Can Sled Training Improve Your Speed?

The weight sled has been popularized through many pro athlete workout videos as a way to improve speed.
The two types you'll see are the Prowler-type sleds that you push, or a weight sled that you pull through a harness or a belt attachment.
We use both types with our athletes, following the belief that both sled types can help improve your ability to generate greater power during your first few sprint strides.
Recently, I heard legendary college track coach Vince Anderson (Texas A&M) weigh in on this very subject.
He mentioned that he uses sled work at times with his college runners, but provided 2 disclaimers to their use.
1) The Resistance Cannot Change Your Mechanics
The best speed improvements an athlete can achieve through training will come from technique. If you add resistance onto poor technique, you aren't going to see any real improvements.
Therefore, Coach Anderson only allows the athletes whose acceleration mechanics are sound to use resistance sleds.
And he does not use particularly heave resistance either, because at a certain load everyone's mechanics will deteriorate.
For high school and middle school athletes, a good percentage will not see speed gains from sled work because their movement patterns are not optimized yet.
2) Sled Work Should Be A Minor Part Of Your Speed Training
Sled training develops power (strength exerted rapidly).
Speed and power are similar, but different athletic skills.
Speed can only be improved through 100% full velocity attempts, which cannot happen with sleds because the resistance will lower that percentage.
Therefore, Coach Anderson recommends that sled training only occupy 20% or less of your speed development training.
Improving power certainly has some carryover to moving faster. The lesson here is that to be fast you must move as fast as possible, and if you are doing sled training for too much of your workout time it is limiting your improvements.
Just like the agility ladder we covered a few posts back, and many other reviews of popular training items over the years, sleds provide benefit to athletes assuming they are used correctly.
If you do sled work in your training, be sure to follow Coach Anderson's rules for optimizing its benefits.

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