There are a few different resistance training tools that runners and athletes in general use to work on increasing their speed. In fact, the three most popular tools are parachutes, resistance bands, and sleds, all of which help serve the same purpose. Resistance training is a great way to quickly increase your speed and explosiveness, therefore any type of resistance sprint is generally no longer than 30 yards. Remember that you’re working on short bursts of speed while you expend maximum effort.
Sleds can be used in two different ways, but both are equally effective. The first way is to attach a harness to your waist, so you can drag the sled behind you. Honestly, this this way is ideal, as you're able to incorporate the appropriate form into the sprint.
However, if you're up for a challenge, the second way is to push the sled with your arms while sprinting. Try angling your body at a 45 degree angle, driving your legs up towards your chest while slightly bent over. This requires a smoother surface such as a gym floor or a turf field that allows the sled to glide. Rubber mats may be a little sticky for this exercise, as it will only add more resistance. In this variation of the sled sprint, it forces you to push the weight instead of pull it, an important difference in training variation. Either type of sled sprint is great for building up you leg muscles, glutes, and explosiveness.
Do two sets of five sprints, 20-30 yards each. If you want, you can start slow before stacking loads of weight on the sled, but once you're moving, go all out to see the best results. Rest for 30-45 seconds between sprints to recover and for two minutes between sets.
Parachute training provides a natural type of resistance by catching air behind you while running. Again attached by a harness at the waist, the parachute grabs air, opens up, catches the wind, and causes a shaky, inconsistent resistance that you must battle against. Unlike the sled, the parachute stays in the air and creates a more unique, difficult resistance to deal with. This, of course, makes you work that much harder while running, causing your muscles to get stronger and more explosive. Then, once you remove the resistance, it'll make running freely feel like a breeze! Do two sets of 4-5 reps. 30 yards per rep, accounting for the fact that the parachute is not fully engaged until about five yards in. Give yourself 30-45 seconds of rest between reps and two minutes of rest between sets.
Resistance bands are generally attached to your waist by a harness as well, held in place by a friend or trainer. Resistance band sprints are normally no more than 5-10 yards as it stresses the importance of the first step and an emphasis on your ability to quickly explode in one direction. Break into a sprint as quickly as possible, which will typically be anywhere between three and ten steps depending on the resistance of the band, driving your legs until you must come to a halt.
Backpedaling back from where you came while keeping your legs in a bent, athletic position until there is once again no resistance on the band. The length of these sprints can vary depending on the amount of resistance the band has. Two sets of ten reps with minimal rest between each rep and longer rest between sets can be a good tweak. Furthermore, you may not feel exhausted after these, but contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean you aren't making gains.
(Related: Read about strengthening your core here.)
Ultimately, you'll only get out what you put in, so if you're hoping to push your game to the next level, a resistance exercise could be a highly effective item. Whether it's the sled, parachute, or band, dedicating your time to improving your abilities in this area is key to future success. Grab some Sklz equipment and a friend and get out there!
However, if you're still having trouble getting fit, ready, and strong for races, consider booking one of CoachUp's private trainers so they can get you on the right track. Our specialized team will help you pinpoint flaws, eliminate injuries, and create a personalized plan for you to attack. Fitness can be scary to work on alone, but thankfully, you don't have to! What are you waiting for?