An invaluable tool we use here at Iron Arena is a piece of equipment called “The Prowler”. Before I get started on what the Prowler is and discuss the various ways we use it in our programming, I feel it is first important to give props to the man behind the company who first started selling this apparatus. That man is no other than Dave Tate, a Champion Powerlifter and alumni of Westside Barbell Club.
He is also the Founder and CEO of a company whose motto is “Educating and Outfitting the Strongest Athletes Around the World,” ELITEFTS(Elite Fitness Training Systems).
Other companies who sell training equipment have tried to reproduce this piece, and you'll find many companies have their own "version" - however, none have been as good as the original. EliteFts’ version, the original Prowler, still reigns supreme.
Given its appearance, you may have surmised that the Prowler was originally designed to condition NFL linemen; to move the sled you're forced to push at an angle analogous to the body position you'd see on a defensive or offensive line. However, this is a versatile piece of equipment and it would be a mistake to believe that it can only be used by linemen. I'd wager that many people who use the Prowler have never laced up a football cleat, as it can be utilized to meet the demands of strength and conditioning for any athlete. But perhaps of special concern to linemen, whose joints take a constant pounding, itdoesn't have a negative effect on the joints. In fact, compared to running, pushing the prowler is low-impact on the lower body's joints and connective tissue. Also, since there is very little eccentric movement involved when pushing the prowler, delayed onset muscle soreness is kept to a minimum.
Despite what you've just read, you'd would be ill-advised to underestimate that because you won't get sore, you won't get a great workout. On the Prowler you will see a warning sticker, that reads:
Body Angle and the Prowler
There are several ways to use to Prowler - it’s basically an oversized sled that can be pushed from either side, high or low (the later being much more difficult due to the unnatural/uncomfortable angle it places ones body at). In other words, pushing from an acute body angle angle (less than 45 degrees) allows one to generate maximal force through the entire body - but increases the discomfort of the exercise.
The position you're forced to maintain while pushing the Prowler, high or low, requires your entire torso from the hands down to contract isometrically while the legs contract concentrically (and repeatedly). This makes the Prowler a value tool not only for conditioning/weight loss but also for increasing an individual’s lower body strength. The desired result will depend on how the Prowler is implemented in ones training.
How we Use the Prowler at Iron Arena
Prowler for Conditioning/Fat Loss
For those trying to improve body composition, generating lactic acid is of utmost importance. Lactate accumulation has been associated with a spike in growth hormone levels which has been shown to decrease fat, especially through Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). In order for high levels or lactic acid to accumulate you need to work hard enough to jack up your heart rate thus increasing EPOC. I like throwing the prowler in at the end of a 3-4 exercise circuits with my athletes and clients.
When done in this fashion, I will have them push with the high handles for 20 yards (the length of the turf in my facility) immediately followed by a 20-yard push back with the low handles (*bonus: you don't have to turn the thing around). The General Physical Preparedness (fitness level) of the athlete/client will ultimately determine the training load (you can load the Prowler with as many or as few plates as you need).
However, an important thing to note is: the heavier the weight, the slower one will push. I have found that using light to moderate loads which still allow an athlete to run (only 1 foot on the ground at a time is considered a run) works best in terms of creating the largest metabolic disturbance. Pushing heavy weight slowly (walking) is sufficient especially for those who are overweight or have knee and hip issues as pushing slowly would have less impact but still be difficult enough to illicit an increase in heart rate.
The prowler could also be used as a finisher at the end of a workout. Four to eight sets (down and back) with rest periods of 45-90” works well.
If four (or more) people are present you may even want to do this relay style for a set amount of time. I have found 5 minutes to work quite well although I would lighten the loads since the rest will become rather short (unless your partner is really slow).
Those of you who played (or still play) organized basketball growing up will remember what a suicide was and how much it sucked. If you played football or rugby you might know this exercise as a "gasser." Regardless of the name, the suck is still the same.
In order to execute this drill you would begin from the starting line and sprint to the first object, planting and without stopping turning and sprinting back to the starting spot turn from the starting position and sprint past the first object to the second object, again changing direction quickly and returning to the start position. This would be repeated 3-5 times. Then it's repeated for the prescribed number of sets; sometimes dependent on such variables as how many dropped balls or missed layups there were in that day's practice - you just know an exercise is going to be awful when it's used as a punishment!
Prowler for Strength
The Prowler could also be used to strengthen the legs, but like all other movements the intensity (loads used) must be increased and time under tension decreased - unlike the uses of the prowler discussed previously, there will be no running involved when trying to use the Prowler for strength gains (this means both feet remain in contact with the ground, remember?). If you can run with it then the loads are too light. Loading up the prowler as heavy as you could manage to push with the low handles for 40-60 feet works well.
So there you have it - The Prowler - a great piece of equipment (*available in regular and economy versions!) from a great company. With Spring training right around the corner, this is an awesome investment for anyone looking to get stronger, faster, or leaner.