When NFL athletes are looking to get faster, it takes special equipment and training to improve their ability. There are various types of sleds, but the two main types used in training are push sleds and speed sleds, which require a harness and leash. The use of sleds is one of the most effective tools a coach has to improve a players' speed, whether that’s to run a faster 40 yard dash or just to score more touchdowns.
Getting Ready to Train
Before any players begin speed work, they should perform an active warm-up. Jogging, shuffling and skipping will warm your muscles and get you ready to do sled drills. Using a speed ladder, a training tool placed on the ground, you can also warm your muscles and improve your speed. Doing a warm-up ensures that you reduce injury and are ready to exercise.
Heavy Sled Pushes
Pushing a heavy sled loads the muscles used for acceleration, the most important aspect of speed in the NFL. The first 10 yards of a run are the easiest place to improve an athlete, and strength is a big component of acceleration. Using a push sled, get into the proper acceleration position. The acceleration position is a 45-degree angle between your body and the ground, creating proper leverage to push the sled forward. Pushing a heavy sled will improve your quads and core musculature as they create movement of the sled.
Heavy Sled Drags
Beyond just pushing the sled for specific speed strength, dragging a sled behind you increases the stress on your posterior chain, the key muscles related to faster athletes. Loading a sled with heavy weight and dragging it allows coaches to strengthen the posterior chain with a lot of weight and volume of work, without overstressing an athlete’s body. As strength coach Joe Defranco, trainer for all-pro linebacker Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans, points out, heavy sled drags also have a great teaching component to enforcing proper sprint form by assisting in creating proper angles for the body.
Light Sled Sprints
When sprinting at top speed using a sled, it is important to keep the weight low. According to Vern Gambetta, an international authority on strength and conditioning, using about 10 percent of your total body weight is the maximum you would use when sprinting. If athletes use too heavy of a weight, it will change their mechanics, and in the long run, negatively impact their performance.
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