Moving Backwards Can Help Improve Muscle Strength for Knee Injuries

by | Jun 15, 2011 | Exercise and Fitness, Links to Interesting Articles | 7 comments

A study was just released, “Moving Backward Helps Injured Knees Move Ahead.” I find this research fascinating as I have been exercising backwards for years.

Results show that people who use backwards locomotive movements on treadmills and elliptical machines have greater improvements in quadriceps and hamstring strength, as well as better aerobic capacity that a forward-locomotive group.  This improved quad and hamstring strength can be a great asset to people suffering from knee injuries, and a great aid in rehabilitation.

Most people don’t spend much time moving backwards!  It’s kind of scary when you can’t see where you’re going…

I find this research fascinating as I have been exercising backwards for years. I used to be the oddball on the track power-walking backwards.  It’s always taken my heart-rate higher, given me a kick-butt workout for my legs, and I can feel a definite difference in the way I used my legs vs. forward movement.  In fact once I turn around and head forward – there is always a noticeable burst of new speed because my legs feel stronger!

I don’t go backwards on a treadmill, to me this seems kind of scary…but on a smooth straightaway, or track where you can stay between the lines, it’s fairly easy to get a good rhythm going to walk backwards.  If you’re interested in playing with backwards walking – start with intervals of forward & backward locomotion to build up your endurance to go backwards longer.  Also, be very careful on your transition from facing backwards to going forwards, as there is a risk you could tork your knee as you pivot to change directions.

On an elliptical your body weight might shift from a forward tilt to more straight up & down as you begin pedaling backwards.  I reverse directions when I’m doing an elliptical workout when my feet start going asleep – and it usually get’s the blood flowing to my toes so I can switch directions and continue forward. (Not sure if anybody else has experienced this phenomenon – would love to hear from you!) It’s great to know that this backwards motion is also helping strengthen my knees and improve my aerobic conditioning.

One of the best things I think this study demonstrates is the value of variety!

In your workouts, exercise choices, and cross-training habits, variety with forward, backward, and sideways locomotion can help ensure good well-balanced muscle development for injury-free knees and condition your body to move safely in any direction with strength, power, and great control.

If you haven’t considered moving backwards as a part of your fitness program, perhaps this research study will encourage you to give it a try!

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


  1. Michele Johnson

    Hi Aliesa,
    Just finished reading the article about moving backwards. When I bought my elliptical trainer the salesman mentioned about toes falling asleep. The way to remedy this is to adjust your foot pads if you can to a different angle to prevent your toes from falling asleep.

    Hope this helps!
    See you soon!
    Michele Johnson

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