There are several advantages to walking backward on the treadmill (or even sprinting back, if possible). Not only would it aid you in strengthening various muscles, but it would also help you improve your overall coordination and balance. It also benefits increasing your heart rate, making it a terrific interval exercise variant.
Studies have shown that running backwards may minimize your chance of injury while simultaneously improving your performance if you participate in sports. Improved capacity to shift directions more securely is achieved by increasing the power and strength in the lower body. In addition, there is so much more than you can learn about How to Start Walking Backward on a Treadmill. All here. Let’s get started!
Reverse or Backward Walking Benefits [Explained]
There are some significant differences between reverse walking and forward walking. Walking forwards has specific movements that are considered typical gait characteristics, and these motions are outlined below. Your leg flies through the air, and your heel is the first to touch down on the earth. Then, as you move from your heel to your toes, your straight knee bends just a little bit more.
This causes your opposite leg to rise from your toes and into the air as it happens. The heel-to-toe action is repeated many times, and then regular walking ensues. Reverse walking is characterized by the use of the opposite gait mechanism. It’s like your leg is swinging in the air and reaching backward with a bend in the knee.
As you roll from your toes to your heel, your toes contact the ground, and your bent knee straightens as you proceed. After that, your heel lifts off the floor while keeping your knee straight, and the action is performed once again. This toe-to-heel gait pattern has the potential to provide a variety of advantages.
- Improve Gait and Mobility
After an accident, surgery, or sickness, reverse walking may improve the gait characteristics of the injured or sick person. Going backward may help to “reset” your gait, and walking back may help you to enhance your ability to step forward in the future.
If you are experiencing balance and mobility issues, your physical therapist may instruct you to reverse walk to enhance overall safe mobility.
- Improve Hamstring Flexibility
To increase the flexibility of your hamstrings, your therapist may instruct you to walk backward on the treadmill to relieve tightness in this muscle group. Your hamstrings are placed at the rear of your upper thighs and are responsible for allowing you to bend your knees and stretch your hips during physical activity.
Whenever you walk backward, your hamstring tightens, allowing your knee to bend as it swings through the air. Then, when you roll from your toes to your heel, your hamstring is stretched, and your knee straightens due to the movement.
- Improve Quadriceps Function
Reverse walking may also be beneficial in improving the function of your quadriceps muscles, which are located on the outside of your upper thighs. When you straighten your knee, the quadriceps become active, often known as called.
Quad strength exercises such as quad sets, short arc quads, and straight leg lifts may be beneficial in increasing your quad strength. Your physical therapist may recommend reverse walking as a way to enhance your quad function.
As you walk backward, your quadriceps muscles are working, and your knee is straightening as you travel from toe to heel as you walk. This may increase the function of your quadriceps muscles.
It is critical to concentrate on contracting your quadriceps when walking backward to avoid injury. Your physical therapist will provide you with the appropriate verbal signals to do this.
- Increase Knee Range of Motion
Reverse walking may be beneficial in increasing the range of motion in the knee extension. Depending on the severity of your knee injury, the extent of your knee surgery, or the presence of arthritis in your knee, you may have a reduction in your knee extension, which is the capacity of your knee to straighten.
Whenever you walk backward, your bent knee straightens completely as you transition from your tips to your heel—this aids in increasing the range of motion in the knee extension position.
- Other Benefits
While walking normally (in a forward motion) is something we all do daily without giving it much attention, walking backward may help you build your leg endurance and aerobic capacity more quickly than typical. This is because the task you are putting on your body is more significant. You’re training your body to adapt to new and unexpected demands will result in gains and development in your overall physical fitness.
The Journal of Biomechanics presented research in which it was discovered that backward running decreased anterior knee discomfort compared to forward jogging. Another study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that a combination of backward running and walking may increase cardiorespiratory fitness while also altering body composition in the short term.
Because walking backward is more unfamiliar to your body, you may anticipate getting the advantages of increased cardiovascular and calorie-burning activity in a shorter time. Your exercises will become more efficient and intense as a result of this.
How to Do Backward Walk on a Treadmill?
For those unfamiliar with the concept of walking backward on a treadmill, a slow pace is recommended. You may realize that even walking around with your back against the wall is a significant task. Furthermore, as you get more familiar with the material, you may raise your pace in subsequent sessions.
Many treadmills feature a relatively sluggish beginning speed of 0.5 mph, which is standard for the industry. Begin walking at the slowest feasible pace to establish a strong walking posture and rhythm. Once you’ve become used to the rate and maintain it, gradually raise the speed in 0.5 mph increments.
Allow yourself at least one minute at each treadmill speed before raising the speed to the subsequent one. This gives your body enough time to adapt before increasing the intensity and expecting it to move faster than previously.
Muscles that are not as evident during forwarding walking may probably begin to function when you increase the pace of your movement. This category includes your quadriceps (the muscle on the front of your upper leg) and your calves (the muscle on the back of your lower legs).
Because of this, keep your backward intervals short when you first start. When initially starting, it’s better to modify one of the two variables: time or pace. That is, increase the intensity by either walking faster or for a more extended period, but don’t change both simultaneously. This allows you to make one adjustment at a time to one changing variable.
Should You Use Handrails When Walking Backwards or Not?
At the very least, please make use of them at first. Walking backward with your hands off of the side rails should only be attempted after you are confident in your ability to keep your balance on your feet. Going back necessitates a greater demand on your postural muscles to maintain your body straight. You run the danger of falling if they aren’t sturdy enough.
During backward walking or running, your legs, hips, and the muscles that govern your ankles must all work harder to maintain a synchronized action. So, if you sense a weakness in any of these that might cause you to fall, continue to rely on the handrails for assistance.
Start by gradually weaning yourself away from utilizing the handrails during your front-facing treadmill exercises if you have been reliant on them even while going ahead. Begin with walking with just one hand on the railing, then remove the other as well.
After you have mastered the ability to walk forward without relying on your hands for support, you may begin working on your rear-facing treadmill routine. Start using the railings, then with only one hand, and finally without using the handrails altogether.
Can You Run Backwards on a Treadmill?
It’s possible that after you’ve become acclimated to the backward motion, you’ll be ready to try backward jogging on a treadmill for a while. Through your program, alternate times of backward jogging with intervals of forwarding walking (or slow jogging) for a few minutes at a time, as needed.
If you discover that it’s challenging to maintain your balance, slow down until you find a comfortable rhythm. As your body becomes more acclimated, you may raise the speed, increasing the intensity. Once you’ve become used to it, you may want to experiment with various inclines.
Running or jogging backward on the treadmill might offer some variety to your existing treadmill regimen. According to the experts, if you’re having fun and reaping the advantages of your exercises, it may be easier to continue with them over the long haul. This also translates into long-term benefits.
[BONUS SECTION] Tips for Backward Walking – Tips and Tricks
The following are some of the essential tips for backward walking:
- Begin Slow When Walking Backwards
Anyone with two healthy legs—including the elderly, the obese, and those new to exercise—can walk backward without hanging on. The idea is to practice at a rate that is first comfortable for you to get used to the new motion. Don’t try to be a hero straight away. Begin slowly and gradually increase your speed.
- Incorporating Intervals
You don’t have to go backward for a long time to enjoy the rewards. Instead, strive to include backward intervals into your present treadmill program just once or twice during your whole training session. In addition, walk backward for a minute or two at a time. Depending on your agility, you may want to pause the treadmill before turning around to walk backward and again before turning around to go forward. When moving oneself, it is beneficial to utilize the handrails for balance.
- Variations While Backward Walking
Walking backward on an uphill is a unique experience! When I’m doing out on the treadmill, I include this into all of my warm-ups. I’ll sometimes take some hand weights and power walks while concentrating on driving and pushing firmly off each leg.
Set the gradient to 15% and the speed to 2 mph, presuming you’re used to walking backward without hanging on. You’ll quickly feel a great burn in your thighs. If you can move quicker, do so for a more painful thigh burn.
- Backward Walking With Inclines
You may also modify your inclination while walking backward on a treadmill to mix up your routine. Begin slowly, as with speed, by inclining the treadmill to its lowest setting. You will most likely experience a burning sensation in your thighs when you do this.
You may raise your inclination and pace as you gain more robust and comfortable. Just don’t do both simultaneously, or you’ll be thrown off balance. Do one first, then the other. This allows you to back down if it becomes too much. Inclines may also be included in your backward walking interval program.
Perform one minute at a set inclination, then increase the slope for the following minute before decreasing it back down. This increases your calorie burn and muscular strength in a shorter period. Another approach is to change the posture of your body.
Lower your center of gravity as you walk backward on an incline, so you’re in half squat posture. Maintain a straight back and do not lean forward. This will increase the amount of fire in your quadriceps muscles. However, restrict this exercise to 30-60 seconds and avoid it if you have knee problems.
In the “How to Start Walking Backward on a Treadmill” blog, one thing is clear that reverse walking on the treadmill is sometimes utilized to assist clients to improve their walking skills, strength, range of motion, or flexibility.
If you suffer a lower extremity injury, your physical therapist may recommend backward walking to help you completely heal. By knowing what to anticipate from reverse walking, you may be able to recover to your maximum level of mobility and function quickly and securely.
John is a Certified Personal Trainer – Exercise Fitness Specialist who loves to share his experience to assist you reach your fitness goals.