Running and sprinting against resistance is one of the best ways athletes can complement their speed training, increase ground force production, and focus on speed and running. One of the best ways to incorporate resistance running into workouts is sled pulls.
There’s just one problem: Those of us who live in a cold clime are limited to using this excellent training method during the warm months of the year. The only space that most high schools have available inside are their gymnasiums, where sleds would gauge and scrape the wood flooring.
However, Gopher Performance has the solution—the VariSafe Indoor Weight Sled. This is the first of its kind and the only sled that is safe to be used on a hardwood gym floor.
For a small sled (less than 20 pounds) it very versatile, especially with the harness that comes with it. Here are my top 5 drills using the VariSafe sled indoors:
1. Lightweight Resistance Sprints
The key when doing lightweight resistance sprints is that the weight is actually light—as in 10% or less of the athlete’s bodyweight. The sled should provide resistance but not so much that it affects running mechanics. The start, acceleration, and top-speed phases should all be performed using normal mechanics and form. If the weight is too heavy, all these things are hindered along with the athlete’s body angle. You want to mimic sprinting as closely as possible.
- “Explode off the line.”
- “Pound the ground.”
- “Hammer the ground with your feet.”
- “Drive the arms, drive the knees.”
- “All out!”
2. Resistance Lateral Sprints
In most sports, athletes spend just as much time, if not more, moving laterally compared to running straight ahead. The fastest way to move laterally is to sprint laterally. Adding resistance to lateral sprints requires more ground force production, and training. This will carry over and result in improved lateral speed.
- “Keep shoulders square to the side.”
- “Rotate your torso to the side, don’t just turn your head.”
- “Good crossover step with the back leg.”
- “Run hard, all out!”
3. Resistance Shuffle
Shuffling to the side while pulling a light resistance can help develop the lateral power needed for change of direction and short lateral bursts. Athletes will very rarely shuffle a long distance in competition so the distance shuffling with the sleds should be kept shorter than sprinting distances.
- “Maintain a good “ready position’.”
- “Stay low.”
- “Push hard with the back leg.”
4. Heavy Resistance Marching
One drill that I really like is marching while pulling a heavy load. It is a fantastic way not only to produce force, but also to focus on running form and sprint mechanics. The heavy weight causes the athlete to assume an exaggerated forward lean, like that of the acceleration phase of a sprint. This results in greater horizontal force production compared to an upright running position.
- “Knee up, heel up, toe up”
- “Drive the arms”
- “Rotate the arms straight ahead at the shoulder.”
- “Pound the ground with the feet.”
5. Heavy Sled Pushes
A nice feature of the VariSafe sled is the low handle on the back that allows for pushing. These low pushes work at the greatest horizontal level of all the drills. While pushing the sled removes the running arm action that you get while pulling, it does add it a stability component. Arms and shoulders must completely stabilized and locked in order to move the weight. Pushing sleds also results in greater stabilization of the core.
- “Stay low.”
- “Drive the legs, extend the legs.”
- “Keep your arms solid.”
Practical Applications – Sled Workouts
Whenever I am discussing resistance sleds with other coaches or teachers, the conversation always turns to actual workouts and how to utilize sleds within training programs. I love what sleds can do for speed development in high school athletes and I try to include them on a regular basis if possible.
When it comes to workouts, I divide sled work into two different categories: light and fast sleds for speed, and heavy sleds for power. Performing light sled drills once a week has been very beneficial for my athletes. It’s easy to fit it in, but does not take away from the rest of the week’s speed training.
Work with heavy sleds can be performed once or twice a week, and can be combined with light sled drills for one comprehensive workout. If completed this way, the heavy pulls or pushes should always be done after the light and fast speed drills.
However, I like to do heavy sled training separate from light sled- and speed-training. Heavy sleds are also very easy to include as part of your regular strength training workouts. When it comes to weight training workouts, sleds can be a fantastic lower body auxiliary movement.
Pull by the Numbers
Workout Parameters: Light Sleds
- Pulling weight/resistance = 10% of body weight or less.
- Distance = start with 20-25 yards, progress to 40 yards at the most
- Recovery = 2:00-3:00
- Reps = 6-8 starting out progressing to as high as 12.
- Groups = 3 athletes works best. Athlete #1 pulls the sled down to Athlete #2. #2 pulls it back to the starting line for Athlete #3. Athlete #3 pulls it back again to where Athlete #1 is waiting. Now everyone is ready for the second round. You don’t have to move anything anywhere to start the next rep.
Workout Parameters: Heavy Sleds
- Pulling weight/resistance = As heavy as the athletes can handle
- Distance = 10-30 yards depending on the weight used. The heavier the weight, the shorter the distance.
- Recovery = 3:00-5:00
- Reps = 4-8
- Groups = 5 athletes.
Review of the Gopher Performance Varisafe Indoor Weight Sled
I really like this sled, for a variety of reasons. The first and most obvious is that it can be used indoors without harming a standard gym floor. I’ve never seen anything like this, and it’s a huge deal for us to be able to finally do indoor resistance sprints. Our outdoor fields are currently buried under two feet of snow and we don’t have a field house. With this sled, we no longer have to wait for the snow to melt.
The felt strips on the bottom of the sled leave absolutely no marks on the hardwood floor. The first time we used the sled, we loaded it with 135 pounds and pulled it back and forth across the basketball court over 20 times. I actually got down on my hands and knees to examine the floor and you couldn’t even tell the sled had been used. No evidence whatsoever. The felt strips are also easy to replace if they ever get worn out.
The size of the sled is perfect. It’s light so it’s easy to move to where you are going to use it. The small size also makes it easy to store. Big sleds are hard to move and ever harder to find storage space for.
The strap and harness that are included with the sled are really heavy duty. The strap is 10’ long which puts the athlete a good distance in front of the sled with a good pulling angle. It’s also wider and stronger than other tow traps that I’ve used. The hardness is well designed. It has pads inside for your shoulders. There are three rings to attach the tow strap to, which is really nice: one in the center, and then one toward each side for lateral pulls. The connecting strap in the front is also adjustable for different body sizes.
Overall, this is a great product for my athletes and I highly recommend it. If you have been looking for a sled to use indoors, look no further!
VariSafe Indoor Weight Sled Images:
Scott Meier is currently in his 19 year at Farmington High School (MN) where he is the Strength & Conditioning Coach. He is also a Physical Education Teacher at FHS and teaches Sports Conditioning, Weight Training, and 9th grade Fitness For Life classes. He coached Farmington’s competitive weightlifting for 9 years, and in that time, the Tigers earned four state team titles, over 40 individual state champions, and multiple state record holders. Prior to that he was the head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Lakeville (MN) High School and worked as a personal trainer for 6 years. Scott is featured in the award-winning documentary “My Run” which tells the story of his 56-year-old client who ran 75 marathons in 75 days. He continues to compete in track & field at the masters level where he is a nationally ranked sprinter and holds several state age-group records. Scott is the current Minnesota state director of the National High School Strength Coaches Association.