How to Use a Parachute for Speed Training

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Athletes who participate in sports such as football, basketball, soccer and track rely on their ability to outrun their opponents, change direction and re-accelerate, or to be first out of the blocks. For variety and to help improve their speed, athletes looking for an edge incorporate parachute running drills into their regular training sessions. Running with small chutes creates extra resistance and causes you to train harder, demanding more effort. This helps improve not only your running speed but also your strength, endurance and technique.

About the Chutes

  • Speed training parachutes are typically made from lightweight polyester material with cords that attach it to you via a hook-and-loop harness or belt. As you run, the material opens, billows, traps the air and creates progressive drag or resistance -- and the faster you run, the more you experience the resistance. While slower runners may experience less drag, the chute still provides enough resistance to challenge their bodies and help them improve their speed and technique.

Use the Right Size

  • Training parachutes typically come in four sizes to accommodate athletes of varied sizes and skill levels -- small, medium, large and extra-large. The size determines the amount of air resistance, with the larger sizes providing the most. Small parachutes add about 15 pounds of resistance, medium chutes add 20, large chutes add 30, and extra-large chutes add 50 pounds of resistance. For more challenge, two chutes can be combined. For example, combine a small and an extra-large chute to add 65 pounds of resistance. A small parachute is appropriate for beginners or small athletes, medium chutes are a good choice for intermediate athletes, and elite or large-in-stature athletes may opt for large or extra-large chutes.

Resistance/Overspeed Training

  • Two key elements to your running speed, stride length and frequency, can be improved with parachute running. Even though smaller parachutes create less drag, they are better for speed training because they allow you to still run fast against the resistance while maintaining proper form. Chute training is most effective with interval workouts -- running several short distances of 100 yards or less. The straightaway of a track is an ideal place to run sprint segments while working on your stride length. Overspeed chute training can improve your stride frequency. Simply run half the distance and at the halfway point, pull open the closure and release the chute. You'll notice you're running faster, and this change allows you to work on your stride frequency.

Sample Short-Yardage Drills

  • Place two cones 20 feet apart to perform two-point sprint drills. Securely strap on the parachute, stand at the first cone with it lying on the ground behind you and sprint to the second cone. A variation is to lie face down on the ground with the chute behind you, perform a pushup, stand and sprint to the second cone. Loosen your belt so it can turn around your waist easily to perform the next segment, entailing backpedals to a forward sprint. Place the parachute on the ground at the first cone and stand facing the chute. Start backpedaling as fast as you can and at the halfway point, turn and sprint forward to the second cone. Repeat each drill until fatigued.

Troubleshooting

  • Avoid using the parachute in windy conditions and run with the wind in your face, not at your back. If the chute doesn’t open and fill up with air, it may be too large for your size or ability, the wind may be at your back, or you may not be running fast enough. Use the parachute in areas free from obstructions to avoid having it become tangled or damaged.

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  • Photo Credit Stefan Schurr/iStock/Getty Images
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