The swimmer’s parachute is a power development tool that increases resistance in the water. The result? Faster, more powerful swimming. Here’s the 411 on swim parachutes, including the best ones for swimmers.
There are fewer things more enjoyable in the water than feeling that surge of strength and power that is completely sport-specific. We develop a stronger pull. A more thunderous kick.
Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of swimming with a parachute, as well as a quick list of the best parachutes for swimmers.
Let’s do this!
Parachutes for Swimming: It’s a Drag!
What is a swim parachute?
Simply put: it’s a piece of resistance that you attach to your waste with a little belt and let it drag behind you.
Because it doesn’t interfere with your swimming technique you can increase load without compromising form.
Swim parachutes are different from other common power development tools like power towers or swim tethers as you can swim the full length of the pool.
Does a swim parachute help you swim faster?
Yes…but not right away.
One of my favorite things to do with in-the-water resistance training is to pair up swimming under load (whether with a parachute, DragSox, or against a resistance band) with all-out speed (sometimes speed assisted with a tube pull or fins).
This is a form of post activation potentiation, a proven method of improving speed.
More noticeably, your stroke feels incredibly smooth and fast once you dump the gear and go back to regular swimming.
Training under resistance helps to reinforce better swim technique—especially in the front quarter of the stroke where the catch is taking place. Your body is smart—the added load will force it to find ways to be more efficient to move through the water.
Is it weird/hard swimming with a parachute?
You get used to it pretty quickly!
One of the fun things about them is that you can kick properly (generally speaking—once in a while you will get your feet tangled in the strap if you are cork-screwing in the water and kicking side-to-side instead of straight down).
Flip turns are doable, and the parachute can be worn while swimming all four strokes.
Swim parachutes come in different sizes. If you are new to resistance training start out with a smaller size and level up as you get stronger in the water.
What’s the best way to train with parachutes?
Like drag suits and other forms of resistance training, parachutes should be used for shorter periods of time in the water. It is resistance training, after all.
In the same way that you wouldn’t go to the gym and do 5 sets of 300 reps of bench press, avoid swimming for extended bouts with a parachute.
Use it for targeted stretches—25s and 50s at a time with ample rest—to refine your technique and increase your strength and power in the pool.
The Best Parachutes for Swimmers
Parachutes are by and large fairly similar in design and function (with one exception that I will detail last in our list of parachutes).
Most of the major swim brands including Speedo and FINIS make them with some slight differences between each.
1. FINIS Swim Parachute
⭐ Best overall swim parachute
The best parachute for swimmers in my chlorinated opinion is the FINIS series of chutes. While I am generally a fan of FINIS swim gear, I’ve had a couple of their chutes over the years and not only are they easy to use, but they have been remarkably durable.
The cord extends out to 6 feet in length. This means the chute will deploy far behind your feet. You can shorten the length of the cord, as well.
Unlike the mesh material that some parachutes are made of that allow water to seep through, the FINIS Swimmers Parachute is made of material that will basically catch the water and ball it up like a big, heavy snowball. The belt is made of a durable nylon that you clip around your waist.
The FINIS chutes come in different sizes or levels of difficulty. The smaller the chute, the less drag gets created behind you. The harder is the navy blue one, with a 12″ diameter, while the red is the “easy” one, opening up at a width of 8″.
2. Sporti Swim Parachute
⭐ Best budget-friendly swim parachute
Swim gear can be prohibitively expensive at times—looking at you, tech suits—but you don’t need to break the bank to get a great power-based workout in the pool. Sporti, Swim Outlet’s inhouse swim brand, is the leading swim company for making inexpensive swim gear that lasts.
Their swim parachute is a great example of this, costing less than $20 and delivering the same resistance training as more expensive brands. It has a lengthy nylon tether and adjustable belt that can accommodate larger swimmers (I’m a hefty dude and had no problem sizing my waist with it).
The Sporti Swim Parachute is only available with one chute width, however, with the chute being 10” wide, which may not be the best option for beginner and more elite swimmers.
3. Stretchcordz Drag Chute
Stretchcordz is the big name when it comes to resistance work in the pool. Their rubber tubing products are simply awesome.
They produce the very popular stretch cords (with paddles or handles) that are used on dry land. They also make the cords that feature you tying yourself up to one end, tying the other to an end of the pool and swimming away from its resistance.
Their drag chute is excellent as well. Comfortable and made with the same durability as their other rubber resistance tubing products, they also come in three different sizes.
Ready to get totally ape with your drag work? The Stretchcordz chute has an option for a 16″ chute. Max power, indeed. (They also come in 8 and 12-inch sizes.)
4. Speedo Essential Drag Swim Parachute
Every swimmer knows the name—Speedo has been the leading swim gear and swimsuit company on pool decks for over a hundred years.
The Speedo Essential Drag Swim Parachute is an upgraded version of their swim chute, taking the mantle from the Dragtini, which I loved for the fact that it had a buoy halfway down the tether to keep the chute from sinking behind you.
Anyhoo, the Speedo Essential Chute does have an adjustable tether for length, handy for taller swimmers who get frustrated kicking the parachute behind them when swimming. Speedo also offers the chute in three different sizes, up to 12” in width, for swimmers of all abilities.
The only thing I don’t love about this swim parachute is the color—the white gets dirty real fast in the pool and swim bag.
What alternatives are there to swim parachutes for power training?
Swim parachutes aren’t the only tool in town when it comes to creating stronger swimmers.
Here are some other options for power training in the water:
Drag Sox – One of the benefits of DragSox, which are literally drag nets that you place on your feet, is that there is no strap or chute dangling behind you. They are easier to flip turn and promote a more natural resistance as you don’t have to change your kicking and body position to avoid kicking a strap.
Swim tethers – Swim tethers are similar to parachutes in that they have a belt, but instead of a nylon strap, thick rubber tubing attaches to something sturdy like a pool ladder. Swim out until the rubber tubing creates tension, and develop some of that sweet range power!
Power towers – Ubiquitous on pool decks of larger swim teams across the country are power towers, which use either weight plates or large buckets of water to create variable load. They are similar to rubber tubing, but you can play around with the amount of weight/resistance more easily.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, swim parachutes are another tool I the swimmer’s toolbox for improving speed and power in the water.
Use them to improve the catch in your arm stroke, develop swim-specific strength, and even enhance your body position for more efficient swimming.
To recap our favorite swim parachutes:
⭐ The FINIS Swim Parachute is our number one choice, with three sizes for every level of swimmer.
⭐ The Sporti Swim Parachute is a great choice for the intermediate swimmer with its 10” chute size and budget-friendly pricing.
Choose the right swim parachute that matches your swim goals and power your way to faster and stronger swimming!
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