Prowler sled workouts do not only look challenging. They work a few muscles in nice amounts. Find out which ones and whether this is enough for results.
The first thing to note is that what way you use your prowler workout sled influences what muscles you work in what ratio.
For example, prowler sled pushes mainly work your glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thigh), quadriceps (front thigh), calves, and lower back core muscles like the erector spinae.
To some extent, this exercise will also work your hip flexors (front hips), deltoids (main shoulder muscle), trapezius (upper shoulder/neck), triceps (back upper arm), pectoral muscles (chest), hip abductors (outer thigh), hip adductors (inner thigh), and other core muscles.
The more horizontal you keep your upper body, the more you will focus on your glutes and hamstrings.
Whether or not sled pushes will actually help you grow and strengthen the muscles you work depends on things like the total sled weight, the number of repetitions, nutrition, and rest.
The effects of using a prowler sled can range from improving cardiovascular health to increasing muscle power depending on your choices in these details
Do prowler workout sleds build muscle?
Building muscle requires you to challenge the muscle with enough resistance, repetitions, and sets.
That means how you approach your prowler sled workouts will influence your results a lot. Just using this piece of fitness equipment once is not enough.
If you want to build muscle with prowler workout sleds, you want to use a weight where you can only push the sled for 6 to 25 (and potentially even up to 50) steps with each leg before your muscles fatigue.
You can do up to 3 to 8 “sets” of this per workout session with about 2 to 3 minutes of rest in between each push or pull.
As you get stronger over time, you will need to put more weight on the prowler sled to keep seeing the same amount of progress.
People who want to train muscle endurance and not necessarily mass can do more repetitions than the ones above. You will also start really engaging your cardiovascular system with these higher-rep ranges.
In short, the prowler workout sled can help you build muscle when using the right amount of weight, sets, and reps.
Muscles worked moving prowler sled in different ways
Training with a prowler workout sled is interesting in the sense that you can move this construction in different ways.
This can change what muscles you work in what ratios.
Sled push workout muscles worked
One way you can move a prowler sled is by pushing it. You put your handles on the sled with slightly less than stretched arms, tilt your upper body forward a certain amount, and take a certain number of steps.
The prowler sled push mainly works your glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thigh), quadriceps (front thigh), calves, and lower back core muscles like the erector spinae.
These leg and core muscles will generate the force that moves the sled and prevent your upper body from tilting down too much.
You will also work your hip flexors (front hips), deltoids (main shoulder muscle), trapezius (upper shoulder/neck), triceps (back upper arm), pectoral muscles (chest), hip abductors (outer thigh), hip adductors (inner thigh), and other core muscles.
These muscles will keep your arms “up”, keep your arms slightly less than stretched, keep your thighs at the right angles, and keep your upper body straight.
Something to note is that one of the benefits of prowler sled pushes is that you can somewhat influence what muscles are worked the most.
The more horizontal you keep your upper body, the bigger the range of motion of the glutes and hamstrings during the sled push. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
Relevant study muscles worked sled push vs squats
One study even investigated the difference in muscle activation between a 20-step maximum prowler sled push (10 rep max for each leg) and a 10-repetition maximum back squat (squat with a weighted barbell on the upper back).
The only significant differences they measured were more gastrocnemius (one of the calf muscles) activation in the sled push and more erector spinae (lower back) activation in the back squat (1).
However, as noted before, how much you tilt your upper body changes what muscles you focus on the most.
From the images included in the study, it looks like the participants implement a relatively upright posture. This makes it more like the back squat which focuses a lot on the quadriceps.
Additionally, back squats can also be done with different barbell placements which again slightly influences what ratio you work your muscles.
Backward sled pull muscles worked
Next, you can also pull prowler sleds in a few different ways. First, there is the popular backward sled pull where you either hold the handles or a pulling rope and walk backward.
Prowler sled pulls will mainly work your quadriceps, forearm grip muscles, calves, and erector spinae.
You will still use your glutes and hamstring muscles but a lot less. Most of the force you generate comes from extending your legs with your quadricep muscles.
Additionally, you will work upper back muscles like your trapezius to prevent your shoulder blades from moving forward.
Sideways/lateral sled pull muscles worked
A different sled pull variation is doing the exercise sideways.
Sideways/lateral sled pull will work your hip abductors (outer thighs) and hip adductors (inner thighs) a lot and your oblique core muscles a nice amount.
Since these are not the strongest muscle groups, you will likely have to use a lot less weight when pulling the prowler sled sideways.
If you use a pulling cord or the handles instead of a harness, you will also engage your forearm grip muscles a good amount.
Your quadriceps, glutes, calves, and erector spinae still have to work a small amount but mostly just to keep you standing up. This is definitely not as intense as pushing 220 pounds (100 kg) forward.
Forward sled pull muscles worked
With the help of a pulling harness, you can also pull weighted sleds forward. This will work similar muscles as the sled push but without the muscle engagement around the shoulders.
Additionally, there will be more focus on your abs instead of your lower back muscles to keep your upper body from getting pulled backward.
In short, forward sled pulls with a harness will work your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and abs.
The more you tilt your upper body forward, the more focus on the glutes and hamstrings.
Do heavy sled pushes build leg muscle mass?
Yes, heavy (but not too heavy) sled pushes can help you build leg muscle mass if you implement the right reps and sets. Especially your quadriceps and potentially your glutes and hamstrings can experience muscle growth.
How do I do a sled push for bigger glutes?
To do a sled push for bigger glutes you want to use heavy weights, keep your upper body horizontal, and really extend your thighs in a big range of motion in each step.