Bell City CrossFit
Everything You Need to Know about Prowler Sled Training
(Re-Post from Dr. John Rusin by Meghan Callaway)
The Prowler sled is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that offers many benefits, produces incredible results in a very little amount of time, and gives you a huge bang for your buck. It can be used to help you develop strength or power (depending on how you use it), improve your conditioning, increase your muscle hypertrophy, and it is a great tool for fat loss.
The Prowler sled is incredibly beneficial as it mimics the lower body mechanics of running, but with significantly less wear and tear on the body. In fact, a lot of people who might not otherwise be able to run can obtain similar, if not better results, by using the Prowler sled.
Unlike most pieces of equipment, the Prowler sled allows you to train a large variety of movements. You can also use a mini sled, a sled that is much smaller in stature. With this type of sled, your body is in a more horizontal position and your hands are much closer to the ground. You also have the option of attaching a harness around your waist and to the sled. This sled variation most closely mimics running, and you have the option of sprinting forwards, backwards, or sideways. Lets just say that there are a thousand and one ways to program and progress with the sled.
When it comes to progressing on the Prowler sled, it is relatively straightforward. You can add more weight, go at a faster speed, cover a greater distance, or go for a greater length of time. What you do will depend on your fitness level and goals. The possibilities are endless. I don’t know many other pieces of equipment or exercises that give you such a big bang for your buck, and without taking a massive toll on the body. And those facts alone are why you should make Prowler training a staple in any fitness or athletic performance program!
Benefits of the Prowler Sled
#1 Fast Recovery Time with Low Risk of Injury
The Prowler sled and its many variations are concentric in nature. As a result, there is much less wear and tear on the body, so little to no recovery time is needed. This means that you can add volume to your workouts, can perform Prowler workouts more frequently, or can go at a higher intensity without paying the price of muscle and joint soreness, or injury.
This is especially useful for athletes as it allows them to train hard during their season, yet won’t impede their recovery between games or competitions. The Prowler sled and its many variations mimic the lower body mechanics of running much more than any other exercise. Unlike running, there is significantly less wear and tear on the body, and it is much less technical. People who are not able to run are often able to use the Prowler sled and thrive.
#2 Easy to Use
When it comes to form, while there are some key points that I will outline later on, the Prowler sled is relatively simple to learn and is not as technical as many other exercises, including running. As a result, it is suitable for virtually all fitness levels, and will absolutely help people fast track their way to achieving their goals. It offers the benefits of extremely advanced forms of training, yet is so simple to use.
#3 It Will Get You Cut and Jacked
The Prowler sled is a great tool for losing body fat, adding muscle, and getting shredded. The many variations of the sled will kick your metabolism into overdrive, and will turn your body into a fat burning machine. The Prowler sled is also great for muscle hypertrophy, and will help you achieve a svelte and athletic appearance.
#4 Improves Strength, Power and Speed
You can develop your strength by adding as much weight as possible and pushing/pulling the sled.
Power = Force x Distance / Time
You can develop your power by adding approximately 70-85% of your maximum weight, and moving the sled as explosively as possible. This will have a tremendous carryover effect to sports and movements where you are required to perform explosive and dynamic movements like sprinting, jumping, bounding, planting, changing direction, and so forth.
Unlike most other pieces of equipment, the Prowler sled is very specific in nature to running, and has a massive carryover effect. Unlike running, you cannot cheat with your form. In order to get the sled to move, you need to perform the exercise with impeccable technique, yet it is relatively simple to do. As a result, you will establish proper motor patterns, and will strengthen the muscles that are critical for running. This includes the muscles in the feet and lower legs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. The Prowler sled will dramatically improve your ability to accelerate in all directions, which will improve your quickness, and your acceleration technique.
#5 Great for Sports Specific Conditioning
Many sports are anaerobic in nature. The Prowler sled allows you to improve your anaerobic conditioning by performing sprints that are short in duration and high in intensity, and that last between a few seconds to two minutes.
With the Prowler sled, you can also improve your aerobic conditioning. You can achieve this by performing reps that are longer in duration, or by performing many shorter pushes with very little rest between sets, or by using the sled in conjunction with other exercises as part of a conditioning circuit. This type of training is extremely intense, yet does not thrash your muscles and joints the way regular running does, particularly running that is done on turf, a court, or cement.
#6 Trains a Variety of Movement Patterns
The Prowler sled is extremely versatile and allows you to train a variety of movements. You can push the sled, you can pull the sled, you can run forward, backward, or sideways, you can position your hands up high and be in a more upright stance, or you can position your hands lower and be in a more horizontal stance. You can also perform rowing or pushing movements with the sled.
#7 Safeguards the Body Against Injury
The Prowler sled is a great tool to use as part of your performance enhancement and injury prevention arsenal, and it can even be used to rehabilitate injuries. The Prowler sled is extremely beneficial as it dramatically enhances the strength and stability of the entire body, most notably, the legs, including the lower legs and feet.
While this has obvious benefits in terms of performance and aesthetics, it is also extremely important in preventing joint sprains that result from lack of stability. When you are required to run, jump, stride, plant, and change direction, if you lack stability and strength in your lower legs and feet, you will be extremely vulnerable to injuring yourself. Using the Prowler sled will also help safeguard your body against chronic injuries such as Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, or other injuries that can result from weak feet and lower legs.
How to Properly Use the Prowler Sled
Like any exercise, using proper form with the Prowler sled is essential as it will allow you to perform the exercise safely and effectively. Many people assume that you just grab onto the sled and push. It is not quite as cut and dry as that. The toughest part is getting the sled to move, so having the stability and rigidity from the very start will allow you to push a significantly heavier amount of weight, and more explosively. To perform properly, ensure that you take care of the following:
Grip: Firmly grip the sled. Some prefer to hold higher up, others slightly lower.
Foot Stance: Set your feet up so they are the same width as your running stance. When you stride, make sure that your feet remain the same width apart the entire time. Also, it is important that you drive through your forefoot, and make sure that all of your toes remain in contact with the ground. This will provide you with a much sturdier base, and will provide you with the stability that you need to generate more power.
Alignment: Make sure that your body remains in proper alignment from the head to feet. The spine (from the lumbar to cervical region) should remain in neutral alignment, your joints in your upper body should remain stacked, your torso and pelvis should face ahead, and your knees should remain in line with your feet the entire time.
Breathing and Core: Before you go, take a deep breath into your belly and surround your spine with air (360 degrees of air), brace your core, and drive with your legs. Keep your core braced the entire time. This will provide you with the pelvic and spinal stability that you need, and will allow you to generate a lot of force with your lower body.
Avoid These Common Training Mistakes with Your Prowler Training
Inappropriate Foot Width: When many people stride, instead of maintain their natural running stance, they make the mistake of placing one foot directly behind the other, like walking on a tightrope. When you move this way, you are providing yourself with an extremely narrow base, which will significantly reduce your performance, including the amount of weight you are able to push, and the speed at which you are able to do so.
Not Keeping All Toes in Contact with the Floor: Make sure that you keep all toes spread and in contact with the floor as this will increase the stability of your base. Allowing one or more of your toes to leave the floor, particularly the big toe or baby toe, can cause the arches of the feet to drop, the ankles to invert or evert, and the knees to deviate medially and laterally. The end result will be a decrease in performance and an increased risk of injury.
Poor Body Alignment: Make sure that your body remains in proper alignment from the head to feet. Many people allow their spine to rotate or hyperextend, their pelvis to rotate, and the knees to cave in. While this exercise largely targets the lower body and core, maintaining optimal alignment in the upper body will permit you to move even more efficiently and effectively, and will safeguard it against injury. Ideally, the head of your humerus should be centered in the glenoid fossa the entire time. Failure to do so will make the shoulders vulnerable to injury
Not Bracing Your Core: In order to generate as much power as possible, you need to brace your core the entire time. This will provide you with the spinal stiffness/stability that you need to generate as much power as possible with your full body, and is what essentially links your upper and lower body together. Losing stability around the spine and pelvis will significantly reduce the amount of force that you will be able to produce with your limbs. In addition to this, having a spinal region that is unstable will increase the risk of injury.
Not Using Appropriate Loads for Your Goals: Essentially, you want to select a weight that will help lead you to your goals, while maintaining proper form. Be mindful when you are loading the sled.
Putting It All Together
Now that you know what it takes to use the Prowler sled to achieve your goals, the sky is the limit. It’s time to incorporate this hugely ‘’bang for your buck’’ piece of equipment into your workout routine. When you do, you will take your overall health, performance, and aesthetics to the next level.