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SPECIAL EXERCISES SERIES – No.4 Dead Weight Sled Drags

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Surely you’ve worked with clients who tend to overcompensate on any of the variety of lunges you come up with by finding ways to push with the quads or push off with the back foot. It’s a constant struggle to help them master the concept of extension at the hip rather than extension at the knee.

Enter “Dead Weight Sled Drags”. I call them this way because you are literally dragging a dead weight. Trust me, to do this in a controlled manner is a lot harder than it looks:

What is it good for?

  1. The Dead Weight Sled Drag forces you to push through hip extension. If you try to cheat by pushing off through the forefoot, the harness will actually pull you back. There is essentially no way to cheat. You’ll really target your glutes and hamstrings.
  1. Since it’s a dead start at every rep (ie. you’re not giving the sled much momentum), this a really good exercise to teach how to properly position the center of mass (COM) and brace the core to absorb the pull-back from the harness, all while generating movement though the lower extremity.

How is it done?

  1. You will need a harness attached to a sled. If you don’t have a harness, a belt you use to strap on weights for pull-ups/dips can be attached to a TRX. (Use your imagination, it can be done.) If you don’t have a sled, you can use plates.
  1. Start with one foot forward and lean forward to properly position your COM. This will almost happen naturally as you won’t be able to take off using only the front leg if you don’t lean forward.
  1. Each step should be slow and controlled, focusing on pushing off through extension of the (front) hip.

Are there any different variations?

If the sled is too heavy, you can use plates to drag instead.

A progression would be to use a band along with the harness. This way, you will have to first pull through the tension of the band and then drag the weight, requiring you to reset your bracing strategy mid-movement. Whereas the harness will pull you back only if you try to push off the forefoot or stand up too tall, the band will continuously pull you back, even if you are not cheating.

What do you need to avoid?

  1. Avoid leaning way forward and pushing off through the toes (this is NOT a Strongman truck pull)
  1. Avoid turning the feet out

What are the best loading parameters? When to use it?

I like to use this as a low-threshold accessory exercise so I keep it controlled, non-fatiguing, and stabilizer dominant. I typically go with a 20m drag but am wary of stopping the set if form starts to break down (which you’ll spot pretty quickly: losing balance, getting pulled back, having to step to the side, etc.).

You could use it on days when you’re squatting, deadlifting or lunging as an activation exercise (perform prior to your main lift).

Why not have some fun with it? Throw it into a legs/core circuit, for example:

Dead weight sled drag 20m
30s rest
Overhead walking lunges x 5 reps each leg
30s rest
Front loaded barbell holds hold a heavy loaded barbell in the front squat position
45s
Rest 2mins
3-4 sets

– MLD

Mai-Linh Dovan

Written by Mai-Linh Dovan

Mai-Linh Dovan has been involved in the strength and conditioning field for over 15 years.  She holds a Specialization Bachelor’s in Athletic Therapy and a Masters’ degree in Exercise Science from Concordia University, where she worked in collaborati…