Backwards running: more than just looking funny?
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
Whilst some may think backwards running serves no purpose other than having a laugh, it does form a part of a number of field sports (elite soccer players spend approximately 3–4% of the match running backward)1, and research has shown there are some potential benefits to this style of running.
Whilst the vast majority of running-related research looks at forward running, there is a surprising amount of research done on backwards running (BR) which reveals BR has:
Lower patellofemoral joint compressive loads. 2
Uses more energy at a given speed. 3
More reliant on muscles developing forces concentrically
Increased step frequency and decreased step length
Anterior muscles (hip flexors & quads) are used to propel, and the posterior muscles (hamstring & calves) absorb braking forces, the opposite to forward running.
Increased knee range but reduced range at the hip
More upright posture
So how can you use this?
Backwards running can be a useful addition to your on-field warm-up (as is currently a part of the FIFA 11+ injury prevention program) and to add some variability into your training. Backwards running could also be used as part of recovery from injuries including:
Knee injuries (runner’s knee, patellofemoral pain)
Calf strains and Achilles issues
You can either perform on the treadmill or out in the open, but just be careful where you are landing!
For assistance with how you can be implementing this into your training, please don’t hesitate to contact us at www.healthhp.com.au
Health & High Performance “Realize your goals”
Mohr M, Krustrup P, Bangsbo J. Match performance of high standard soccer players with special reference to development of fatigue. J Sports Sci. 2003;21:519–28
Roos PE, Barton N, van Deursen RWM. Patellofemoral joint compression forces in backward and forward running. J Biomech. 2012;45:1656–60
Wright S, Weyand PG. The application of ground force explains the energetic cost of running backward and forward. J Exp Biol. 2001;204:1805–15
Uthoff, A., et al. (2018). "A New Direction to Athletic Performance: Understanding the Acute and Longitudinal Responses to Backward Running." Sports Med 48(5): 1083-1096.
Uthoff, A., et al. (2018). "Sprint-Specific Training in Youth: Backward Running vs. Forward Running Training on Speed and Power Measures in Adolescent Male Athletes." J Strength Cond Res.