by Marc “Spud” Bartley
A couple-a three years ago, we got a Prowler. Not just any Prowler, but one of the first ones out. Joey Batson, a strength coach for Clemson and Furman and I am sure a few other schools by now was given credit for this beautiful piece of pain. I had tried a year or two before this to get one of the metal fabricators at my gym to make me something similar. Mine was mostly a bigger regular sled with a handle on it like a shopping cart. I never could get the guy to make it and so I was beat to the punch on that one. It’s okay though, somebody before Joey thought of it and somebody before that somebody thought if it, etc, etc. etc. Anyhow, it’s the Bermuda triangle of cardio endurance hell but I love it much like that bastard child who does everything wrong but when he tells you he’ll straighten up , you still believe his lying ass.
Before it’s arrival, I had been avoiding cardio and everything that required breathing hard, even sweet lovin‘. My back cramped constantly and my sets during training began to dwindle down to miserable levels. The main reason for this was the years I spent doing regular and extra sled work. We literally did the recommended five trips by Louie both upper and lower everyday-ankle drags, belt pull, upper body strap work and not to mention the wheelbarrow trips around the gym! We each would log 100 miles a year with just the wheelbarrow. We would wave sled dragging up and down with the speed work and max effort. For like 2 or 3 years we did this so you can understand why I dropped this for so long and whored myself out to the Little Debbie Pimp, Reeses Chocolate Pimp and even the cheap ass store brand cookies and candies.
As the stomach grew like a city dump, so did my weight-220lb came and went, 242 came and went, 275 came and went, 308-better stop there. I realized by ‘04 I needed to get back on the GPP wagon I fell off of two or three years earlier. In my book, you either or you aren’t. I tortured people for years at the gym with climbing stairs so I tried some for awhile. It only took a session or two to break me of this. I would do 10 flights and my quads would cramp so bad it would make Tom Platz (the Golden Eagle of 80’s bodybuilding) jealous and hatin’ not to mention nausea and stomach convulsions. The second round of this ended that party so I went back to belt pullin’ with the regular sled. Quickly, my back spasmed almost uncontrollably and I remembered one of the main reasons I quit it to start with. I carried on though because I had no choice really because there is no way I can do regular cardio and jogging is out of the question until the day I get put in the oven and laced in some protein powder or boxed up and dropped six feet down.
Back then, I was still at the Compound in 2004 and we were enjoying some success in power lifting. One day, I show up and Fatso has this triangle thing with handles and he is running with it. Now, as the years have passed, I had learned to steer clear of Fatty and extra work just to do work thing he always does. And sure enough what he was doing was stupid and not what we needed for power lifting. He always dragged us in somehow and sure enough a few weeks later I am RUNNING with this thing as it was soon dubbed the Prowler with big stenciling on the side. Upon finishing my SPRINTS, I sat on the couch which was covered in tiger or leopard sheets (can’t remember now) because Buddy, the leaking penis Bulldog, would sleep on the same said couch for hours. At that time, I could have cared less, because of the dumbass sprints I let myself get roped into. I sat there for 30 minutes, I think, in the dark by myself with the A/C cranked as high as it would go. I just could not move. I think I passed in and out of consciousness during this time. I was going to do some more work but after that, there was no way. I went home, ate my usual Wednesday night quesadillas seeing two plates of food like when you got drunk and picked up Taco Bell in college.
The one thing I noticed when I regained full vision and awareness was that my back did not cramp at all while doing the Prowler and that my lungs hurt the next day and the day after that. For years, the back cramping thing had plagued me doing regular sled and had gotten worse as I plumped up like a fat kid going to fat camp. The only way to ease it was to walk backwards with the sled part of the way which blew my quads up and cramped my legs even further pissing off the resident bodybuilders whose puny quads looked like my calves. I often laid down on the hot pavement in the middle of the SC 100 degree weather. I would rather burn my skin then bear the incredible pain in my low back from regular dragging. After realizing the Prowler’s potential, I immediately purchased one for the gym mostly just for myself but also as another avenue to torture my clients and gym members. Nobody liked this from the get-go but I don’t listen to them anyway. Everyone must get their punishment.
I am not a fan of the Running Prowler Man so in the beginning I decided to just march with it for distance with less weight. This worked great! I got my cardio in much less time and much more effectively without any cramping of the back. I would do a lap with 100lb on it with several stops in the beginning . This is great interval training but I did not realize it at the time. I would do a lap (1/3 mile) once a week on Saturdays which was my assistance day before ‘05 Finland Bust trip. At the time, I was doing zero cardio basically and my lifting volume was lower and my laziness inversely related-high. This was a terrible but very motivating trip. When I got back from Finland, a couple of thousand dollars poorer and beat down from the meet, I stepped up the Prowler work to two days a week-Tuesday and Saturday after dead lifting. This did two things-trimmed my fat ass down to a manageable weight (not so plump) and got my cardio and metabolism up. Around this time, I had just been diagnosed with high blood pressure thanks to my great genetics and lack of decent cardio. I think it was 168/90 something, anyway not good. I refused any pills but my Doctor insisted on the smallest dosage of Benicar. I unwillingly took it and it brought it down some but still above normal. Within, two weeks of doubling the Prowler work it went down to 110/70 something. So, what I am saying Fatties, is working the Prowler will help your lifting and your longevity.
Getting back to the Arnold ’06, as I prepared for this meet by doing a lot of things including the Prowler, I did not know what would pan out because as we all know, the meet is different from training. But, what I do know is no matter what I did to myself, lifting wise, either on a rep or weight basis, I recovered quickly. This carried on into the meet. By the time the deadlift came around, I still had plenty of gas and after pulling 740 easily on my third attempt even though it was turned down on a technicality, I could have pulled two or three more times!
After this meet and lots of ridiculous turmoil (male lifting drama) at the Compound, I laid off the Prowler for some time only doing it occasionally. My cardio dropped off and my blood pressure went back up even with the medicine, not too bad but it was obvious I had to restart the Prowler program. This time around training for the Semis in NY, I went back to what worked-Saturdays for sure but I cut out the Tuesday work and opted for an extra session on de-load weeks which was every fourth week of contest training. I kept it to one lap on either day waving the weight up on the de-load weeks based on my lower volume in the gym during that week. I also fattened up to the 308 lbs class narrowly missing the Super’s by eight measly pounds. I paid for this dearly the whole training cycle with back cramping and lots of baby steps everywhere I went. Pathetic Fat Baby needing a diaper change is about the only way to describe this training cycle. Thank God for the heat wrap. I wore this constantly until meet time and had to have everything done for me except bathroom duties. Sue refused this so I endured with lots of pre-poop stretching. The meet was okay with a PR squat, so-so bench performance and barely a PR deadlift as I ran out of gas as in Ye Olden Days. Shortly, there after, I partially exploded my tricep doing some dumb stuff, nothing cool like 800lbs over my face or anything like that just a big box of crap, two left feet and a giant spool of Gremlin wire that magically appeared in my path.
I fought with making the Arnold ‘07, suppose to be my last year as the Bridesmaid (runner-up three years running) but the tricep would not give me enough to get in the game, so I reluctantly let it go the day of the competition and purposely left my gym bag at home in SC the day before. During the battle, though, I still worked an empty Prowler with my healing tricep about 4 weeks post surgery adding 50 lbs a week until I was back up to the regular 100 lb. I am positive the static work of pushing the Prowler speeded up the healing process. This was about the only way to get work on the tricep without bending the arm and pulling the repaired tendon out of the socket. So chalk another one up to the Prowler!
My next game is the Cincinnati Pro-Am, so in preparation I have re-evaluated my Prowler program as I feel adaptation and mental laziness has taken deep roots. I am still keeping it to once a week but I have tripled the mileage so doing the math that’s three laps with the 100 lbs in two week training spurts. On de-load weeks, which are every 3 weeks instead of four now I am doubling the weight and doing two laps to help compensate for lower training volume. The only way to run this many laps is intervals. Stir-Fry (Barry Sturdevant), one of my training partners had starting doing this a few months back. He would go 45 seconds, rest 45 seconds. At first, I did not like the idea I must admit. I thought you just hammered it until you couldn’t anymore, rest for long periods of time and resume. Yeah, I know a progressive overload tactic that doesn’t work in the weight room or in the cardio world either. Everyone take heed of this, it applies in every sport-period. I started doing 180 lb for the 45/45 intervals and noticed it was much easier and I recovered two-three times as fast testing out this method. As my training began for this meet, I dropped the weight and increased the volume to the aforementioned mileage. What I noticed immediately was that I did the first lap in less then 10 minutes without breaking a sweat. Before, with the same weight, I would stop 5-7 times. This go round I stopped twice on the first, 3 times on the second lap and ,5 on the last! It took 45 minutes total. On the following week, this dropped to 35 minutes. The 180lb and two lap de-load week was a completely different ball game. It took as long as the 3 lap 90lb day (45minutes total) with numerous stops. I guess this would simulate a semi max effort night lifting wise.
What’s the bottom line here and did it make a difference in training are always the questions I ask about any exercise? First if you do not have a Prowler, get one. They sell them at Elitefts.com. If you are a cheap bastard or really are poor then get my version that fits on a regular sled aptly named The Poor Man’s Prowler Attachment at southcarolinabarbell.com They both accomplish the same things:
*Almost instant cardio enhancement.
* Will lower your recovery time between sets either max effort or repetition work
* Will raise your volume of sets lifted per training session.
* Works in any sport requiring strength endurance from football to cycling to running- to you name it.
* Helped to lower my blood pressure (not scientifically validated but I am incapable of lies)
* Great rep work for the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves
* Great shoulder girdle static loading.
* Get your hated cardio done quickly and more effectively then just about anything you have done.
* Probably one of the hardest things you will ever do.
There are plenty more reasons I am sure but these are the best I can think of. Then main idea here is that the Prowler works. You can change the volume and weight anyway you want for you particular needs or sport. The Prowler will take care of the rest!