Training sure has changed dramatically over the last several years. If you walked into the gym a few decades ago, you’d see people on the treadmills, others working out on weights, and maybe a newbie tangled up in the NordicTrack off in a corner somewhere.
Sure, the workout outfits might be a bit jarring, but for the most part, this is how traditional gyms have looked since the creation of open gyms. Now, depending on the gym you go to, you might walk in and see people flipping tires, swinging sledgehammers and pushing weighted sleds around.
Why all the change?
Well, outside of it just being more fun to move around instead of sitting on a chest press machine all day, the explosiveness of these moves helps build muscle and blast calories faster than sitting in an idle position.
One such exercise you’ve probably seen is done on the prowler push sled.
What exactly is this thing, what does it do, and should you really take on this piece of equipment popular in NFL training videos?
We’ve got all the answers you’ll need, so keep on reading.
What is a Prowler?
No, the prowler isn’t an unusual looking car made by Plymouth back in the 90s (alright, it is, but we’re not talking about the car here).
The prowler is a triangular-like sled that can be loaded up with weights.
There is a handlebar on the front end of it, and some even have shoulder supports to make it easier on your body when pushing (which is helpful for anyone who has neck and back pain and needs extra padding). If you’re a sports fan at all, you’ve likely seen athletes in training videos pushing sleds across fields or in gyms, as if it is a Home Depot training cart from hell.
The beauty of the prowler is its ability to train you in several different ways, all at the same time.
Because you’re able to load up and varying the weights, you’re not just performing strength training, but you’re training for power, explosiveness, and endurance. Think of it almost like the farmers walk 2.0.
With it, you’re blasting muscle while also building up endurance to help performance in everything from your day to day life all the way up to your physical training.
The Different Prowler Moves
When NFL Films comes on and starts showing everything in slow motion with its dramatic music, you’ll see a giant, bulky guys pushing the prowler around in a chest press move.
This probably is the most popular (after all, it focuses on the upper body, which always gets more attention than the rest of the body).
However, there are a handful of different prowler press moves you can perform.
We’ll go over each briefly here and then in more detail later on.
Since we already mentioned the prowler chest press, we might as well cover it first. The front of the triangle point of the prowler is pointed forward. With it loaded up, you’ll stand behind it and take hold of the vertical bars on the back end of the press. You’ll then push the prowler across the floor. It is important to keep your back straight and not arched.
Now, this means you can either have a bend at the waist, or you’ll want to keep standing straight. It may depend on the amount of weight you’re pushing.
Next, you have the backward prowler walk.
With this, you’ll use a special pad that connects the two vertical bars.
This allows you to press your back to it. Now, you’ll position yourself as if you’re going to do wall sits. From here, you’ll push with your lower body and walk the prowler backward. This is a solid move that isolates your quads and hamstrings. Of course, check before you perform this move to make sure nobody is behind you. Because you are basically performing a wall sit while, at the same time, pushing weight, you’re going to feel like your quads are on fire by the end of it. So if you’re tired of the traditional wall sit, maybe it’s time for you to see what a prowler can do for you.
The overhead prowler drag is another option.
You know those “World’s Strongest Man” competitions where guys are pulling semi-trucks and towing jetliners?
Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
You’ll stand in front of the narrow point of the prowler. With a rope attached to the front, you’ll have it run along the top of your back and up to your two hands, which are spread out in front of you further than shoulder length apart (as if you’re in a dark room, feeling for a light switch).
The prowler crab walk allows you to take the traditional crab walk and really torch your legs. With this, you’ll simply get in a standard crab walk position (where you crouch down so your legs are about parallel with the floor), take hold of the prowler, and drag it with you as you crab walk your way backward. It’s a bit tricky to perform a side crab walk with the prowler because of the shape, but this really hits the lower gluteus and the upper legs.
Did you know you can do curls with a prowler?
Yup. So if people are hogging all the dumbbells but you have a prowler, you don’t even need to bother with them. With arm attachments on the front of the prowler, curl the arm attachments up to your chest, which pulls the prowler to you. It’s a bit awkward at first, but you’ll be amazed as to how it works your arms a bit differently from dumbbells as you’re adding a pulling-like movement to the exercise.
Lastly, there is the prowler squat row.
This one is a killer. It also zaps a ton of energy, so don’t go out and try to do an entire field. You’ll end up stopping 10 yards into it. With this move, you’ll use the strap attached to the front of the prowler. Move to where the strap is taught and go into a squat position. Now, fire up and row the strap onto your chest.
This blasts your butt, your chest and your arms all at the same time.
The Prowler Push
As this is the most popular move and the one you’re more than likely to do the most, we’ll spend the most time on it.
The prowler press is going to work your delts, biceps, pectoral muscles and even work your back lats and traps. It is a great overall upper body workout. However, the push is not just limited to your upper body. As you’re also pushing with your lower body you’re going to get a solid workout from your gluteus, hamstrings, and quads. The exact workout you muster out of it though is dependent on what you want to do.
If you want to build physical size and strength, you’re going to want to add the weight.
As is the case with traditional moves, the more weight you can do the better.
However, you also need to maintain a straight back. Once your back starts to arch you’ll open yourself up to possible injury. The best way to do the prowler push is to simply move it until you’re physically exhausted and can’t push any longer. If you’re finding you’re pushing for several minutes and you still have more in the take, it’s time to add more weight.
If you’re going more for endurance, go with a lighter weight but push for longer distances. This is where pushing it the length of a football field is an excellent endurance workout (if you’re going for strength and size gains yet can do an entire football field in one go then you really need to add on the weight). While building endurance, try to push as fast as you can while maintaining good posture. If you played high school football this is similar to the old sleds you use to use when getting off the line (especially if you were a lineman).
The third way to use the prowler push is to build your explosive power. In this case, you’re not going to continually push.
Instead, come off the poles a bit and then throw your arms into the prowler and push it forward.
When Should I Use the Prowler?
The exact placement of your prowler use will depend on what you’re looking to get out of it.
If you want to use it to primarily build strength and size, use it at the end of your regular weight training workout. It’s a nice shift from the weight training into some cardio.
However, you probably don’t want to do more cardio later in the day as you’ll start to edge yourself closer to overtraining.
It is a solid finisher device though that can really milk the very last out of your workout routine. Include the prowler at the end of your workout as well if you’re trying to build power.
If on the other hand, you’re looking to use the prowler for endurance, it is best to use the device for non-weight training days. With less weight, you’ll be able to get a full cardio workout that still has a bit of resistance training. Just keep in mind what your next weight training day is. If tomorrow is leg day, don’t use a prowler leg exercise for endurance cardio.
You’ll still end up working your leg muscles and cut down on the possible work you can put on the following day.
Who Should Use the Prowler?
The beauty of the prowler is that that you’re not pulling on joints.
This is key for anyone who suffers joint pain, such as in the knees, elbows, and shoulders. Individuals who struggle with certain pushes and lifts may find they are able to use the prowler because they are not pulling and compressing joints in the same way.
Using a prowler is very similar to isometric training (especially for the upper body). With isometric training you’re basically pushing against a wall, pulling on bars and working with equipment that doesn’t actually move. The Prowler does move, but you’re putting in the same kind of movement. You’re not contorting your muscles. Instead, you’re pushing with a fixed upper body movement (outside of the power moves).
So, anyone who likes isometric conditioning or who has joint pain and is always looking for weight training opportunities that do not flare up their current level of pain, the prowler is perfect.
Outside of individuals who suffer from joint pain, everyone should at least give the prowler a try. It isn’t a must because all of the muscles hit with the prowler can be touched on with other workouts and moves. There are some people who just don’t like this kind of exercise, or at the very least don’t have the necessary space to use it. For those who do have access to a prowler though it is well worth checking out.
Because it does force the entire body to make an athletic movement, it burns calories fast and may work smaller, stabilizer muscles other lifts fail to target.
The beauty of the prowler is it can be used to perform a handful of different moves. It can also be used for strength training, cardio training or as a method for building power and endurance. Just about anyone can use the device, not to mention it is easier on joints, which makes it possible for some individuals to work areas of their body they haven’t been able to in years.
The prowler chest press is by far the most popular move, but feel free to test out the different moves and see how you like them.
You may just discover the prowler is your favorite new workout device at the gym.