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Backward running, also known as backwards running, running backwards, reverse running, retro running, or retro locomotion is the act of running in reverse, so that one travels in the direction one's back is facing rather than one's front. It is classed as a retro movement, the reverse of a normal movement.
Backward running is a less-natural motion but can be accomplished with some speed with practice. It is better to start out backward walking (also called retropedaling), which is relatively easy, and increase speed over time. Like normal running, running up and down hills backwards will add an additional degree of difficulty.
Running backwards up a hill is not very dangerous. It will always be at a lower speed due to the enhanced difficulty, and if one trips there is less of a distance towards the ground and it is easier to absorb the impact with the arms and buttocks so that the head is not as likely to hit.
Running backwards down a hill is more dangerous, and it is advised that someone learn how to drop into a backward roll before attempting it, to deal with any resulting tripping or loss of balance in the prone movement. Although the distance to the ground is greater running downhill backwards, the incline makes it much easier to perform rolls in downhill running, than when running level ground, so it can be done more instinctively. This applies to backward running and the backroll as it does to front running and the front roll.
Backward motion is less energy efficient, but backward running can reduce knee pain, and more freedom of movement is possible with backward running due to less coordination. Training this way can also increase metabolic efficiency with forward running.
As the head faces forward, running backwards has the danger in that the runner cannot see anything on the ground or in the way of his or her path. Unlike forward running, it is also much more difficult to brace a backward fall or drop into a roll if one trips.
Turning the head around while running can generally eliminate the visual impediment, although it is awkward, limits speed, and may result in neck strain.
The combination of normal forward running and backward running is called mixed running or alternative mixed running. Some believe that running backwards helps balance out the strain brought on by normal running. Reversing the direction works the friction of tissues oppositely. Running flat or uphill, the heel is used to push off rather than the ball of the foot as normally occurs with forward running, working the tibialis anterior muscle (pushes the heel down, raises the front of the foot) more as a prime mover than a shock absorber. When running backward downhill, the ball of the foot is used whereas forward downhill running uses mainly the heel to absorb the force. This requires more coordination and therefore develops brain power along with muscle power.
While downhill backward running is essentially the reverse of uphill running, and uphill backward running of downhill running, they are different in that the fibres would fire differently due to differences in the isotonic motions. The former is an eccentric version of a concentric movement, and the latter is a concentric version of an eccentric movement. Both concentric and eccentric movements have advantages in training, which is why most weight lifters perform both for set times.
With all forms there is an obvious backward lean relative to normal running's forward lean, which can shift the stress of the other muscle fibres a small degree.
Other advantages to backward running are a reduction in fear related to the movement, a form of exercise that is naturally more reserved, gains in balance, and the general enjoyment resulting from entertaining activities like these. Due to constantly having to look behind oneself, or sometimes keeping the eyes fixed, people can learn to run with more neck mobility or without a straight look ahead. This can stress the neck muscles which can be dangerous if done too aggressively, but in the long term could lead to adaptations in them.
Backward running adds another dimension to running, and when complemented by sidestepping in both directions (with and without crossovers front and behind intermittently) covers the essential dimensions of human movement on the two-dimensional plane. Diagonal movement as well as curving running (as is done on long race tracks like 200 m and longer in the Olympics) are additional forms of running.
Backwards running allows referees in sports such as football or rugby to continuously observe an area of play without interfering with play.
Notable backward runners
- Cavagna, GA; Legramandi, MA; La Torre, A (7 February 2011). "Running backwards: soft landing-hard takeoff, a less efficient rebound". Proc Biol Sci. 278: 339–46. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1212. PMC 3013407. PMID 20719774.
More metabolic energy must be spent in the opposite case when muscle is forced to work against its basic property
- Roos, PE; Barton, N; van Deursen, RW (1 June 2012). "Patellofemoral joint compression forces in backward and forward running". J Biomech. 45: 1656–60. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2012.03.020. PMC 3391667. PMID 22503882.
Patellofemoral pain (PFP) is a common injury and increased patellofemoral joint compression forces (PFJCF) may aggravate symptoms. Backward running (BR) has been suggested for exercise with reduced PFJCF.
BR had reduced PFJCF compared to FR. This was caused by an increased knee moment, due to differences in magnitude and location of the GRF vector relative to the knee. BR can therefore be used to exercise with decreased PFJCF.
- Mehdizadeh, S; Arshi, AR; Davids, K (July 2015). "Quantifying coordination and coordination variability in backward versus forward running: Implications for control of motion". Gait Posture. 42: 172–7. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.05.006. PMID 26021460.
backward running had significantly higher magnitude of coordination variability compared to forward running, signifying that more degrees of freedom were involved in backward running
- Ordway, JD; Laubach, LL; Vanderburgh, PM; Jackson, KJ (30 March 2016). "The Effects of Backwards Running Training on Forward Running Economy in Trained Males". J Strength Cond Res. 30: 763–7. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001153. PMID 26332781.
Five weeks of BR training improved FR economy
- Higbie, EJ; Cureton, KJ; Warren, GL; Prior, BM (1996). "Effects of concentric and eccentric training on muscle strength, cross-sectional area, and neural activation". Journal of Applied Physiology. 81 (5): 2173–2181. doi:10.1152/jappl.19184.108.40.2063.