When I was training for soccer during secondary school days, one of the training routines was to run backward. Sports like football, basketball, tennis and badminton requires players (especially the defenders) to run backwards. Even though those players seem to be able to do this short bursts of backward running easily, it can be quite challenging for layman. Most of those players have been spending hours to improve the motion. As for myself, ever since I left school, I seldom run backwards and never really give it a serious thought until recently.
Here are few benefits of walking or running backwards:
- It refines some of the muscular development in your legs. It makes your legs stronger.
- It also improves your athletic coordination. It helps you to improve balance. Some people use it to rehabilitate from injury. When you walk backward, your stomach become your back. When I mean is that your abs muscles are being worked out. The motion creates a nice reaction for your abs.
- In fact, walking or jogging backwards require more physical effort. Chances are your heart rate will increase even more compared when you are moving forwards. Many Japanese are purposely walking or running backwards to burn more calories. Because of that reason, you can walk 100 steps backwards yet burning the same calories when you walk 300 to 500 steps in conventional walking.
- Also, when you run backwards, subconsciously, you actually increase the length of your stride to take each step backward. When you turn and run forward, you actually are covering more distance with bigger stride. That is why you see some sprinters incorporate this workout in their routine training.
- Last but not least, walking backwards is a good way to descend steep hills if you suffer from knee pain or hamstring injuries. Going backwards give less pressure on the knee joints.
Doing backward walking outdoor can be dangerous unless you are able to keep turning your head which can be tiring. You can do it indoor with treadmill, elliptical trainer, stair master or by jumping rope backwards. I recommend beginner to practice backward walking with treadmill.
Few important notes for beginner:
- Start slow.
- If you are doing it at outside, make sure you do it on a familiar path so that you will not fall into potholes or drain or get knocked by cars. What I normally do is to get a walking partner. He will walk forward and help me spotting any hazards while I am walking backwards.
- For those who do not have huge space to do so, you can take 10 steps forward and 9 steps back (to return to the starting position) and see if you can do it well.
- For those who do it with treadmill indoor, try not to hold the side rails. If you keep holding them, the exercise will not train much of your leg and hip muscles. I have seen few are walking backwards but with hands secured on the side rails with slumped forward posture. Doing so will defeat the purpose of walking backward.
- Not to bend your knees. Keep your feet straight (stretched position).
- Once you get used to the exercise, increase the speed.
- The next level is to incline the platform of treadmill and make it more challenging. You can also walk backward up to the hill.
- You do not need to spend hours to do the exercise. I normally spend few minutes of interval here and there to do it on the treadmill.
Next time when you are finding ways to overcome your plateau or to change your monotonous exercising, consider this often forgotten old-school practice. Try the tips above and enjoy walking backwards.
I am sure Michael Jackson agrees what I said. Just look at how much he loves his moon walking!
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