Push a shopping cart, you’re prowling!
Functional exercise, like core strength is something that I honestly feel like is not really understood. As a strength coach IMHO, any time you push a shopping cart, a heavy door to open it, put things away on a low shelf/cupboard, or push a stroller (especially as your kids get heavier), that’s a functional movement.
In a gym setting, the things that mimic a functional movement the most are pushing a Prowler and doing a standing press with cable pulleys and rubber tubing, either out of a parallel stance or split stance position (great exercises for runners btw). If art imitates life, then functional training imitates real world movement. At least it is supposed to!
When you carry grocery bags, luggage, a child seat with baby in it, you are doing a loaded carry. The exercise that you use to make those motions better is the farmer’s walk.
“Farmers walks are one of the simplest and most functional exercises ever. Period,” says Ben Coker, (Farmer’s Walks: The Overlooked Solution to Many Problems.). “Standing and walking are primal essential functions of human life and this exercise is just that.”
Coker also says this about the exercise: “stand up with a heavy weight and then walk with it a given distance. Every major muscle group is involved in this exercise, and not only that, dependent on the working distance, great stress can be put upon the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.” The farmer’s walk can clean up quite a few movement dysfunctions when used correctly.
“If the body is not able to correctly engage the lateral chain to prevent hips from shifting to the side (a frontal plane motion), then a person effectively falls off balance to the sides,” says Justin Price, MA (Strengthening the Lateral Chain for Pain Free Walking). “If this happens every time a person steps forward, then the gait pattern starts to become a side shifting or waddling of the hips in the frontal plane rather than a stabilized forward movement in the sagittal plane.”
Another instance when I have difficulty understanding the benefit for most people, and for some reason, one of the more popular choices to improve balance, is the use of a BOSU. Here is another area where I feel there is a very large gap between practical real world application and training knowledge.
Unless you go about your day standing on a gelatinous surface (as my buddy strength Coach Dennis Dunphy told me) or you are a professional surfer, it would be difficult to see where the functional carry over is to using a BOSU.
One of the bigger reasons I don’t use unstable training with any frequency is because the ground doesn’t move underneath us (although if you’ve lived in California long enough, you’d say otherwise!) so from a functional perspective, you don’t need to train like it does. Especially since you don’t recruit the same amount of muscle while standing on an unstable surface.
“Common sense would indicate that advanced athletes need stability in order to achieve maximal muscle activation because the resistance used for unstable exercises is drastically reduced, the prime movers, synergists, and stabilizers get a subpar workout and experience diminished muscle activation,” says Bret Contreras in his book “Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening.”
I agree with Contreras that to max out strength potential and hit the “prime movers, synergists, and stabilizers” you need be standing on something solid. Life takes place on flat ground that doesn’t move and I’m a firm believer of if you do it when you’re awake, you should do it when you exercise and let life imitate art so to speak.
As far as the building core strength side of the BOSU coin, you will always have a much better time building it on something that doesn’t move. A 2009 Utah St University study found that “increasing the levels of resistance has a more widespread effect on increasing core muscle activity than increasing the level of instability (Effect of Surface Stability on Core Muscle Activity During Dynamic Resistance Exercises, J. Thompson, Utah State University) .”
Well, aren’t BOSU, dyna discs, etc great for building better balance?
“Trying to increase balance by using a ball (an unstable surface) will only help develop the skill of balancing on the ball. Overall balance does not increase nor does it carry over into other activities (Are Bosu Ball Exercises Wasting Your Time And Preventing You From Your Goals?).”
Aren’t you working harder to stay still on a wobbly surface? Doesn’t that have more functional carry over?
I used to think that an unstable surface made for stronger movements on things that don’t move. Well, I now know that I was wrong.
In a 2007 study with a division I men’s soccer team, Eric Cressey showed why. His findings revealed:
“Replacing 2 to 3 percent of overall training volume with UST (unstable surface training) didn’t improve performance. But I also discovered something even more important: UST minimized improvements in jumping, sprinting, and agility tests. Put another way, “the subjects who weren’t doing UST made bigger gains in power, speed, and agility,” (Mythbusters Volume 1, Nate Green, T-Nation.com).
To Cressey’s point, I firmly believe that we are all athletes, regardless if you are competing against a clock, another person or striving to get through your days pain free. As such, you need to prepare to move as one. You should push, pull, level change (squat, lunge, etc), hip hinge, etc just like the most elite level professional (insert sport here) player. We all have the same real world 3D movement requirements, so why would you not train “the Joes like the Pros” as Todd Durkin says?
Let your noggin naw on these nuggets. Have you ever squatted down to pick your kids up over your head from the ground? That’s an Olympic clean with an overhead press.
Ever get in and out of a chair? Then you’ve squatted.
Ever pick up a loaded basket of wet laundry? That’s deadlifting.
If you’ve ever gotten off the ground holding on to an infant without using your hands to help, you’ve done the Turkish Get Up.
Push open an extremely heavy door (like the ones that weigh 87,000lbs that rotate at hotels!), and you are doing what NFL linemen do to block: using power to press and move an object forward.
See where I’m headed with all of this? We are all athletes, let’s train accordingly!!!
Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon in the training/rehab world to run across the perception that regular folks don’t need to be doing the things you’d see a professional athlete doing: sprints, Prowlers, etc. I completely disagree. See the examples stated above as to why.
Now, I completely get if someone has trouble stabilizing themselves in a standing static press position, then a Prowler isn’t where they need to be, yet. I agree 100% right there, however, a Prowler press is something everyone should train to be able to do.
“Maybe you think loading up a prowler or a sled is not for you? You might think sled training is too advanced or out of your reach,” says strength coach and training Jedi Nia Shanks. ” It’s easy to learn and apply, it’s safe for all levels and it’s empowering to accomplish a killer challenge!”
And I couldn’t agree more. On top of being an incredible role model, Shanks as far as I’m concerned “gets it” when it comes to the best ways to train the body. Of course, its hard not to thoroughly respect someone who can bang out a 330lb trap bar deadlift for sets of 10.
One of my clients on the right side of 65 prowling!
Shanks lists the following as to why we should all prowl (On the Prowl: Practical Sled Training for Anyone and Everyone)
Easy-To-Use – Whether a beginner to training or an advanced athlete, sled training mimics very natural patterns (pushing a stroller, shopping cart, etc) therefore the learning curve is low. People are able to pick up sled training naturally. Also, you’re never too young or too old, sled training is completely modifiable-any age can do it. (SING IT SISTER!)
Joint Friendly – Because so many muscles are used in the movement and your joints go through a normal range of motion, sled training is very joint friendly. It enables one to put forth maximum effort with minimal stress on the joints. The sled is a fantastic alternative for those looking to challenge legs but aren‘t necessarily able to squat, lunge, directly load the spine or perform any other potentially aggravating movements.
High Energy Expenditure and a Post Metabolic Booster – Exertion and effort (read: intensity) increase your caloric burn. Sled Training combines cardio and strength training with cardio-like movements and a load to overcome. Whole body strength-movement exercises come with a high metabolic expenditure. As a result, your metabolism can stay elevated post-workout (EPOC), utilizing more calories even after you have finished your training.
Fat Loss & Conditioning or Strength & Power – In general, you can use the Sled for multiple goals. How you use the sled, for fat loss or strength & power, will depend on how much weight you choose and the distance (or time) you move the sled.
Performance Enhancement – The Sled also helps imitate fundamental body position for force production and acceleration. Developing strength and a greater force to apply to the ground using the sled, will carry over to a greater force (and speed) when not resisted. You can utilize the sled to train your body to apply more force in acceleration and as a result, run faster in sport.
It’s FUN! – Let’s not forget the most important reason of all, it’s fun! You can train by yourself or with friends-as many as you wish. It’s a great bonding experience to sweat and suffer with others. Not to mention, while it may not be fun to feel the effects of exertion in the very moment, sled training makes us feel exhausted and accomplished, aka successful.
As long as I get to push my daughter in her stroller, a loaded shopping cart each week or I stay somewhere with one of those 87,000lb doors, I will prowl. One because I love the pain it induces, but more importantly, it prepares my body for the requirements of my every day activities.
To that note, until life requires us to walk/squat/stand on one leg on top of J-E-L-L-O, (or I decide to become a professional surfer!), I’m sticking to training on terra firma!