Speed Parachute Vs. Sled Drag for Speed Training
The sled drag exercise and the speed parachute have long been tools used in improving speed and making athletes faster.
But with two similar training tools, are there distinct advantages to using one over the other? And which should you choose to add to your speed training toolkit, or should you use both?
This article covers everything you need to know about how resistance running makes you faster and the distinct advantages and disadvantages of the sled drag exercise and the speed parachute so you can determine when to incorporate each tool into your own training.
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How to Get Faster With Sprint Resistance Training
There are a lot of tools and approaches to get faster. Core muscles used in sprinting and agility to strengthen, explosivity drills, and reaction time training all have their place in a well-rounded speed development program.
But two tools that stand out and are commonly used are the sled drag and the speed parachute.
The reason why the speed parachute and sled drag are so popular for speed development is because of how they mimic your natural running mechanics throughout the exercise.
Running, sprinting, and agility may seem like only a few major muscle groups are involved in power generation. However, the biomechanics of powerful running recruits nearly every muscle in the body. While you could focus on strengthening the key muscles in the weight room (the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes), you’re still missing out on all of the secondary muscular systems and neural activation required throughout the rest of the body that ultimately makes you faster. Worst case scenario, you could even create muscle imbalances that hinder your running mechanics, limiting your athletic potential.
Exercises like the speed parachute and sled drag force your body to recruit both the primary and supporting muscle groups required to generate speed. Making them an excellent staple in your speed development program to make you a faster athlete.
Sled Drag Vs. Speed Parachute for Speed Training
Between the sled drag and the speed parachute, which is better for making you faster? Or are there distinct advantages to selecting one for your training regimen over the other?
In the next section, we’ll outline the pros and cons of each exercise and when you should choose one over the other for reaching your own training goals.
Sled Drag – Pros and Cons
The sled drag has two major factors working to its advantage: Inertia and resistance variability. We’ll start with inertia.
Whenever you accelerate from a standstill, whether it’s forward, backward, or laterally, you have to overcome inertia to take off and generate speed. The sled drag helps you improve this area of acceleration because the resistance you have to overcome is also beginning at a standstill.
This initial speed generation is called first-step acceleration, and the biomechanics responsible for dictating how quickly you accelerate is the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC).
During these first few steps of acceleration, your body acts like a spring. Just like a compressing coil rebounds to generate force, your muscles’ ability to contract and lengthen in the stretch-shortening cycle from a standstill determines how much power you can create in the first few steps of a sprint.
A sled drag workout allows you to train to overcome this inertia from a standstill to improve your SSC and explosivity, getting to top speed more quickly.
This brings us to the second advantage of the sled drag: Variable resistance. The ability to add or remove resistance allows you to accomplish two things in training. Adapt the workout for your training goals and facilitates the progressive overload that challenges your musculoskeletal system and creates adaptation and improvement.
Just like adding weight to the bar over time doing squats in the gym leads to strength improvements for your squat, progressively adding weight to your sled drag workouts will lead to strength improvements in all of the primary and supporting muscle groups required to make you faster.
The most significant disadvantage to the sled drag is the requirement of a smooth surface to work correctly. This also limits the distance you can travel during the exercise, making the sled pull more suited for explosive training covering shorter distances.
- Excellent for training first-step acceleration and quickness.
- Variable resistance allows for progressive overload.
- Promotes strength development in all muscle groups required for sprinting and agility.
- Great for short distances and explosive efforts.
- Requires a smooth surface, limiting where you can complete the exercise.
- Surface limitation also determines the distance you can cover. This makes it challenging to use as a tool for developing sustained endurance.
Speed Parachute – Pros and Cons
While both the sled drag and speed parachutes provide additional resistance while running to build strength in the muscles required for speed and agility, they differ in how the resistance is provided.
Speed parachutes provide resistance by creating drag. Removing wind speed from the equation, the faster you run, the more drag and resistance the parachute generates. This makes it a versatile tool for training strength at top speed over short distances and sustained muscular endurance over long distances.
Another distinct advantage of the speed parachute is that you can perform the exercise over nearly any (stable) surface. Fields, trails, hills, or parks, you can use a speed parachute on it if you can run on it. This makes the speed parachute ideal if you don’t have access to a football field or smooth terrain. It also opens up the opportunity to boost your cardiovascular and muscular endurance over longer distances.
When you’re using a speed parachute, the resistance is also in a direct line behind your body, accomodating your natural running mechanics, especially when you are covering longer distances (unlike the sled drag, which places the resistance angled toward ground level, slightly altering your running mechanics and is more advantageous for sprinting efforts.)
The primary disadvantage of the running parachute is that it takes a few steps for the parachute to inflate and create drag. This makes it ill-suited for training first-step acceleration from a standstill. Additionally, your resistance variability is limited to the top end of your speed training efforts, making progressive overload for initial acceleration much more challenging.
- Excellent for sustained resistance over longer distances.
- Allows for natural running biomechanics.
- You can perform the exercise over a wider variety of surfaces.
- Recruits and provides resistance for primary and supporting muscle groups required for running.
- Provides progressive resistance (the faster you run, the more drag is created) suitable for all levels of training.
- Delay of chute inflation makes it less suited for training first-step acceleration.
- Less resistance variability for progressive overload.
Other Speed Training Tools That Will Make You Faster
If you’re looking for more tools to add to your gym bag that will make you a faster and more agile athlete, check out our article covering the top 10 speed training tools. You’ll find all of the tools and devices you’ll need to round out your training and be a powerful ally in your journey to becoming a faster athlete. And if you’re a data driven athlete that likes to try out different training protocols to compare the results over time, take a look at our breakdown and review of the JAWKU Speed. A watch specifically designed for one thing, giving you incredibly accurate analytics for speed and agility.
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