Backward Sled Alternative: Tips and Recommendations

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Traditional sled workouts, known for their effectiveness in targeting multiple muscle groups, are a staple in many training regimes.

However, access to a sled can be limited due to cost or space constraints.

In this post, we explore various backward sled alternatives, offering practical and innovative solutions for those seeking similar benefits without the traditional equipment.

Key Takeaway: You can recreate an effective and affordable backward sled workout alternative by walking backward uphill or creating a DIY resistance setup.

Top Picks:
Walking Treadmill: Redliro Walking Treadmill
Drag Sled: Kipika Weight Sled
Sled Pull Belt: THEFITGUY Sled Pulling Belt
Exercise Bands: Resistance Bands

Walking Backward

Man walking backwards in a park

Walking backward, especially up a hill, presents a straightforward and efficient alternative to sled training.

This method is easily accessible and requires no special equipment.

The uphill movement increases resistance naturally, enhancing muscle engagement and balance.

A major advantage of this method is its simplicity and adaptability; you can increase the challenge by dragging a heavy object or carrying something big.

However, it may not provide the same level of resistance as a traditional sled and could be less effective in building strength in certain muscle groups.

Deadmill Technique

Using a non-moving treadmill for backward walking, known as the ‘deadmill’ technique, is a unique approach to simulate sled resistance.

This method focuses on lower body strength and can be quite challenging. It’s a great option if you already have a treadmill at home.

However, it may not be suitable for everyone, as it requires balance and can put strain on the lower back if not performed correctly.

Related: Best Backward Walking Treadmills

Small Drag Sled

Creating a small drag system is another low-cost, effective method for replicating sled training.

It’s customizable in terms of weight and resistance, and you can use it in various locations.

Best for Pulling Workouts
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However, like the DIY tire drag, it requires some initial setup and might not offer as controlled a resistance as commercial equipment.

Resistance Bands: Versatile and Portable

Incorporating resistance bands into your workout by placing them behind the knees during squats or around the hips while walking backward can simulate the resistance experienced in sled training.

This approach is highly beneficial due to its portability and adaptability.

Resistance bands are suitable for various fitness levels, allowing for gradual progression.

However, the resistance provided may not be as consistent or as high as with sled exercises, and there is a risk of improper use leading to injury.

Hill Runs and Trail Jogs

Man running uphill

Hill runs and mountain trail jogs offer a natural and effective way to replicate sled workouts.

This form of exercise enhances cardiovascular health while providing natural resistance training.

The changing terrain and incline variations offer a comprehensive workout.

Keep in mind, this method may not be feasible for individuals living in flat or urban areas and might not target specific muscle groups as effectively as sled training.

DIY Tire Drag

Creating your own sled alternative with a used tire and some hardware is an innovative and cost-effective solution.

This approach allows you to drag the tire on various surfaces, providing significant resistance. It’s customizable and can be as challenging as you need.

The downside is that it requires some initial setup and space for storage.

Additionally, dragging on uneven surfaces can be unpredictable and may not suit beginners.

Comparing Traditional Sled Training with Alternatives

While alternatives may not offer the same level of resistance consistency as traditional sleds, they can still provide effective workouts.

Walking backward uphill or dragging a tire offers substantial resistance, although it may vary based on terrain or setup.

Targeted Muscle Engagement

Traditional sleds engage a comprehensive range of lower body muscles uniformly.

Alternatives like hill runs focus more on specific muscles, such as calves and hamstrings, and might not engage others, like glutes, as effectively.

Space and Cost Efficiency

One significant advantage of these alternatives is their cost-effectiveness and minimal space requirements.

Traditional sleds are expensive and require ample space, while alternatives like resistance bands or hill runs are far more accessible.

Versatility and Accessibility

Alternatives provide versatility in workout routines, catering to those who may not have access to traditional gym equipment.

Exercises like the deadmill or tire drag can be adapted to different fitness levels and environments.


What are effective alternatives to traditional sled workouts?

Walking backward uphill, using resistance bands, DIY tire drags, sandbag setups, and the deadmill technique.

Can walking backward uphill replace sled workouts?

Yes, it provides similar resistance and muscle engagement, though intensity may vary.

Are DIY tire drags safe and effective?

Yes, if constructed securely, they offer customizable and effective resistance.

How does the deadmill technique work?

By walking backward on a non-moving treadmill, focusing on lower body strength.

Is equipment necessary for sled workout alternatives?

No, some methods like backward walking don’t require equipment, but others may benefit from it.

Are these alternatives suitable for beginners?

Yes, they can be adjusted for lower intensity and gradually increased.

How can I ensure safety with resistance bands?

Securely fasten the band and start with lighter resistance, focusing on proper form.

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Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

About the Author

Drew Wilkins is a fitness and nutrition expert with a Master's in Biokinesiology (emphasis in Sports Science) from the University of Southern California and over a decade of experience as a personal trainer, nutrition consultant, and wellness coach. An avid surfer and soccer player, he brings a unique perspective to his research, advocating for a balanced approach to health that includes physical fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being.

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