I believe any form of exercise can help endurance athletes (if implemented and performed correctly) but I mostly prescribe dragging and pulling a sled for three reasons.
1. It's Time Efficient. Endurance athletes enjoy going on long runs, rides, swims, etc. and have very little time (or interest) to go to the gym to perform lengthy workout sessions. There are not many athletes that are willing to do a long drawn out routine such as this one posted on Bicycling.com (The best leg work out for cyclists). I wonder how long it would take to perfrom all of those exercises? A typical sled session only takes 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Safety. When I checked out some of the exercises that is prescribed on Bicycling.com I see many chances for injury. There is nothing wrong with box jumps, lunges, side lunges, and squats but many endurance athletes lack proper range of motion and knowledge or proper form to do these exercises safely.
3. Multiple benefits (Endurance and Speed). The athlete can pull or drag a lighter sled for a longer period of time for muscle endurance or work on speed strength by pulling or dragging a heavier sled at a short duration. Sled drag and pull workouts help with core stability, strengthen the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and arches of the feet simultaneously. As well, the athlete can perform an upper body sled work out to address arms, shoulders, chest and back (along with the lower body).
Although Sled dragging has been used successfully for years to help speed-strength athletes, pro athletes, and meat heads this form of exercise can benefit the endurance athlete, well.
Here is a typical training session incorporating the sled.
1. 30 to 40 minute indoor bike interval work out.
2. 20 minute sled drag 20%-25% of athlete's body weight.
1. Just drag a sled for 40 minutes at 15%-20% of body weight.
That's it! In under an hour I completed an entire body work out.
For more information about the benefits of incorporating sled workouts stop by May Street Bicycles or shoot me an email. Also, below are a few articles about sled dragging. Enjoy.
Articles on the web about sled work outs are easy to find from T-Nation (Drag Your Butt Into Shape), Muscle and Fitness (Massive Quads), and Breaking Muscle (Sled Training Basics) to name a few.