If you are looking to refine some of the muscular development in your legs, rehabilitate from an injury, bust some plateaus, or improve your athletic coordination, backwards running and walking should be included in your training regime.
Retro movement has application for both the bodybuilder as well as regular athletes. Backward motion is an essential part of many sports including soccer, basketball, rugby, tennis, lacrosse and football.
Most of the time, backward running is performed in short bursts on a court or field during these events. However, the amount of time dedicated to training and improving backward running is usually minimal.
Backward running appears to be a forgotten, old-school practice these days.
However, some notable historic success with backward running must be considered:
- Champion Boxer Gene Tunney ran four to eight backward miles a day in his training.
- Muhammad Ali, known for great foot speed, used backward running in his roadwork.
- Steve Reeves used backwards running to concentrate development of his calf muscles.
A Different Perspective
The act of walking or running backward is more than just a reversal of the forward motion. To start with, backward running is a learned skill. Compared to forward running, which is developed early, backward running has its own motor program that requires practice to improve efficiency. If you play sport, you will note that an individual may be the fastest forward runner, but the same individual may not be the fastest backward runner.
Part of the reason why an individual may be best at forward running but average at backward running is the significant physical difference in backwards locomotion. Backward running enlists the quadriceps muscles more than the hamstrings when compared to forward running.
In addition to working your quads more significantly, backward running also provides a greater hamstring stretch than forward running. This is because your maximum knee extension happens when your hip is maximally flexed (and your foot is on the ground). The best way to picture this is to think of the stretch achieved when you rise up on the balls of your feet.
Data also indicates that retro motion is more stressful to the cardiovascular system when performed at the same forward velocity. In a study on walking backwards, researchers demonstrated that VO2 and heart rate were 78 and 47% greater than forward walking at matched speeds.
Calculate Your Heart Rate
To determine your Maximum HR, use the calculators below. The simple formula: Take 220 and minus your age which is accurate to approximately +15 BPM. You then take that number and multiply it by .75 - .85, which will give you your percentages of 75% -- 85% of your Max. HR.
This is the Target Range or Zone that you want to stay in when doing any type of cardiovascular (aerobic) activity. When in this range your body is getting an optimum workout with maximum benefit, and it stays in a Fat Burning mode.
There are two different ways to calculate your maximum heart rate and your target heart rates. The method I just explained is the simple method. Read the full article here.
Simple Target Heart Rate Calculator
Using the 220 - Age formula.