Prowler Sled Workouts Can Boost Your Speed, Power, and Strength

Pushing and pulling this heavy-duty piece of equipment is not just for football teams and CrossFit gyms. Here’s how it can improve your running performance.

women's cross training gym with weighted prowler sleds
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If you thought prowler sleds were only used by the local football teams during training, we wouldn’t blame you. This industrial piece of equipment looks pretty hardcore, thus comes with an intimidation factor. But over the last few years, this tool has become quite popular thanks to a greater accessibility.

“More and more, you can find sleds in commercial gym settings, but you’ll mostly find them in a lot of CrossFit facilities, specialty gyms and studios, or athletic training facilities, where there is either grass or AstroTurf,” say Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., owner and head trainer at TS Fitness Rest for 1 minute.

More access is a good thing because prowler sleds offer some serious training benefits that you can reap for your running performances. Here’s what you need to know.

The Benefits of Prowler Sled Workouts

One of the most common ways prowler sleds are used in training is during “pushing” workouts. This means you drive or push the sled with your legs for a certain distance, take a quick recovery, and repeat, for prolonged periods of time, says Tamir. “Going longer distances at a consistent pace is great for strength endurance training,” he says.

This activates the core as well as the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves— all the key leg muscles you use when you run. And when you add weight to the sled, that helps you build even more strength and power, which becomes especially important for hill work or races with uphill sections like the Boston Marathon.

But you can use the sled for “pulling” workouts as well, explains Tamir. “It’s great for runners as it helps strengthen the upper body and posterior chain,” he says. Rather than pushing the sled forward, you’ll use your upper body, core, and your lower body to pull the sled toward you in increments for a certain amount of time.

Outside of pushing and pulling, you can also use prowler sleds to build core strength by add in exercises such as elevated plank holds or mountain climbers, balancing on the sled poles, in between pushing and pulling the actual sled. You can even lie faceup on the ground, and hold the poles with your hands behind your head as an anchor while you perform leg lowers, scissor kicks and other ab exercises.

And while this piece of equipment might look heavy and intimidating, it’s a great tool for those recovering from an injury or who require low-impact exercises, Tamir says.

What You Should Know Before Using a Prowler Sled

Pushing and pulling are the most common ways the prowler sled is used, and you can do both either slow and heavy or fast and light. Slow movements will help you build strength, while faster footwork will encourage more speed and power. In order to do both well, you need proper form and footwear.

For pushing exercises, you want your body on a forward-tilting angle, core engaged, hands holding onto the poles, with arms either fully extended or bent (depending on the exercise), and driving from the legs. “It’s like that ‘falling forward’ position you’re in when you’re running,” says Tamir.

When pulling the sled, you may use straps attached to the arms or a rope. During pulls, it’s key to keep your shoulder back and the spine in a healthy position, never slouching or letting the shoulders hunch forward so the spine curves. This will engage the backside of the body. “Posterior chain work can help with your posture when you’re running, too,” says Tamir.

In terms of footwear, you’ll need well-fit shoes to use the sled, as pushing or pulling in socks or bare feet just won’t cut it. “You need functional training shoes that have some grip and really anchor your foot tight inside,” says Tamir. “Avoid lifting shoes or a shoe that has a compact toe box, as they won’t help you gain the traction you need to push or pull a sled.” Shoes will loose heel cups can also pop off during sled work.

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Sleds do provide a tough workout, and if you’re doing a program with a lot of pushing, you’re going to burn out the legs and tax those muscles, says Tamir. That’s why it’s best to avoid doing to sled workouts the day of or day before a hard effort or long run.

Prowler Sled Workouts to Try

Tamir created these three different sled workouts specifically for runners. Of course, you’ll need access to a prowler sled at your local gym or training facility. Here’s a quick guide on how to return to the gym safely.

Beginner Sled Push Workout

  • Warm up for 15 minutes with you method of choice and/or dynamic movements
  • Perform a 30-yard sled push with moderate weight
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Repeat for a total of 6 rounds
  • Cool down with some light stretching
  • Total distance = 180 yards

Intermediate Descending Recovery Sled Workout

  • Warm up for 15 minutes with you method of choice and/or dynamic movements
  • Perform a 40-yard sled push with moderate weight; rest for 60 seconds
  • Perform a 40-yard sled push with moderate weight; rest for 45 seconds
  • Perform a 40-yard sled push with moderate weight; rest for 30 seconds
  • Perform a 40-yard sled push with moderate weight; rest for 15 seconds
  • Perform a 40-yard sled push with moderate weight; rest for 5 minutes
  • Repeat the circuit for 2 more rounds
  • Cool down by walking and perform some light stretching
  • Total distance = 600 yards

Perform a 40-yard sled push with moderate weight; rest for 60 seconds

  • Warm up for 15 minutes with you method of choice and/or dynamic movements
  • Push the sled for a 20-yard shuttle starting at 45 pounds of weight.
  • Stop and immediately add another 45-pound weight and repeat the 20-yard shuttle in the other direction. There is no rest between pushes.
  • Continue to repeat until failure or you can no longer push the sled with proper form. The weight progression will go: 45, 90, 135, 180, 225, 270, 315, 360, etc.
  • Cool down by walking and do some light stretching
  • Total distance = aim for at least 100 yards with increasing weight

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