Running Backwards

When incorporating any type of running into a training program, whether it be long distance running or short, intervals, it’s inevitable that some type of issue (small or large) will arise in ones muscular or neuromuscular system.

Some common issues include & are not limited to:

  • Shin splints
  • Tendinitis
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Snapping Hip Syndrome
  • Stress Fractures
  • Patellofemoral Syndrome

Regardless of anything, backwards running is something that should be implemented into any running program.  It creates balance in efforts to avoid minor setbacks such as shin splints.  It is commonly used in a rehab setting, but should also be used in a prehab setting as good maintenance.

From a biomechanical standpoint, backwards running has many differences to walking/running.  When running backwards, most of the muscles that are being shortened during running (forwards), are being stretched (lengthened).  Therefore, we have opposing muscle groups working.  This is a good thing.  Much of the population today has tight hip flexors due to sitting for hours on the job.  Running only tightens them more.  In backwards running, your hip flexors get a break as they no longer are in a flexed (shortened) position, but instead are being lengthened.  There is also a reduction in the compressive forces that exist in the patellofemoral joint in backwards compared to forward running.

To run properly & efficiently, attenion should be paid to the 3 B’s:

  • Big Toe
  • Butt (glutes)
  • Belly (abdominals)

Running backwards is a great way to train these muscles.  The toes are the first to touch the ground therefore the load placed on then here is great to strengthen them.  In the backwards swing phase, it is the glutes that are activating to accelerate the swing into extension.  This allows strengthening of the glute complex and stretching of the hip complex.  In addition, your abdominals must work harder and in a different manner to stay upright while running backwards.

I would suggest starting out walking backwards first, then once you feel comfortable with that, try picking up the speed a little bit and jog.

References: 

Running Backwards by Michol Dalcourt

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2 thoughts on “Running Backwards”

  1. How am I supposed to run backwards? On a treadmill? In front of people? What if I fall?

    1. Start by walking backwards on the treadmill until you feel comfortable taking it up to a jog.

      Running backwards outside is much easier (especially if you have some type of running path/trail). No need to do it 5 minutes at a time. Start with a minute, switch it up and run forwards a minute. Alternate between this, then you can even add a lateral run if you’re keen. : )

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