Choosing the right size parachute
Bigger is not always better. It is important to account for the laws of water dynamics when you think about a parachute. A chute like our ‘1swimchute’ has mesh in the center and thus water is being pushed in and out at the same time. As a porous chute the 1swimchute maintains a somewhat linear relationship between forward speed and resistance. However, normal parachutes do not have such a direct relationship. Think of them as a bucket that fills up with water… once full, the new water just spills evenly over the sides. A mesh chute stays straighter but normal solid chutes will swing (or ‘rock’) back and forth and constantly ‘spill’ even more water out the sides.
The problem is that many teams assume that if they use 8” chutes for their 11-12 year olds, then the 13-14 group needs 10” chutes, and 15-16 need 12” and therefore their 17-18 year olds need the 16” chutes. However, the math doesn’t add up for such logic. The surface area of the 8” chute (8×8) = 64 square inches. But the 10” chute is 100 sq inches. So unless the 13 year old is nearly 2x stronger than the 11 year old, you are exponentially hurting your older swimmers with this plan.
There is generically 2 ways to use a parachute:
Speed development. Much like ‘bucket towers’, power towers, or long stretch cords, parachutes can be ideal to train/build the power needed to swim at maximum speeds. And just like adding water to buckets or getting a thicker stretch cord is needed to match the power potential of each swimmer, larger size parachutes are also important. However, the goal here is SPEED, so if a swimmer is not going FAST, then you have loaded too much on them. So just because they CAN pull a larger parachute, does not mean they SHOULD.
Aerobic development. Alternatively some programs like to use parachutes to add load to long aerobic sets. In this case, going too large can also be a negative to the swimmer’s development. Many programs that use parachute tend to evolve into aerobic programs simply because they started out with over-sized chutes and could never use them for race pace training in the first place.
In both of these cases ‘larger may be necessary’ of course. Our advice:
When in doubt go smaller with everyone… training for speed and power development
Most all swimmers will do fine with the 8” chute. Even many colleges focus on 8” chutes
Some general rules that may help decide when you might go larger for age group swimmers:
15&up w/ AA or better motivational times = 10″ chutes
15&Up w/ AAA- AAAA times = 12″ chute
Anyone younger or below those times should use 8″ chutes (or our power bags or other options)