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Study Review: Benefits of Backwards Locomotion in Training

We will be reviewing the results and methodology of a couple of scientific studies that tested the effects of backwards running on fitness levels and forward running performance.

There have been many studies looking at the energy expenditure of forward vs backward running, with the research showing consistently that backwards running places more structural and metabolic demand on the body compared to forwards running. This makes sense as the individual cannot generate the same momentum and free tendon energy that they would while going forwards.

Let's first examine some of the facts regarding backwards locomotion and why we use it so much in Alliance programming.

Backwards locomotion trains the muscles and tissues to get stronger that must absorb the most amount of force during forward locomotion. An important distinction is that there is nothing wrong with forward locomotion in training AT ALL. There is simply an imbalance between the amount of training the average human does going forward vs backward.

Backwards locomotion is also a fantastic method of active recovery due to the absence of an eccentric phase. This is important because micro-tears and healthy tissue breakdown occur during the eccentric (lengthening under load) phase of an exercise.

Let's dive into the science, shall we!

Study #1 "The Effect of Backward Locomotion Training on the Body Composition and Cardiorespiratory Fitness of Young Women"

This study had a group of young active women participate in a 6-week training program with 3 workouts per week. Each workout during the first week was 15 minutes of backwards walking and running activities, with increases of 5 minutes per week.

Prior to the training program, the women were tested with a 20m beep test as well as submaximal treadmill walking and jogging tests. The women were also weighed and had their body fat percentage measured using skinfold tests.