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Moving Backwards Can Help Improve Muscle Strength for Knee Injuries

Posted Jun 15 2011 6:25pm

A study was just released, “Moving Backward Helps Injured Knees Move Ahead.” I find this research fascinating as I have been exercising backwards for years.

Results show that people who use backwards locomotive movements on treadmills and elliptical machines have greater improvements in quadriceps and hamstring strength, as well as better aerobic capacity that a forward-locomotive group.  This improved quad and hamstring strength can be a great asset to people suffering from knee injuries, and a great aid in rehabilitation.

I find this research fascinating as I have been exercising backwards for years. I used to be the oddball on the track power-walking backwards.  It’s always taken my heart-rate higher, given me a kick-butt workout for my legs, and I can feel a definite difference in the way I used my legs vs. forward movement.  In fact once I turn around and head forward – there is always a noticeable burst of new speed because my legs feel stronger!

I don’t go backwards on a treadmill, to me this seems kind of scary…but on a smooth straightaway, or track where you can stay between the lines, it’s fairly easy to get a good rhythm going to walk backwards.  If you’re interested in playing with backwards walking – start with intervals of forward & backward locomotion to build up your endurance to go backwards longer.  Also, be very careful on your transition from facing backwards to going forwards, as there is a risk you could tork your knee as you pivot to change directions.

On an elliptical your body weight might shift from a forward tilt to more straight up & down as you begin pedaling backwards.  I reverse directions when I’m doing an elliptical workout when my feet start going asleep – and it usually get’s the blood flowing to my toes so I can switch directions and continue forward. (Not sure if anybody else has experienced this phenomenon – would love to hear from you!) It’s great to know that this backwards motion is also helping strengthen my knees and improve my aerobic conditioning.

In your workouts, exercise choices, and cross-training habits, variety with forward, backward, and sideways locomotion can help ensure good well-balanced muscle development for injury-free knees and condition your body to move safely in any direction with strength, power, and great control.

If you haven’t considered moving backwards as a part of your fitness program, perhaps this research study will encourage you to give it a try! 

Click here  to read more about the research presented at the American College of Sport’s Medicine’s  58th Annual Meeting: “Moving Backward Helps Injured Knees Move Ahead.”

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