Sunday, April 9, 2023

Backward Running Is The Way Forward?

Picture from Uthoff et al (2018)
The very first post I did on this blog was back in Jan 2009 on running backwards. I was mainly writing from personal experience then. Did not expect to have written so many (> 900 posts) since then.

Looking back at those first few articles showed me how my writing has changed. The posts now are not purely from personal experience anymore. I always try to make sure it is evidence based. Of course this means it also takes me longer to write them up each week. Definitely have to rack my brains more (to come up with interesting topics) and put in more effort to read up the relevant articles.

I first learnt about the usefulness of running backwards after a guest lecturer taught it during my postgraduate physiotherapy studies in 2003. I definitely incorporated that during my rehab after my 3rd knee surgery done in Adelaide, South Australia.

Back to running backwards. I was naturally pleased to find that an article I read recently found some intriguing benefits. There was an increase both in aerobic and anaerobic demands when running backwards, which can be a good and significant form of training stimulus while running at lower speeds.

Running at lower speeds means it's less taxing on your muscles and joints. You're less likely to get injured. The maximum running speed while running backwards is approximately 70 percent of forward running speed. 

There is also an increase rate in force development and vertical leg stiffness which may help improve running economy.

There are decreased loads on the knee, very good news if you have knee pain and a good form of cross training. This is possibly due to reduced stride length and increased step rates compared to forward running. Definitely beneficial if you're over striding or taking too big steps.

There is also increased activation of quadriceps, hamstringsgastrocnemius and tibialis anterior
with some evidence that it may strengthen these muscles.

Other than my own personal experience, there is empirical evidence to support the use of backward running in training programs both to prevent injuries and improve performance. It can be used as part of warm up for runners and especially for team sports like football, basketball, hockey etc where backward running is essential. 

I did my almost all of my backward runs after my 'normal' runs barefoot on grass, in case you were wondering.


Uthoff A, Oliver J, Cronin J et al (2018). A New Direction To Athletic Performance: Understanding The Acute And Longitudinal Responses To Backward Running. Sports Med 48(5). DOI: 10.1007/s40279-018-0877-5

No comments:

Post a Comment