use of more cumbersome weight plates. Despite all this luxury though, the Tank M1 is a longer profile, so I highly recommend taking advantage of the available upright wall storage rig. Otherwise, this meaty machine could consume a good portion of your garage.

The Tib Factory Tiny Tank Weighted Sled

BEST BUDGET WORKOUT SLED

The Tib Factory Tiny Tank Weighted Sled

  • Lightweight design is perfect for travel and storage
  • No options or add-ons for push movements

Don’t let the wood construction fool you, this sled definitely lives up to its tank moniker. I was fairly surprised at how durable and effective this profile was at holding excessive weight totals, and the 360-pound capacity should be more than enough for most pulling exercises. Plus, throwing this sled in the car was never an issue, as the lightweight frame can be easily carried with just one hand.

I also like that The Tib Factory makes models for varying training surfaces, so in theory, you can have two well-performing sleds for different environments for well under the price of a standalone metal sled. While I do wish there was a push functionality baked into this design, I’m confident this Tiny Tank will stay in my arsenal for many training days ahead.

Titan Fitness High-Low Push-Pull Sled

BEST PROWLER SLED

Titan Fitness High-Low Push-Pull Sled

  • High weight capacity for more resistance and strength training potential
  • Front low bar handle can rattle due to less secure slotting across the frame

For athletes that already have a dedicated, roomy training space at home, I highly recommend this High-Low Push-Pull Sled from Titan Fitness. The durable 11-gauge steel provides excellent sturdiness to every session, and the multiple-weight sleeves allow you to really max out your efforts. Plus, Titan offers UHMW plastic ski liners for this profile as well, which I recommend to preserve your flooring in the throws of training.

The High-Low Push-Pull Sled is nimble enough to be moved into storage with ease, but naturally, the Prowler aesthetic can be difficult to transport depending on your vehicle or means. Additionally, the low-bar attachment at the front has some play between the handle itself and the seating slot, which can cause some rattling and distracting noise while working out.

Valor Fitness ES-SW Wheelbarrow Sled

BEST WHEELBARROW SLED

Valor Fitness ES-SW Wheelbarrow Sled

Valor Fitness
valorfitness.com

$1,526.59

$378.08 (75% off)

  • Includes a harness for more comfortable, convenient pulling modalities
  • Can take some time to find the right wheelbarrow holding height

Wheelbarrow sled workouts can be excellent for boosting your balance and coordination. Across the market, I believe the ES-SW Wheelbarrow Sled from Valor Fitness is one of the best for this discipline. Not only does the 300-pound weight capacity provide plenty of resistance for really pumping up those sets and reps, but the multi-use design allows for a number of traditional workout sled modalities as well, creating the ideal all-in-one silhouette.

I also appreciate this workout sled from Valor Fitness for the included harness for pulls, as this accessory easily disperses the weight across your back for more efficient training. Just be prepared for a learning curve when picking up the wheelbarrow workout at first, though. You can’t lift the handles too high, or else the skis will dig directly into the ground and stall your progress entirely.

Perform Better! First Place Sled Dawg

BEST SPRINT SLED

Perform Better! First Place Sled Dawg

  • Simple steel design travels easily for on-track sessions
  • No weight capacity listed for slower, more anaerobic workouts

If speed is the name of your game, look no further than this workout sled from Perform Better!. The 20-pound profile slides easily across multiple surfaces, ideal for adding some intensity to those explosive sprint sessions. I also like how compact and portable this speed sled is, making getting to the indoor or outdoor track much more convenient without having to tote hefty gear around.

The only thing I would have liked to see with the First Place Sled Dawg is a weight capacity. Yes, sprint training with a sled should have you pulling only enough weight to reduce your sprint speed by so much percentage, but having this total in hand would make packing the right amount of weights easier when heading out for a session. Still, though, I think this lightweight, ultra-portable design is worth considering if explosiveness is one of your fitness goals this year.

Fringe Sport Model-A Pull Sled

BEST PULL SLED

Fringe Sport Model-A Pull Sled

  • 500-pound weight capacity despite the smaller sled silhouette
  • No harness included for more comfortable training

Maybe you just want to utilize sleds as a posterior chain-boosting modality and want to solely pull your resistance along your journey. The Model-A Pull Sled from Fringe Sport provides plenty of potential across its compact frame thanks to 17 inches of vertical plate space that can accommodate up to 500 pounds for a variety of resistances. Plus, Fringe offers the Model-A with equipped plastic skis that can allow you to take this device wherever and whenever you roam.

The Fringe Sport Model-A does come equipped with a 16-foot pull strap that can be great for newcomers, but if you’d rather tote your workout sled with the added comfort of a harness, expect to make another addition to your cart. Thankfully, the brand does offer a compatible harness to keep your training setup effective, efficient and (most importantly) brand loyal.

Freak Athlete Essentials Multi Sled

MOST COMPACT WORKOUT SLED

Freak Athlete Essentials Multi Sled

freakathleteessentials.com

$279.99

$229.95 (18% off)

  • Removable center plate holder makes unloading more convenient
  • Often at the mercy of limited availability

For storage and portability, having a compact sled is an absolute must. Trust me when I say the Multi Sled from Freak Athlete Essentials delivers on these qualities. The base is very thin, and the Y post attachments easily separate for more convenient housing and transport. My favorite feature of this slim silhouette is the center-weight plate sleeve. Rather than lifting each plate simultaneously to unload this tool, you simply pull the center pole and slide the stack to the side.

There’s a lot to like about this versatile workout sled, but if you fancy adding it to your ensemble, you need to be on the ball. This sled is routinely out of stock, leaving you at the mercy of pre-orders and notifications. At this time, you can pre-order the next available batch, which would be my recommendation to get this simple yet effective tool in your arsenal ASAP.

Spud Inc. Magic Carpet Sled

MOST PORTABLE WORKOUT SLED

Spud Inc. Magic Carpet Sled

spud-inc-straps.com

$158.99

  • Provides a simple plate surface that can be easily rolled up and placed in a gym bag
  • Not suited for use on concrete or asphalt

Spud Inc. has been a foundational company in fitness for it’s impressive lineup of varying straps, belts, accessories and more. This simple yet durable workout sled is no different, and I absolutely admire the ingenuity at play here. Rather than relying on a steel frame, the Magic Carpet utilizes nylon for its composition, resulting in a silhouette that’s plenty durable while still remaining flexible and packable enough for easy transport.

For my training purposes, I prefer to have the strap sewn into the silhouette, but Spud Inc does have other models with a variety of handle configurations, too. The only downfall of this product, ironically, lies in its unique makeup. Nylon can be excellent when weighed down across turf, natural grass or smooth gym flooring, but extended use across concrete or asphalt can leave your versatile training tool a little worse for wear.