Sideline Sports Doc: Here’s how running backwards can improve your training

Sideline Sports Doc: Here’s how running backwards can improve your training

Editor’s note: This article by Dev Mishra, M.D. (president of Sideline Sports Doc) first appeared in SoccerAmerica. Sideline Sports Doc is advancing the Players First pillar of Player Health & Safety through resources that include an online injury recognition training course.

There’s a little bit of science supporting the benefits of backwards running, also known as retro running or reverse running. Not a ton of science but just enough for me to recommend that you give this some consideration in your training, regardless of sport. You’d use backwards running occasionally to change up your typical training routine. Kids are naturally better at running backwards than adults, so don’t be surprised if your younger athletes take to it more smoothly.

Here are some possible benefits of backwards running:

  • Helps rehab injuries. Backwards running can be an effective strategy as part of recovery from lower extremity and spine injuries. Muscle firing patterns are very different in backwards vs. forwards running, creating more of a “soft landing hard takeoff,” which can be useful to reduce joint loads. This study showed reduced knee cap compressive forces with backwards running, which can be helpful for athletes with knee cap tracking issues, patellar tendonitis or Osgood-Schlatter syndrome.
  • Improves muscular balance and efficient body-fat reduction. Backwards running is an effective means to strengthening the opposing muscles groups used in forward running and helps to balance your quad-to-hamstring strength ratio. This study of college aged women showed greater fat loss in backwards vs. forward running training programs.
  • Improves coordination, especially for defensive positioning. Many sports require defending an opponent while rapidly moving backwards. Training with backwards running can improve in-game performance.
  • Adds variety to your training. Backwards running, cariocas, skips, bounds and lateral shuffles will all add variety to your typical training, which just feels good to do. And you only need a small amount to go a long way. Incorporating a few minutes of backwards running into your normal running routine can spice up your runs, add a little variety and burn more calories too. It’s like learning to run like a kid again, and the challenge keeps your mind fresh and motivated.

Read the entire article in Soccer America here.