The prowler is a large sled typically used by holding two tall posts, with the arms extended, while driving with the legs. These posts also function as pegs so that you can add weight plates. Most prowlers have lower handles fixed to the other side of the sled as well, which decreases leverage so that you have to push harder when using these.
Skis allow the sled to move without friction impeding movement too much as long as it is on the right surface. It suits both indoors and outdoors, though a case of bad weather, such as damp grass, can make standardization difficult. Compared with a dog sled, which is smaller, the width of the prowler allows for more stability.
The prowler is simple to use. You just stop moving if you need a break, unlike most exercises performed with a tool like the kettlebell.
It certainly allows you to work hard on your cardio. They allow for intervals, which represent the best and most efficient form. Intervals bring unique benefits, training both the aerobic and anaerobic systems intensely. As a tool for this purpose, the prowler works well.
It allows you to add weight, allowing another progression beyond speed. Speed eventually hits a limit as you can only move so fast, yet we want to keep time fairly constant. This makes more resistance the perfect solution. Slower speeds also reduce the danger that comes with fast movement and with less extreme impact to the joints.
Training with a prowler removes most of the negative work, making it ideal for cardio. Though valuable for building strength and size, negative work is not a condition needed for cardio. The lack of negative work allows you to focus on elevating your heart rate without as much delayed onset muscle soreness as a result.
This all assumes you use the prowler as described earlier. Adding attachments to apply it for pulling, dragging, and more bizarre movements like bear crawling is a mistake. These are unnatural ways to move and can harm you while having no advantages over sprinting.
For example, when you drag a sled while backpedaling, this places great shearing forces upon the knees. Your hips fail to get involved much. Your knees go too far beyond your toes.
Any sort of lateral movement is bad as well; these muscles evolved to stabilize and to deal with light loads.
Despite this criticism, the prowler has gained its legendary status in powerlifting and athletic circles for good reason. When used as first described, the prowler ranks among the best tools for conditioning ever devised. It feels fun to use too.
The prowler does have issues though. Also, it competes with an option possessing none of the problems addressed soon and surpassing even the prowler for intensity: weighted sprinting. Consider these reasons to avoid the prowler.
A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.
– Isaac Asimov
- It places your hands in an overhead position.
This position is unavoidable as you push with all of your might, lowering your center of gravity and adopting a forward lean. This causes shoulder impingement in a position whereas the shoulder muscles work too. This alone is the main reason to avoid the prowler.
Grabbing higher on the posts may seem to help at first but this is not enough. You center of gravity will still dip. Without this, the hamstrings will not contract at their ideal length, yet this will worsen the effect on the shoulders. It becomes an insolvable dilemma.
- The low center of gravity brings its own problems.
You may round your spine. The lower back should remain in a neutral position yet this feels impossible to keep.
This position will also hyperextend the neck when you need to look forward.
The low center of gravity can have you lose your balance, possibly hitting the prowler itself.
- It lacks an arm swing.
The secret to achieving the best form of cardio is to involve the whole body. Cross-country skiers have some of the best VO2 maxes, or the maximum volume of oxygen you can use, ever recorded. One reason this occurs is because their sport uses both the lower and upper body intensely. Options like cycling involve only the lower body while harming the knees too.
Resisted sprinting allows the arm swing, aggressively bringing in the upper body, along with the serape effect to train the core. This action keeps the spine fairly stable. It feels natural and without it, as on the prowler, you will never achieve as great of a speed for the same given weight.
- You must turn it laterally.
Just like failing to put back the weight plates properly after a set, details like this get neglected. After finishing a prowler sprint, you often need to return in the direction you came. Turning the prowler uses muscles unnaturally and feels even more demanding as you wear out. You could get hurt if acting careless or otherwise.
- It burns fat no better than reducing calories.
Often mentioned as a fat-burning tool, all exercise works far less effectively then reducing calories. Eating less requires more self-discipline though, so people find it easier to train more.
Overdoing prowler sprints can lead to overtraining if excessive. Weight loss is already a stressor and adding too much training can throw off the balance of your hormones. You could end up losing a lot of lean tissue.
The best training program is always the same regardless of your target bodyweight.
- It has no special way of developing athleticism.
Many claim it improves acceleration, though this could occur through lifting and then practicing the skills of your sports at full speed in and of themselves.
Some mention that if you sprint in your sport, using the prowler may change your mechanics. This may be possible, but most likely your body can discern between different tasks. You just need to spend more time practicing your sport exactly.
Though many experts claim that the prowler has versatility for working different energy systems, it really only works well for lactic acid and aerobic systems. Barbells and dumbbells work far better for alactic training.
Evaluating the Prowler
Despite these points, it almost feels shameful to attack the prowler. Much like the pull-over, it tends to attract the hard-workers. Still, when better alternatives exist, and they do in this case, you should use them.
The prowler associates with functional equipment like medicine balls, battling ropes, hammers, tires, and similar tools. Exercises for these tools involve far too much risk, especially with other options achieving every fitness goal better and much more safely.
Unfortunately, variety and excitement take precedence over the basics done right. The sale of these items though, due to CrossFit, has turned into a huge business. As a result, you are unlikely to find many sources that will assess them objectively.
Weighted sprinting is the best option for cardio now and likely forever. Stairclimbing and even jumping can work well too. While more than several possible interval training setups can work well, I suggest something like Tabata intervals. These are efficient and complete though brutal to perform.
Weight training alone may not be ideal for cardio. It requires too many reps, sets, and exercises along with rushing the workout to get the best effect, which harms the focus on strength training. As merciless as high rep squatting feels, it hits less muscle at once than sprinting.
You can use a prowler for weighted sprinting but will save money, space, and have it glide across the ground more smoothly by purchasing a speed sled.
Avoid the prowler. Use weighted sprinting, with a smaller sled, instead. This works more effectively and safely.