What’s the difference between a prowler and a sled? I’m here to try and help clear up some of that confusion, but to be honest, I’m not sure that I will.
There’s no absolute consensus on the definition or nomenclature of what a sled or prowler is.
Let’s start broadly and say that a Prowler is a type of sled, but not all sleds are Prowlers. Yeah, one of those deals.
Some people, including myself, like to differentiate Prowler vs. sled by the sliding apparatus it has.
Does it have 3 skis/skids/feet? Then you might call that a Prowler.
Exhibit A: Prowler
Does it have 2 long, continuous rails on the sides underneath? Then you might call that a sled.
These are by no means a hard and fast rule, but it’s a start, at least until the confusion gets cleared up some day.
Unfortunately, there’s more confusion to be sorted out. That is…
What’s the actual training and performance difference between a Prowler and a sled?
A Push Start, A Pull Start or Both?
Do you push or pull a Prowler or both?
Do you push or pull a sled or both?
Answer: All of the above.
Some people make the mistake of thinking that Prowlers aren’t designed to be pulled. Indeed they are, but perhaps pulling a Prowler isn’t seen as often as pushing it.
Sleds on the other hands are used to be pushed as often as they are pulled.
As a reader, you must be delighted to get another non-definitive answer, that is all too common in fitness.
You’ll be glad to know there are some concrete differences between the two. And by concrete, I literally mean concrete. Let’s take a look at the specific differences in the Prowler vs. sled confusion.
Exhibit B: Sled
Out on the Prowl
Rather than doing an involved, drawn-out explanation and discussion of the differences, let’s lay out the characteristics and features of a Prowler in a succinct, quick hitting way.
What To Expect From A Prowler:
- Designed for use on concrete and asphalt.
- Has metal skis/skids. Metal skis/skids = more friction = more force required to push and/or pull.
- Can be noisy on concrete/asphalt.
- Concrete/asphalt can beat up skis/skids and sometimes leave marks on driveways and surfaces.
- Larger than a sled holds more weight and can add more attachments (cables, ropes, etc.).
- Swivels and sways; not easy to maintain a straight line.
What To Expect From A Prowler Workout:
- If you want to beat yourself into the ground, go Prowler. If you’ve ever heard of “Prowler flu” then you get it.
- Prowler flu (n): Vomiting, nausea, fainting, body-aches and/or upper-respiratory distress associated with the activity of pushing, pulling, or towing a Prowler (large metal sled-type object used for sports conditioning exercises). *from Urban Dictionary.
- Prowler works the whole body in all planes of motion.
- Use heavyweight for anaerobic strength conditioning. Lightweight for aerobic conditioning.
- Great for conditioning and assistance work for heavy squats.
- Better than a sled for conditioning and/or sprinting.
- Great for fat loss, provides super results in little time, perfect for strength, power, and hypertrophy.
- Will introduce you to a new and undiscovered level of fatigue (Try resisted sprints, low/hi bar pushes, pulls and rows). See this vid example of “Prowler flu”
- Prowler can’t substitute for a sled.
Here are the common, defining characteristics and features of a sled.
What To Expect From A Sled:
- Tend to be heavier and more heavy duty than a Prowler.
- Skis/skids/rails can be made of rubber, wood, or whatever. Plastic/UHMW is common.
- Smoother and easier to operate.
- No contact with weight(s) on the skin, with a harness or otherwise. No cuts, scrapes, tears or bruises.
- Designed to be pushed on gym/horse stall mats.
- Works better on grass and Astroturf than a Prowler.
- Pulls straighter than a Prowler.
- Smaller profile than Prowler. Not only easier to fit in a car but also easier to store in a garage. Can remove center post and uprights to easily lean against a wall or slide behind or underneath something.
- Can use for extra bumper plate storage when not in use.
What To Expect From A Sled Workout
- Great for rehab, warmups, cooldowns, heavy pulls and if you decide to have an easy day.
- Great for upper body work, lower bodywork and/or active recovery.
- Can be pushed/pulled with a harness and pushed in a low horizontal stance.
- Can do resisted sprints/pulls with a resistance band if you don’t have a harness. Slip resistance band over upright push bars, drop to the ground and step into the band. Pull up around your waist and you’re off to the races.
- Allows you to generate and practice explosive power.
Early March Means Iditarod Season, So…MUSH!
So there you have it. What you choose to use, is of course largely dependent on your goals and what you’re looking to achieve. You’ll see Prowlers and sleds being employed for a wide variety of training types: interval, cardio, strongman, fat-loss, speed, etc.
Personally, I prefer to use our Mercury sled. I have a few reasons for my preference.
- I don’t enjoy throwing up.
- I like to warm up with it, or do pushes outside and enjoy its versatility for smooth sailing either on gym mats or a concrete/asphalt surface.
- I love how it feels like you’re in an NFL training camp in August, practicing for game day when you’re blasting up out of your stance on the line of scrimmage, as I fantasize about being much more powerful, stronger and faster than I ever will be. It’s just plain fun.
This isn’t a coincidence either. Prowlers and sleds were designed with the initial intention of improving the conditioning of NFL linemen.
When you've chosen your workhorse and you're ready to crack the whip on yourself have a look at the workouts I curated below.
Take Your Sled Out of the Shed
- I always love the workouts the crew from Breaking Muscle put together. This looks to be a quality workout that employs something more like our Model A pull sled. The piece lays out the physiological benefits of sled use, how to properly use the sled and how to calculate how much weight to use. It wraps up with a specific workout to try.
Exhibit C: Model A Sled
- This article from Dr. John Rusin's website is similar to the previous, but more detailed and in-depth. You'll get more specifics about the benefits of using a sled, more instructions on how to use it, and learn about a number of different workout types to try with it.
- Our friends over at BarBend have put together this strongman specific sled use guide. Written by former strongman pro, Michael Gill teaches you the basics.
- If your heart isn't set on a Prowler or a sled, check out this article that shows you alternative training exercises and movements you can do. Also features a nice list of pros and cons of Prowler training.
Here's a short vid in which our founder and CEO Peter, shows off our sleds, their differences and his mushing skills.
Finally, if you're dead set on Prowler or sled training, look no further than arguably the most legendary strength expert and trainer- Mark Rippetoe. If you haven't heard, he's the author of Starting Strength, the holy grail of strength training manuals.
Thanks again for reading Fringe Nation. Hope this cleared up some of the Prowler vs. sled confusion for you.
If you have any comments, input, feedback or a good workout to share, please share below.
Have an awesome day and go beyond the ordinary.