Backwards Running : The benefits of training backwards

Backwards Running : The benefits of training backwards

Backward walking and running is recommended for the rehabilitation of overuse injuries and knee joint problems because it increases the strength and power of the quadriceps muscles while reducing compressive forces at the knee joint, preventing overstretching of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and decreasing force absorption.

But that’s not all: according to a new study from South Africa, backward locomotion training also improves cardiorespiratory fitness, while causing significant changes in body composition, and may thus be a useful supplement to coventional running training programmes.

This study investigated the effects of a backward training programme on healthy young female university students. Twenty- six students took part in three different baseline tests (body composition, a submaximal treadmill test and a 20m shuttle run test) before and after a six-week training programme.

For the training programme they were divided into two groups:

  1. A training group who completed a six-week backward run/walk training programme, consisting of three sessions per week for a total of 18 sessions, with the duration of the sessions progressively increased over the study period;
  2. A control group who followed their normal daily activities.

On retesting, the trained group were found to show:

  • a significant decrease in oxygen consumption during both submaximal forward and backward exercise on the treadmill (30% and 32% respectively);
  • statistically significant decreases in skinfold thickness (19.6%) and percentage body fat (2.4%) at the end of the study period;
  • statistically significant increases of 5.2% in maximal oxygen uptake.

The researchers conclude: ‘The results of this study provide, for the first time, evidence that backward locomotion can improve cardiorespiratory fitness and possibly lead to positive body composition changes in young women.’

Int J Sports Med 2005; 26:214-219

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