Backward running is a good performance exercise to add to training sessions to which I always recommend. Running backward or also known as retro running is also recommended by physio therapists for rehabbing injuries, improving athletic performance, and improving muscular balance. Running backward can be a powerful way to improve coordination, balance, and resistance to a lower-body injury. It is an excellent addition to any exercise sessions or even pre or post-runs. To run backward, it activates and strengthens our muscles differently, which will support and increase our running form. Also, integrating backward running into your routine can improve our ability to run forward.
BENEFITS OF RUNNING BACKWARD
1. Helps Rehab Injuries
Retro running can be an effective strategy for rehabbing groin, knee joint, hamstring, shin, low back and hip injuries. That is due in part to the differing demands when running backward versus forward, including a greater range of motion at the hip joint, a more upright and straight posture, and greater activation of the calves and quadriceps muscles.
2. Improves Performance
Running backward is much more demanding than running forward and requires more effort to move from one point to another. It is similar to running hills or speed intervals in that the greater cardiovascular demands result in improved stamina and aerobic capacity, which can translate to improved times in running forward. One lap on a track backward is the equivalent of eight laps running forward. So we don’t need to run backward long-distance, we can perform some short laps/1min. each lap. That’s what I add to my HIIT training sessions which is super efficient to support our muscle strength and increase our running speed.
3. Improves Muscular Balance
Retro-running is super-efficient to strengthen the opposing muscles groups used in forward running, including our quads, calves and shins, and ultimately balances our quad-to-hamstring strength ratio. Forward running can over-develop the hamstring muscle group and increase the risk of knee joint injuries. Retro-running is similar to hill running and strength training (squats and knee extensions), so it develops a more balanced muscular system, which can reduce our risk from injuries due to muscle imbalance.
Running backward is one of the most natural ways to strengthen our hamstrings for the running motion. When we move backward we have to lift the heal and move the thigh backward. To do this, we have to use the hamstring, glutes, and lower-back, which are the key muscles to strengthen in order to prevent hamstring problems. The faster we go through this motion, the more we strengthen the lower legs. We can do backward running at full speed, short-distance, if we want to challenge ourself.
4. Spice Up Your Running Program
Incorporating a few minutes of retro running into our normal running routine as well, can spice up our runs, add a little variety, and burn more calories as well. It's like learning to run all over again and the challenge keeps our mind fresh and motivated.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO RUN BACKWARD
How to Make it a Daily Practice
The easiest way to make sure we do this every day is to build it into our daily warm up and warm down. When most people warm up, they will start with some jogging laps. We can add one of those laps backward skipping. When we are doing strides or sprints to pick up the intensity, we can try some of them backward.
While cooling down, we can work on different backward movements. The point of a cool down is to bring the body from a high intensity back to a lower intensity of movement. The best way to do this is to start off with a backward run, then a backward jog, and then a slow backward walk.
It is best to learn to run backward on a track or a predictable surface. You'll be surprised at just how challenging it is, and starting slowly is key. I suggest starting by adding two to four 30-second intervals of backward running at the end of your easy runs. As we progress, we can lengthen the time of each interval, add more intervals, and even incorporate them into our runs just like a speed work. The key is to keep it simple and use it as a spice, and we will get many benefits of retro running.
Don’t Over Do The Backwards Running
Runners and athletes tend to take a good thing and do it so much that it becomes a bad thing. We don’t need to make backward running the focal point of everything we do and perform. Similar to how we should never do the same exercises. Backward running is no different, we don’t have to do over performance. If we do a lot ofbackward running one day, we can take the next day off. The tip is to get the body moving backward correctly.
Performing this nice backward run 3-4 times weekly or daily, short-distance will improve, strengthen our lower and front body muscles and prevent lower-back and leg injuries.
Perform Some Nice Backward Runs, Feel More Mobility And Stronger Muscles, Better Running Form And Pace, Enjoy Some Nice Runs!