Sled Drags, Carries, Slideboards, Shuttle Runs etc. Who needs boring cardio?

For the most part, probably not.  A lot of people jog or walk everyday to get moving and tend to believe that long distance “cardio” is the way to get in shape and burn fat.  Even from my own experience,  a jog every now and again seems to clear my head, stress, serve as a break between reading sessions, thoughts, or provides an excuse to get off the couch on the weekends. I would tend to think that when people go for long distance runs on a treadmill, jog outside, or bike, that their main motivation it to burn body fat.  Even athletes may tend to believe that you need to “build a base” upon which to improve your performance. Unfortunately I have heard that too much in the high school track and football community.  However,  all research easily indicates how high intensity intervals (many different modalities for this) are far superior for burning fat as well as increasing athletes’ conditioning levels (VO2max).  From an athletic performance standpoint,  all athletes would benefit tremendously if coaches would cut out any type of aerobic training, period.  There are a few reasons where low-level steady state cardio would be acceptable (1) for those who are beginners to any type of exercise, (2)obese clients, (3)or athletes that are significantly out of shape ( i.e. if they cannot run 30 meters without gasping for air, there may be problem) .  Take football for example, the average play lasts 5-7 seconds followed by a 20-30 break, pros even up to 40 seconds.

Alan Branch #80 does not need to build an aerobic base for what he is asked to do

In this article by Wall Street Journal titled, 11 Minutes of Action, researchers found that the total time “if you tally up everything that happens between the time the ball is snapped and the play is whistled dead by the officials, there’s barely enough time to prepare a hard-boiled egg. In fact, the average telecast devotes 56% more time to showing replays” – it was around 11 minutes of total playing action for a broadcast that lasts 3 hours long.  Build a base or foundation for what?  The same could be said for pitchers in baseball needing cardio endurance training…do baseball pitchers (or any baseball player) really need to run for long distances when they are throwing a ball with high velocities in less than a second?

Modalities and examples for interval training?

Shuttle Runs : 0 – 25 yds  (run hard back and forth between 0 and 25 yard markers for 20 seconds followed by 40 seconds rest, then repeat for that week’s amount of reps)

  • Week 1 : 8 x 20:40
  • Week 2 : 10 x 20:40
  • Week 3 : 12 x 20:40
  • Week 4 : 7 x 20:40 (Less reps because it could be used as a deload week)

 Slideboard: One of the most effective means for conditioning and work capacity (aerobic and anaerobic).  It positively stresses the hip and groin musculature in lateral movements that occur with all sporting movements as well as help prevent groin injuries in pre season for sports like hockey and soccer. If you did not have slideboards at the facility you train, shuttle runs are probably your next best option.

Slideboard Interval Examples: As you progress you could add a weight vest.  20-30 seconds intervals is a good number to start with because you get comfortable with slideboarding but anything over 30 seconds for beginners maybe result in lack of good form.

  • Week 1 : 7 x 30: 1:30
  • Week 2 : 8 x 30: 1:30
  • Week 3 : 10 x 30: 1:30
  • Week 4 :  6 x 30: 1:30


Sled Pulls, Pushes, or Carries- My favorite.  Heavy ass pulling, dragging, and carrying crap are amazing for your work capacity, building strength, power, or endurance and you do not feel the soreness because there is limited eccentric stress involved (sled pulls and pushes).  Therefore, doing sled work will be easier on the joints and have less spinal loading that you would get from conventional squats/deadlifts  You can adjust the specificity to work on strength, power, speed, or conditioning depending on weight used,speed, or rest intervals.  Carries are incredibly tough and I would highly recommend looking at the Jorts Jumblings post I had last Friday and read The Secrets of Loaded Carries.  One of the greatest benefits of carries is that it works your body in a unilateral way (as do sleds), which everyone needs because we all walk, jog, or run.  Athletes need the ability to produce unilateral power, speed, and strength.  There are also so many different ways to do them as well, simple<——> complex.  Here’s a more advanced one from Tony Gentilcore.

Forward Sled Drags will work more posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings)- Think of driving feet back and down into ground hard while maintaining a forward lean.

Backward Sled Drags (Reverse Sled drags)- will work more anteriorly (quads). Get you chest up and get that knee extension.

Lateral Sled Drags- Works glute medius (stabilizing muscle of your hip), and groins.  You want to think of driving underneath your body with outside leg while coming across with inside leg.

There are also other various ways to enhance performance and lose bodyfat (i.e. Kettlebell swings for time followed by sprints). Hopefully this gave some insight on how we can drop the typical boring cardio for better movement patterns that are fun, intense, and more effective. 







Lateral Sled Drag


Reverse Sled Drag


Forward Sled Drag

Who should do their typical cardio? Those that cannot tolerate interval training (true beginners to exercise, obese clients, or athletes that may be significantly out of shape)

Categories: Conditioning, Injury Prevention, Strength Training, Uncategorized

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