Coaches seeking resisted sprint devices who have not done their due diligence in understanding the technology on the market risk making an ill-informed decision at best, and at worst wasting hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars and countless training hours with methods and devices poorly suited for their needs.
A myriad of factors must be considered prior to making a purchase. In addition to the simple questions, like cost and allotted space, psychosocial aspects such as perceived value and the ability to garner data also hold weight.
This guide introduces the available technology on the market and discusses the benefits and disadvantages of each, directing you toward an understanding of what will work best for you.
Coaches must ask themselves what training concepts they are able to effectively deploy to achieve desirable adaptations for the athletes they work with. Technology is only as useful as the practitioner directing it. Beyond coaching expertise, considerations include the number of athletes training at once, training session flow, space, the need (or lack thereof) for data, other applications (including variable resistance and overspeed training), athlete buy-in, and budget.
Additionally, coaches in the private sector face different circumstances and considerations than those in collegiate or professional sports. When clients are paying you for training, there are expectations to be met and client satisfaction to consider. While these aspects are also important for buy-in and program efficacy in the team sports setting, in general, athletes have little say in their training or choice in undertaking it. Thus, team sports S&C coaches and sport scientists typically have more latitude in programming, as there is often an undertone that athletes will do what they’re told in these settings that isn’t always present in private facilities.Simple devices, such as tow harnesses and bungees, can be employed with entire teams at once; other devices demand small group training or creative training session planning. Click To Tweet
Simple devices, such as tow harnesses and bungees, can be employed with entire teams at once; other devices demand small group training or creative training session planning.
The 1080 Sprint and the DynaSpeed both provide multitudes of data immediately after each rep is complete. Coaches may instantly see sprint velocity, power, and time, allowing for autoregulation, precise programming, and long-term data tracking—a significant advantage over low-tech options. These devices are also the safest and most effective methods of executing overspeed sprinting and other assisted exercises.
Types of Resisted Sprint Devices
Resisted sprint technologies can easily be separated into two categories: low- and high-tech devices. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to the other.
The low-tech devices are rudimentary and inexpensive, yet timeless and efficacious when deployed thoughtfully. Options include bands, bungees, parachutes, sleds, harnesses, the Exer-Genie, and even hills. Within this group we have options for pushing and pulling (more on this later).
While the Exer-Genie escapes this classification, the other recommended low-tech options (sleds) are characterized by being in contact with the ground. Factors to consider include surface friction, body angles, portability, load potential, and angle of force application. Sprinting in a weighted vest is not the same as pushing a sled, for example.
The Run Rocket, 1080 Sprint, and DynaSpeed comprise the high-tech options. What separates these from their low-tech counterparts is the smooth and consistent application of motorized resistance and (outside of the Run Rocket) the ability to collect and analyze data on each repetition completed. This opens a new frontier to the world of resisted sprinting that was previously inaccessible.
High Tech Options: Pros and Cons
The Run Rocket, 1080 Sprint, and DynaSpeed each offer precise resistance selection on all surfaces and in all conditions. These devices are essentially cables attached to a spindle housed within the unit, whereas pushing or pulling a sled over different surfaces and surface conditions offers different coefficients of friction, and thus different resistances applied to the athlete (even with the same weight on the sled). These high-tech options then always provide reliable and consistent resistance.The high-tech resisted sprint options always provide reliable and consistent resistance, allowing coaches to confidently program. Click To Tweet
Thus, with low-tech options, unless conditions are identical, it is nearly impossible to track and calculate external load. With the high-tech options, coaches can depend on consistent resistances and delivered stimuli, and thus may confidently program.
Accordingly, the price tag on these products is prohibitive for many. Unless finances are not a barrier, many facilities will likely purchase just one of these units. Consequently, their use is best suited for small group training or in such a manner whereby athletes cycle through in stations (similar to how one may structure group training if only one barbell was available).
The Run Rocket was once the pinnacle of resisted sprint technology. It was the first device to provide excellent and controllable resistance and was very popular as a result. The 1080 Sprint and the DynaSpeed have both captured a significant portion of the market share and have distinct advantages over the Run Rocket: namely, these units yield data and offer assisted training—meaning the cord can also pull the athlete back toward the machine—a feature the Run Rocket lacks. This is handy for training modalities ranging from eccentric training to overspeed sprinting. The Run Rocket sells, accordingly, at a significantly lower price point than these other units. Coaches who are looking for consistent and portable resisted sprints, but who do not care for data collection, may benefit from owning a Run Rocket.
The 1080 Sprint
The 1080 Sprint and the DynaSpeed are, undoubtedly, the best and most versatile products on the market.
The 1080 Sprint is a computerized tether system that provides highly reliable and consistent resistance controlled via a tablet that 1080 Motion (the company that produces 1080 Sprint) provides to the user. Once the 1080 is plugged into an outlet and turned on, the tablet connects to it via Bluetooth and users can change the resistance from barely noticeable to significantly challenging with six taps on the tablet screen.
Coaches and athletes alike are afforded immediate feedback upon rep completion. Within moments, data such as velocity, time, power, and force produced during the trial are readily available. Thus, a new frontier is brought to the market: athlete testing, monitoring, and data collection during sprinting itself and other horizontally oriented exercises, such as broad jumps and triple hops. Data is automatically uploaded to a web app that allows for advanced analysis and data export. Coaches and sport scientists seeking in-depth insight will enjoy the benefits and granular data yielded by the 1080 Sprint.
The unit provides up to 30 kilograms of resistance, which doesn’t sound like much, but is a heavy resistance when moving in the horizontal direction. The cable is 90 meters, allowing for longer resisted sprints and the ability to effectively and—important for both training stimulus and athlete safety—precisely perform overspeed sprints.
To be clear, the 1080 Sprint provides resistance while moving away from the machine, and it also can be set to pull the athlete in toward the machine at varying speeds. This opens the door for overspeed sprints as well as eccentrically oriented exercises, like lunges and decelerations.
Coaches can control the resistance applied to the athlete, as well as set speed limits for the cable. For instance, if you don’t want your athlete moving faster than 10 m/s on an overspeed sprint, you may set the max speed to 10 m/s and the cable will not tow any faster than that. Alternatively, if you want your athlete to perform a resisted sprint at 4.5 m/s, you can set that speed as the maximum, and once the athlete reaches the speed, the unit keeps them there by modulating the resistance.
Thus, the 1080 Sprint doubles as an isokinetic dynamometer, revealing how much force an athlete produces at a set speed. The isokinetic feature can be used with multiple exercises, including knee extensions and shoulder internal and external rotations. You are only limited by your imagination.
Further, 1080 Motion has headquarters in both the U.S. (Austin, Texas) and Europe (Stockholm, Sweden). User support is readily available, and the community of users in the U.S. is growing rapidly, including coaches in the private sector, rehabilitative settings, and collegiate and professional sports.
The DynaSpeed and the 1080 Sprint have more similarities than differences. The DynaSpeed is also a computerized tether system that provides resistance when moving away from the unit as well as assistance when moving toward it. The resistance is highly consistent and reliable, set from a Windows computer that connects to the DynaSpeed via a cable. The data generated is virtually identical to that of the 1080 Sprint.
The allure of the DynaSpeed is that it syncs with other MuscleLab products, like IMUs, the contact grid, and laser, providing a unique ecosystem of technology by which to gain insight on athletic performance and rehabilitative status. The collection of technologies interfaces together and can be used in conjunction to gather numerous data, including ground contact and flight times and other step parameters that advanced practitioners benefit from being aware of.
Beyond the synchronization capabilities of the DynaSpeed, the differences between it and the 1080 lie in the nuances.
As mentioned, the DynaSpeed is operated by a Windows computer that is hardwired to the unit. The computer is not provided to the user. Notably, the data is housed on the computer itself, not in an online web app. Users thus need to consider storage and storage backup capacity to ensure data longevity.
The DynaSpeed tops at 27 kilograms of resistance versus the 1080 Sprint’s 30 kilograms, but it also has the options of 90-meter and 120-meter cables.
The Low-Tech Options: Pros and Cons
The two strongest benefits of the low-tech options are the low financial barriers to entry and the ease of implementation in large group settings. Teams can provide a half dozen sleds, load them with the weight plates they already have, and train all their athletes at once for a relatively low cost.The two strongest benefits of low-tech resisted sprint options are the low financial barriers to entry and the ease of implementation in large group settings. Click To Tweet
The major setbacks are the lack of data feedback and the difficulty in achieving precise loading and resistance. If a partner manually applies resistance—as is common when bands/harnesses are worn—the resistance is not consistent rep-to-rep or even step-to-step. The training stimulus is thus less controllable, making these options best suited for technical versus physiological development.
Sleds—in addition to deciding whether to push or pull them—offer a similar problem. Different surfaces, and even the same surface under different conditions, yield differing coefficients of friction, resulting in different levels of resistance despite the same load. Pulling a 135-pound sled over rubber matting is entirely different than pulling the same sled over a hardwood floor. For this reason, it has been suggested to prescribe training based on velocity decrement versus absolute load, but that requires advanced technology to assess.
There are endless options of sleds to pull and push, but not all sleds are created equal. Beyond the obvious difference of pushing versus pulling sleds, you must consider the weight and portability of the unit, as well as its usability over multiple surfaces. Low-quality sleds may work well on specific surfaces, like carpet, but not on others, such as over a track or on turf. Further, some sleds are designed for high-velocity sprint work, while others are geared toward strength and power training, meaning higher loads and lower movement speeds.
Of the myriad of options available on the market, the options below have been selected because they meet specific needs, from loading to surface agreement.
Low Drag Speed Sled
The low drag speed sled is designed for higher velocity sprinting. It doesn’t support a large amount of weight, but it can be pulled over several surfaces, including a track. The unit itself weighs less than 7 pounds, making it highly portable. If you’re looking for an inexpensive option to lightly load athletes, especially for technical purposes, this sled is a versatile option.
The PowerMax sled is a heavy-duty version of the low drag speed sled. It has a 15-inch post, which supports up to four Olympic bumper plates—meaning you can significantly load your athletes. Best suited for grass or turf, this is a great option for large group training.
Ranging from $250-$270, the Exer-Genie is a unique, if not slightly outdated, technology. While the company’s website boasts marketing from 1968, and the site itself looks as if it wasn’t created much later, the tool stands out as an option. The system is essentially a cable that goes through a tube, claims to provide resistance ranging from 1 to 410 pounds, and offers a 36-meter or 60-meter cord to sprint with. Think of it like a portable, lightweight sled. For those looking for a highly mobile option, the Exer-Genie fits the bill.
The Titan sled can be pushed from a high or low position over a variety of surfaces, including carpet, grass, turf, hardwood, concrete, and asphalt. With two 9-inch weight posts, a significant amount of weight can be added to this sled if desired.
The Torque Tank offers distinct advantages over traditional sleds. The resistance is generated by an adjustable and frictionless magnetic brake, meaning you don’t have to add weight plates to the machine. The magnetic brakes offer three resistance levels, and, uniquely, the resistance increases along with velocity. As you speed it, it gets harder. The unit is nearly silent and has heavy-duty tires, making it usable anywhere.
Before deciding which product to invest in, coaches must consider budget, size of training groups, application (athlete monitoring, conditioning, physiological/technical development, etc.), breadth of skill set, and athlete buy-in/ROI.
Those working with larger groups will likely need multiple units to avoid a bottleneck at one resisted sprint station. Sleds are a viable option financially and feasibly in this situation, but larger organizations may invest in more than one of the high-tech units, if their budget allows.
Further, an implement is only as good as the practitioner directing it. A high-quality coach with a sled is more valuable than an intern with a 1080 Sprint or DynaSpeed. If you see yourself collecting data and using it to inform training, the high-tech options are the only units that will satisfy your need for precision.There’s something to be said about the environment created by having cutting-edge technology options versus metal sleds. Click To Tweet
There’s also something to be said about the environment created by having cutting-edge technology versus metal sleds. Coaches may position themselves and be perceived as bringing increased value—whether through athlete monitoring, rehabilitation, training precision, or a combination of all—and charge higher prices as a result.
Finally, the need to gain athlete buy-in cannot be overlooked. If you can yield data as a weapon to earn trust and engage your athletes during training, you will have tremendous influence with the 1080 Sprint and DynaSpeed. If you can create competition and positive energy with races, a handful of sleds could transform the atmosphere in your training environment.
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