Off-Season Sled Programming For Wrestlers and Fighters
Outside of free weights, the one strength and conditioning tool that I feel is absolutely essential for any athlete is a weighted sled. This is especially true for wrestlers and other combat athletes, as many sled movements (getting low and driving/pushing, for example) mimic wrestling positions, and full body sled workouts can be designed to tax all three energy systems.
During the lead up the lead up to and during preseason the best application for sled work is to build work capacity. This is done using moderate/heavy loads as part of a circuit workout or for a set distance to build anaerobic endurance. Once the preseason nears a close and the athletes begin to transition into the competitive season, the priority for sled work should shift towards power and speed development. The best way to build speed with the sled is to push light/moderate loads as fast as possible for a short distance or time, with a long recovery between. Burst Training (heavy loads for very short bursts of 3-5 seconds using a set 1:3 or 1:5 work:rest interval) is a type of interval training with heavy sleds I have developed to build power endurance.
With it presently being the “Off Season”, what type of sled training should a wrestler include in their weekly training program? Sure, you can do circuit training or work capacity type sessions any time of the year, and although it’s not a priority right now, it never hurts to do sprint work and try to improve an athletes speed. But are the preseason and in-season sled training protocols that I listed above the best way to do sled training at this time of year?
During the spring and summer months, a wrestler’s number one training goal (besides improving at wrestling) should be to get stronger. In order to get stronger, we need to increase absolute strength - in sled training terms, you must be able to push/pull/drag or row a heavier weight next week than you can manage this week. The weight on the sled needs to be extremely heavy - when you run out of room for plates, add a partner or two - and done for short distances (10-50ft) or time intervals (less than 30 seconds). The 3 basic sled movements that work the best for absolute strength are Pushing, Dragging, and Rowing.
Get low in a prowler position and drive as hard as you can into the sled. Sprint for the prescribed distance.
Walk backwards dragging a heavy sled. Keep your arms straight as you pull the straps.
Start in an athletic stance with your arms extended in front of you and no slack in the straps. Pull explosively, rowing the sled towards you. Your fists should end the movement at your ribs.
The second, but slightly less sexy, sled training method that applies to off season training the best is prehab. Prehab is a general term that means “preventative rehab” and encapsulates various low intensity exercises that activate muscles, warm the body up, build resiliency and promote movement efficiency, thus decreasing the likelihood of injury. I like to use a good general sled prehab warm up before any training session, but particularly before heavy strength training. Once everything (particularly your glutes, hamstrings, and upper back) is online and firing correctly, your body should be ready to handle some heavy loads without any problems.
The staples of my sled prehab warm up are:
Sled Pull Thru:
Grab the sled strap and face away from the sled, standing out as far as possible. Hinge at the waist then pull the sled forward by explosively extending the hips. Do not pull with your arms.
Face away from the sled and extend your arms up overhead. Keep them in line with your body as you walk forward.
Stand with your arms extended in front of you and grasp the strap handles with palms facing down. Pul your hands towards your face while raising your elbows upward.
Use a light/moderate weight on the prehab exercises and keep a good pace, but do not “go all out”. Low recovery and long distances are fine for prehab, but remember that it is not conditioning work.
After training, make sure to give your muscles the essential amino acids they need to repair and rebuild with Amino Recovery. Amino Recovery is formulated specifically to meet the needs of wrestlers as they recover from intense training, and now includes electrolyte as well as 10g BCAAs and 5g Glutamine.