You'll notice a distinctive difference in the general body type of a sprinter versus a middle- or long-distance runner. Sprinters have pronounced thigh muscles while distance runners are generally thinner. Usually the longer the distance, the thinner the frame. For example, Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell has enormously muscular thighs while 10,000-meter champion Abdi Abdirahman has a slight and lean build.
Benefits of Running Parachutes
Building strength translates into a better overall athletic performance. Wind-resistance training with speed chutes provides overall muscular resistance. Depending on the chute size, they can produce between 15 and 30 pounds (6.8 kilograms and 13.6 kilograms) of resistance, similar to running on a windy day, running through water or running up a hill.
Speed chutes build fast-twitch muscles. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are advantageous for short bursts of strength or speed, critical in shorter races like the 100-meter (109-yard) dash. That's why sprinters find the most use in speed chutes. Fast-twitch muscles also provide explosive speed and fast directional change in football, basketball, baseball, soccer and lacrosse players. The NFL uses speed chutes throughout their preseason practices [source: SKLZ].
Middle-distance and long-distance runners, on the other hand, focus on building strength and increasing endurance while maintaining flexibility. Their focus is building the slow-twitch muscles. Slow-twitch muscles use oxygen efficiently so that an athlete performs continuously, over a long period of time, which is critical for longer distance races. The chutes aren't effective for building slow-twitch muscles. That's why middle- and longer-distance runners use them less often.
But both groups can benefit from the extra overall resistance training, which builds strength in the calves, thighs and quads as well as the core. This holistic approach to strength building makes for a more competitive and vigorous overall athlete.
An increase in overall strength leads to an increase in the amount of force an athlete applies to the ground, thus projecting them forward faster. The increased strength in your calves and ankles allows you to take off faster and take longer, enhanced strides.
The chute provides progressive resistance, meaning the faster you run, the more it drags [source: The Runner's Guide]. So no matter how fast you run, it provides enough resistance to increase strength. That's why it's effective for every ability level.
Find out how to incorporate running parachutes into your workout on the next page.