5 Sled Workouts Used by NFL Players

Dominic Frazier has worked as a strength and conditioning coach for dozens of elite NFL athletes, including the Falcons, Cowboys, Titans, Lions, and Browns. He’s also trained athletes in Major League Baseball as well as other sports such as soccer, golf, and racquetball. Helping his clients to develop power is his specialty, so read on if you want to find out what methods he uses for his elite NFL athletes that you can use to increase power in your everyday workouts — and maybe make your pro-athlete debut.

Biomechanics and Lateral Movements Are Key

“From a performance standpoint, you have to look at biomechanics and how certain movements are presented on the field,” says Frazier. 

From his point of view, power can be less about adding extra resistance or intensity to movements and more about refining simple movements so that you can achieve “game time reaction” during practice and drills. To achieve this, he works with his athletes on explosiveness, ground reaction time, lateral balance (most movements in football are lateral), and conditioning their reflexes to stabilize during each movement.

Simple movements like hopping, skipping, and jumping make up most power programs. But learning to stabilize the joints (usually knees, ankles, and hips) during those movements serves a couple purposes: allowing the muscles to produce greater force through a full range of motion, and preventing injuries.

[You can jump, but can you land? Click here to learn how to safely finish your jump.]

2 ways to improve your biomechanics:

Bounding strides: Moving forward, backward, left or right, practice landing with your weight on the outside edge of your foot, or on the big toe. (That doesn’t mean to literally land with your foot sideways — that’ll sprain your ankle. Land flat, but with your weight in different places.)

Mini discs and speed ladders: Lateral movements are often performed on the inside or outside edge of the foot. Practice planting your foot and digging into the ground on that edge while focusing on ankle and knee stability and alignment through the movement. Here’s a sample drill for you to practice:

  • Skater bounds,
  • Lateral line hops,
  • Agility ladder outside edge cuts.

Nutrition: More Critical Than You Think

This might not be top on your list, but the key to developing awesome, NFL-worthy, explosive power has a lot to do with what you feed your face. Power needs to be properly fueled.

According to Frazier, diet is one of the most important factors for developing power since what you eat fuels the muscles and allows the body to properly recover. Inflammation is a byproduct of exercise that causes pain and impairs performance.

Whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are easily broken down by the body and can help to combat inflammation. They create sustainable energy for the body to perform and help reduce inflammation to reduce pain and support recovery after tough workouts or competitions.

[For easy lean protein, check out our 7 favorite crockpot chicken recipes, with calories and macros.]

But even professional athletes have a hard time sticking to a whole food diet, especially in the off-season. So Dominic says it’s important to pay attention to little things that can improve your performance, like drinking enough water so your body can flush out metabolic waste and hopping in recovery boots when you get a chance.

Remember folks, it’s not all about what exercises you need to do to be explosive, you’ve also got to focus on proper movements, adequate recovery and good nutrition. That’s how you get to the top levels of power and performance.

5 Sleds Routines Used by NFL Athletes

Sled pushes will have a tremendous carryover effect to sports and movements where you are required to perform explosive and dynamic movements like sprinting, jumping, bounding, planting, changing direction, etc.

The Prowler sled in particular is very specific in nature to running, and it has a massive carryover effect. Unlike running, you cannot cheat with your form. In order to get the sled to move, you need to perform the exercise with impeccable technique, yet it is relatively simple to do. As a result, you will establish proper motor patterns and strengthen the muscles that are critical for sprinting. This includes the muscles in the feet and lower legs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. The Prowler sled will dramatically improve your ability to accelerate in all directions, which will improve your quickness, and your acceleration technique.

There are many different ways that a sled can be implemented for power, acceleration and strength, here are a few of Frazier’s go tos.

[No access to a sled? Consider these alternatives.]

Two Sled Push Workouts for Power Training

By increasing the weight of the sled and trying to move it as fast as possible, you can work on power development. Similar to speed development, you are trying to put force into the ground as quickly as possible.

Workout 1

Percent Body Weight: 75-100

On days you are feeling good, use 90 to 100 percent of your body weight. On days where you feel like you’re dragging a little, drop the weight down to 75 to 85 percent.

Distance: 10-25 yards

Just like with speed, the shorter distance is good for developing short explosive power. As you increase the distance, you will work on increasing power-endurance.

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds

Workout 2

Load approximately 70-85% of your maximum weight to the sled. If you have been doing this for a while, you might be able to use closer 90% of your maximum weight. Do a few warm-up sets at a lighter weight. Perform a 10 yard push. Your goal is to push this weight as explosively as possible. Rest for 3-5 minutes between rounds. This longer rest interval will allow for phosphagen (ATP/creatine phosphate) stores to recover, which is imperative if you are training for power. Perform 6-10 rounds.

Sled Pushes for Strength Training

Pushing a heavy sled can do wonders for developing single-leg strength and leg drive, as well as building one’s confidence. Plus, nothing looks better than a sled loaded up with a mountain of weight.

Percent Body Weight: 150-200

When choosing weight, go with how strong you’re feeling that day (this can vary depending on week, training phase).  Unlike with speed and power, you don’t need to move the sled with blazing speed. Just try to get it from point A to B without form and mechanics breaking down.

Distance: 25-50 yards

If you are going real heavy, keep the distance to 25 yards. If not so heavy, go 50 yards.

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds between sets

[Read more: Why sled pushes and pulls will revolutionize your strongman training.]

Sled Push Workout for Speed Training

The goal of using sled pushes for speed training is to apply more force into the ground as quick as possible. This is done by loading up the sled with a weight light enough that you can push it at a fast speed while also placing more force into the ground.

Percent Body Weight: Use 30-50 percent of your body weight on days you feel fresh. On days when you are feeling a little more run down, use 15-25 percent.

Distance: 10-20 yards

The 10-yard distance is good for working on your starting speed. As you increase your distance, you will work on other speed qualities, such as speed-endurance.

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 45-60 seconds between sets

After you have finished all of your sled pushes, rest and perform one or two unresisted sprints.

Multi-distance Sled Marches

This is a great one to improve general physical fitness and overall lower body and aerobic conditioning.

Place 10-15 multi colored cones alongside a 100 m track and or whatever distance you have available. Here you are going to have the sled behind you attached to a waist harness. You are going to take a heel toe relationship and march to the furthest cone then back to start. From there rest 30-60 seconds and then repeat back to the 2nd furthest cone and then back to the start. You will repeat this all the way until you get to the closest cone. As you are stepping you are pulling through with the hamstring and glutes, so this will become very taxing on your legs.

Training power is a vast topic that can fill countless books, but sled training and the right explosive drills can go a long way toward getting you to athlete level. Enjoy the workouts.

Featured image via @elleryphotos on Instagram.