Backward Running: Why It Works and How to Incorporate It Into Your Workout

December 27, 2012

Running short of achieving your training or fitness goals? If so, you may need to take a few steps backward in order to move forward.

Drew Brees incorporates a Backward Treadmill Walk into his general warm-up.

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Milan suggests that backward running can improve a runner’s overall performance, help reduce the risk of injury, and even burn extra calories, according to a story by Gretchen Reynolds in The New York Times.

The study concluded that the toe-to-heel manner in which the foot strikes the ground when running backward is less stressful on the knees compared to the heel-to-toe ground contact when running forward. Furthermore, backward running forces the muscles to fire in a completely different pattern and “requires nearly 30 percent more energy than running forward at the same speed,” as reported by the Times.

Backward running and jogging are nothing new to the sports performance field. Experts and coaches have long used it to activate the backside muscles during warm-ups, address and correct muscle imbalances, and train a sport-specific component.

New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston uses the Reverse Jog to help fire up his glutes in order to improve force production into the ground. Lynn Goff, sports medicine coordinator and Colston's strength coach, says, “Everybody is used to running forward and being very hip-flexor dominant, which you must have to have good knee drive when you’re running to be fast. But when I see somebody not focusing enough on triple extension through their glute engine—or their butt—then I have them run backward to really push off the floor and activate their glute.” (Learn about the Reverse Jog in the video at the top of this article.)

For Indiana Pacers SF Danny Granger, walking backward at un uphill incline on a treadmill adds an element of sport-specificity that suits his strength on the hardwood: defense (watch video of Granger completing the Backward Treadmill exercise).

Follow the links below to learn how other elite athletes incorporate backward running and jogging into their workouts:

Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
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