The Beginner's Guide to Using the Prowler Sled

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The prowler sled is a unique way to build functional full-body strength.
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Many gym-goers — particularly newbies — are intimidated by the prowler sled. "Almost nobody's ever using sleds unless they have a personal trainer with them who can show them how to use it," Alison Heilig, CPT, CrossFit coach and author of ​The Durable Runner​, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

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But as you'll see, prowler sleds are easy to use and safe when used correctly, which means you're unlikely to injure yourself using one. Incorporating the prowler sled into your workout offers a bounty of benefits, too.

Read on to learn more about what a prowler sled can do for you — plus, a short beginner workout to get you started using this equipment.

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Prowler Sleds for Your Home Gym

What Is a Prowler Sled?

A prowler sled is essentially a sled with a platform on it where you can stack weight plates, and rails, bars or handles (location and height can vary) that you can grip to push or pull the sled across the gym floor.

Many people simply push or pull the prowler sled with the rails, bars or handles, but some sleds have an attachment that allows you to hook up a harness. You can then put the harness over your shoulders and pull the sled with your body, facing either toward the sled or away from it.

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Why Use a Prowler Sled?

"There's a lot of versatility with the prowler sled," Heilig says. You can push it, pull it, drag it with a harness and easily manipulate variables like weight, sets and work-rest intervals to target different training goals.

Working on endurance? Pushing or pulling an unweighted (or light) prowler sled for a longer duration of time will definitely challenge your cardiovascular endurance, so that you can sustain activity for longer periods of time.

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On the other hand, if you're trying to build power and speed, you could stack on some weight and push or pull the sled faster for a shorter length of time, Heilig says.

Whether you go heavy or light, fast or slow, working with a prowler sled will give you a great conditioning workout, while strengthening nearly every muscle in your body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, back, chest, arms and core.

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In general, prowler sled exercises are unlike most other strength or cardio exercises you might do in the gym. "The interesting thing about sleds is that there's no lowering [action]," Heilig says.

Normally, strength exercises have two phases: a raising, or concentric action (think: curling a dumbbell), and a lowering, or eccentric action (think: lowering a dumbbell after curling it). With prowler sled exercises, you're only performing the concentric portion of the exercise.

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Why does this matter? Concentric movements create less damage to your muscles than eccentric movements, which means you can likely do more work with the sled and take less recovery time in between sessions, Heilig says.

This may make prowler sleds especially appealing to gym newbies. "Something that beginners struggle with is they want to be able to get into the gym and do something on a regular basis, but as you're starting out, everything seems to make you sore," Heilig says. The prowler sled could be a great option to help beginners build strength and fitness, without causing too much post-workout soreness.

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Plus, the prowler sled is pretty easy to use: Push or pull it until you're worn-out... or you've run out of space.

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How to Use the Prowler Sled

Thought prowler sled is fairly straight-forward, many people make the mistake of pushing or pulling the prowler sled with their feet too close together, which is an inefficient way to move. You also don't want to position your feet too far apart — widening your base of support can decrease your power.

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Instead, use a natural foot position, where your feet line up with your pelvis and shoulders. In this way, the mechanics of pushing or pulling a sled are similar to running or walking, your torso is just slightly more tilted forward or backward during the sled push and pull, Heilig says.

From a safety perspective, be sure to keep your spine neutral at all times. Because the weight of the sled is in your shoulders, and not your head, back or neck, there's less risk of back pain or injury with the prowler sled than with an exercise like the back squat, Heilig says.

However, there's always a risk of back issues if you repeatedly arch or round your spine as you push or pull the sled. To protect your spine, make sure you always brace your core when you push or pull the sled.

4-Minute Prowler Sled Workout for Beginners

To get a taste of the prowler sled, try this two-move challenge from Heilig. You can use this as a quick finisher to challenge your heart and muscles at the end of your regular strength workout.

Workout Set-Up

  1. Load up the prowler sled with enough weight so that you can push it at a moderate pace.
  2. Set a timer for 4 minutes. You'll then do the two basic prowler sled exercises: push and pull.
  3. Once you've pushed the sled about 50 feet, pull it back to the starting line and repeat.
  4. Keep moving; try to do as many push-pull intervals as you can in those 4 minutes.

Below, some form pointers on both the push and the pull, so that you can perfect your technique.

1. Prowler Sled Push

JW Player placeholder image
Type Cardio and Strength
Region Full Body
  1. Stand several feet in front of a prowler sled with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lean forward and grip the rails, handles or bars at the desired height. You can do this move with your arms extended, or you can grip the prowler with your hands close to your chest (as in a push-up position).
  3. Stagger your feet so one foot (your choice) is out in front.
  4. Brace your core and drive through the forefoot of your lead foot to push the sled forward.
  5. Continue stepping forward, pushing through the lead foot to generate force.
  6. Keep your core engaged, knees in line with your feet and your feet in line with your pelvis.
  7. Continue pushing the sled for about 50 feet, or as far as your workout space allows.

2. Prowler Sled Pull

JW Player placeholder image
Type Cardio and Strength
Region Full Body
  1. While gripping the prowler sled rails, handles or bars at the desired height, sit back into your hips until your arms are fully extended.
  2. Brace your core and pull the sled toward you as you step back with one foot (your choice).
  3. Continue stepping backward with arms fully extended.
  4. Keep your core engaged, knees in line with your feet and your feet in line with your pelvis.
  5. Continue pulling the sled for about 50 feet, or as far as your workout space allows.

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