Sled pulls, also known as sled drags, can be helpful but not everyone likes them. Discover alternatives to sled pulls that offer similar results.
If you pull the sled forward with the help of some harness attached to the sled, the substitute exercise options will be very similar to sled push alternatives.
On the other hand, more standard sled pulls are an exercise that mainly works your quadriceps, calf muscles, and cardiovascular system. Additionally, you will work your glutes to a small extent.
Pulling the sled sideways would also work your inner and outer thigh muscles.
Whether you don’t enjoy sled drags, you want a more at-home-friendly alternative, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these sled pull substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Sissy squats
If needed you can hold a wall or stable object for balance during this first sled pull alternative. Take the following steps to do a sissy squat:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width. You can start either on your toes or feet flat on the ground.
- Slowly fold your knees as far as comfortable while raising your heels off the ground. Keep your body straight from your knees to the top of your head.
- Stretch your legs again in a controlled motion.
Squats are an extremely popular compound leg exercise. By doing the sissy squat variation the exercise becomes more of a quadricep isolation exercise similar to sled pulls.
One potential downside of sissy squats is that they are relatively challenging when it comes to balance.
Especially if you need to hold weights to make exercise challenging enough for your quadriceps this is not helpful.
2. Running backward with resistance
Running is a popular aerobic exercise. Partly because it is just an aspect of many other sports. By changing the direction you go, this exercise focuses a lot more on your quadriceps.
Moving backward with just your body weight can be a great cardiovascular-focused workout on its own. Even so, if you are interested in workout sled drags, you likely want an extra challenge from external resistance.
There are a few different ways you can do this. Which option is the most convenient for you depends on things like where you work out and what equipment you have available.
The first example is simply wearing a weighted vest while running backward.
This won’t have the exact same feel as a prowler workout sled but it could be enough to suit your needs.
Next, you can make this even harder by running backward up a hill or on an inline treadmill.
Another option is keeping the treadmill turned off, holding the frame, and moving the treadmill belt with the help of your quadricep and calf muscles.
Lastly, you can use speed equipment like a sprinting parachute or with the help of a partner and a suited belt run backward where the other individual partly holds you back.
One potential downside is that these prowler sled equipment alternatives are not as precise as loading a prowler sled with the desired number of weight plates.
Even so, running backward with extra resistance will still offer very similar effects as workout sled pulls.
Take the following steps to do a lunge:
- Stand upright with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Take a big step forward and lower your hips to that both of your knees are at 90-degree angles. Keep your body upright and use your arms for balance if needed.
- Raise your body again by pushing with your front leg.
- Complete your set with one leg and repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg.
There are many lunge variations. The standard one where you return to starting position after each repetition is one that works your quadriceps a lot.
Even with that in mind, lunges are still more of a compound leg exercise than sled pulls. Besides your quadriceps and calves, your glutes and hamstrings will have to work a good amount too.
When doing weighted lunges at home or in the gym you can keep the weights low if you want to keep it more of a cardio-focused sled pull alternative, or choose heavier weights to make it more of a resistance training exercise.
4. Resistance band crab walks
As the name implies, for this next sled drag alternative you need a resistance band, preferably a loop type. Take the following steps to do a resistance band crab walk:
- Stand with your feet near each other, tilt your upper body slightly forward, bend your knees a bit, and place a resistance band right above your knees.
- Take a step sideways with one leg while keeping the other leg on the ground. At the widest, your feet will be about shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and your knees pointing outward throughout the movement.
- Step sideways with your other leg towards the leg that just moved so that you are back in the position from step 1 but at a different spot.
- Do a few steps like this in the same direction.
- Move back in the opposite direction until you are back where you started.
A less common, but possible, variation of sled pulls is walking sideways. By doing sled pulls this way you focus more on your outer thigh muscles.
Resistance band crab walks are alternative that can help you train your outer thigh muscles and to some extent cardiovascular system at home or in the gym.
One potential downside of this option is that is still relatively lacking for training inner thigh muscles. For this, an exercise like weighted leg adductions will be better.
5. Leg extensions
For leg extensions, you need suited resistance bands and an anchor object, a cable machine, ankle weights, or the specific machine for the exercise.
Take the following steps to do a resistance band leg extension:
- Anchor the resistance band somewhere close to the ground. If you are using a chair you can anchor it at the back chair legs.
- Sit on the object you chose with your back to the anchor. Anchor the other end of the resistance band behind your feet. Make sure your folded leg already feels a pull from the resistance band.
- Slowly stretch your legs with the resistance band until they are fully stretched.
- Move your feet back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
Leg extensions are an exercise to isolate your quadricep muscles.
This means you can get the same primary muscle focus as sled pulls but with less engagement of your cardiovascular system and the variety of other muscles you usually work.
If you do a lot of leg extensions, you typically want to balance your training with hamstring exercises too. This helps you avoid muscle imbalances which can lead to injuries.
6. Backward squat walks
Take the following steps to do a backward squat walk:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement. If needed you can also point your arms forward for balance.
- Stay at more or less the same height with your hips as you take a few steps backward.
The backward variation of squat walks focuses more on your quadriceps which makes it a decent alternative to sled pulls.
Compared to simply walking backward you get a bit more quadricep, glute, and lower back muscle engagement.
That being said, for many people backward squat walks are more of a cardiovascular workout.
You can hold extra weights but in addition to your quadriceps, this will also make the movement harder for your glutes and lower back muscles.