Running Backwards | 8 Benefits for All Runners

Written By: Jeremy N

Running backwards is not a new fad or some fancy exercise. In fact, it is exactly what you think it is.

What is Running Backwards?

Running backwards, also known as retro running, reverse running, backward running, or a backwards run, is a form of exercise and training that involves running in the opposite direction to what you are used to – from back to front instead of front to back. It requires glute and hamstring strength as well as coordination.

By backward running, you will be able to work muscles that aren’t normally used when you run forwards. When done correctly, it can help improve your speed, agility and endurance. Additionally, it provides a good cardiovascular workout that can help improve your overall fitness level.

Running backwards may seem intimidating at first but with some practice and proper form it can become an enjoyable way to challenge yourself while getting a great workout.

Running backwards, also known as retro running, reverse running, backward running, or a backwards run, is a form of exercise and training that involves running in the opposite direction to what you are used to – from back to front instead of front to back. It requires glute and hamstring strength as well as coordination.  By backward running, you will be able to work muscles that aren’t normally used when you run forwards. When done correctly, it can help improve your speed, agility and endurance. Additionally, it provides a good cardiovascular workout that can help improve your overall fitness level.  Running backwards may seem intimidating at first but with some practice and proper form it can become an enjoyable way to challenge yourself while getting a great workout.

Benefits of running backwards

Backward runs also known as retro running is a great way to stay fit and improve your running performance. It has many benefits compared to regular forward running, including better posture, increased oxygenation of the muscles and improved strengthening of leg muscles.

In a study conducted at the University of Milan in Milan, Italy, researchers found that reverse running may reduce the risk of knee injuries compared to forward running.

Additionally, it can help you to run faster by allowing you to use both directions for propulsion. Reverse running can also help with balance, agility and coordination. Since the mechanics of reverse running are different from those for forward running, it engages different muscle groups which can result in greater overall strength gains.

Furthermore, this type of exercise is low impact on joints so it can be beneficial for people who have joint problems or injuries.

Disadvantages of running backwards

Retro running or Reverse running can be a great way to add some variety to your workout routine, as it challenges your body in different ways - but there are also some potential drawbacks.

Reverse running puts more strain on muscles and joints, as they're moving in an unfamiliar way, which can make it more difficult to maintain proper form.

Additionally, running backwards requires more coordination and balance than running forwards, so if you're not careful it can increase your risk of injury.

Lastly, since it is less common than forward running, it's difficult to get accurate feedback on your performance - making it harder to measure progress or set goals.

 Why is running backwards called reverse running?

Backwards running is also referred to as reverse running because the motion of your feet and legs are reversed compared to when you are running forward.

This type of running involves pushing off with your toes instead of your heels, which can help engage more muscles in the lower legs and glutes for a stronger and more efficient run.

Additionally, when going for a run backwards, you use different muscles than those used in traditional forward-moving runs which helps to improve overall strength and coordination.

8 Benefits to Running Backwards

1. Helps Rehab and Prevent Injuries

Running backwards, also known as retro running or reverse running, offers numerous benefits for runners of all levels. Research shows that one of the key advantages is its ability to aid in the rehabilitation of leg injuries and prevent future injuries.

When running backwards, the risk of injury is significantly reduced compared to traditional running. This is because running in reverse places less stress on the knees and joints, leading to a lower risk of knee injuries and other common running-related injuries.

Furthermore, Research shows that retro running engages different muscle groups than normal running, specifically targeting the calf muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps. By strengthening these muscles, runners can improve their overall running form and reduce the risk of muscle imbalances that can lead to injury.

In addition to injury prevention, running backwards also helps in the rehabilitation process for leg injuries. The eccentric muscle contractions involved in retro running can aid in the recovery and strengthening of injured muscles, such as the hamstrings.

2. Improves Performance

Running backwards can help improve a runner's performance in several ways.

One benefit is that it targets different muscle groups than regular running. While forward running primarily works the quad muscles, running backwards engages the calf muscles to a greater extent. This can help prevent muscular imbalances and strengthen the posterior chain. Additionally, the increased range of motion in the hip and ankle joints during reverse running can improve flexibility and enhance running form.

Running backwards Enhances Cognitive Function - Besides its physical advantages, such as strengthening calf muscles and increasing calorie burn, running backwards can also have a positive impact on cognitive function.  Research shows that running backwards stimulates the brain in ways that traditional forward running does not. It requires more concentration, coordination, and mental agility, leading to improved cognitive function.   By challenging the brain to process the unfamiliar movement patterns, running backwards can enhance neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to form new connections and adapt to change.  Additionally, running backwards engages a wider range of motion and activates different muscle groups compared to normal running, providing a well-rounded workout for the entire body. This increased muscle activity and range of motion can help reduce the risk of injury by addressing muscle imbalances and promoting overall strength and stability.  In terms of cognitive function, running backwards helps improve spatial awareness, balance, and proprioception—the body's ability to sense its position in space. These cognitive improvements can have a carryover effect into other areas of daily life, such as improved focus, multitasking abilities, and agility.

3. Enhances Cognitive Function

Besides its physical advantages, such as strengthening calf muscles and increasing calorie burn, running backwards can also have a positive impact on cognitive function.

Research shows that running backwards stimulates the brain in ways that traditional forward running does not. It requires more concentration, coordination, and mental agility, leading to improved cognitive function. 

By challenging the brain to process the unfamiliar movement patterns, running backwards can enhance neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to form new connections and adapt to change.

Additionally, running backwards engages a wider range of motion and activates different muscle groups compared to normal running, providing a well-rounded workout for the entire body.

This increased muscle activity and range of motion can help reduce the risk of injury by addressing muscle imbalances and promoting overall strength and stability.

In terms of cognitive function, running backwards helps improve spatial awareness, balance, and proprioception—the body's ability to sense its position in space.

These cognitive improvements can have a carryover effect into other areas of daily life, such as improved focus, multitasking abilities, and agility.

4. Improves Posture

One major advantage is its positive impact on running posture. By engaging different muscle groups and challenging the body to move in a different way, running backwards helps improve overall posture and body awareness.

Regular running often leads to muscle imbalances, with certain muscles becoming overly dominant while others are neglected. This can result in poor posture, inefficient running form, and increased risk of injury. Running backwards can help address these imbalances by activating different muscle groups, particularly in the lower body.

Additionally, running backwards requires an upright position, encouraging runners to maintain an erect posture and engage core and neck muscles for stability.

Improving posture through running backwards can have a range of benefits for runners. It helps promote a soft landing and promotes a more efficient running stride, leading to less impact on the joints and reduced risk of knee or other joint injuries. It also enhances the range of motion, allowing for a fuller and more natural movement.

Running backwards can improve your posture - Improves Posture One major advantage is its positive impact on running posture. By engaging different muscle groups and challenging the body to move in a different way, running backwards helps improve overall posture and body awareness.  Regular running often leads to muscle imbalances, with certain muscles becoming overly dominant while others are neglected. This can result in poor posture, inefficient running form, and increased risk of injury. Running backwards can help address these imbalances by activating different muscle groups, particularly in the lower body.  Additionally, running backwards requires an upright position, encouraging runners to maintain an erect posture and engage core and neck muscles for stability.  Improving posture through running backwards can have a range of benefits for runners. It helps promote a soft landing and promotes a more efficient running stride, leading to less impact on the joints and reduced risk of knee or other joint injuries. It also enhances the range of motion, allowing for a fuller and more natural movement.

5. Burns More Calories

One notable advantage is its ability to burn more calories compared to traditional running. Research shows that this is due to the increased demand it places on the muscles, particularly in the calves and quadriceps. When running backwards, these muscles work harder to stabilize the body and maintain an upright posture. Additionally, running backwards requires a greater range of motion in the lower body, which results in increased muscle activity and calorie burn.

By incorporating reverse running into a training program, runners can improve their overall fitness and enhance their weight loss efforts.

However, it is essential to approach reverse running with caution to minimize the risk of injury.

Gradually introducing this activity and focusing on maintaining an erect posture, a soft landing, and a balanced stride will help runners maximize the benefits while reducing the chance of knee or hamstring injuries. Ultimately, running backwards can provide a challenging and effective workout routine that boosts calorie burn and contributes to a healthier and fitter body.

7. Lower Impact on Joints

One of the main advantages of running backwards is that it has a lower impact on the joints compared to regular forward running.

When running in reverse, the body's weight is distributed differently, putting less stress on the knees and ankles. This reduced impact can help decrease the risk of common injuries, such as knee pain and muscle imbalance.

Research shows that by running backwards, runners can improve their range of motion and develop stronger muscles. Additionally, running in reverse engages different muscle groups, particularly the calf and hamstring muscles, leading to improved muscle strength. This unique form of exercise also helps improve balance, coordination, and proprioception.

Overall, incorporating running backwards into your training program can provide a fun and effective way to improve your running form, strengthen your muscles, and reduce the risk of joint-related injuries.

8. Increases Agility and Improves Running Economy

Running backwards, also known as reverse running or retro running, can be a beneficial training technique for runners of all levels. One of the key benefits of running backwards is that it helps to increase agility and improve running economy.

When you run backwards, you engage different muscles compared to forward running, particularly the calf muscles. This can help to strengthen and balance the muscles in your legs, reducing the risk of injury and improving your overall running form. Running backwards also requires greater range of motion in your joints, which can help to increase flexibility and prevent knee pain.

In addition to muscle activity, running backwards can also have positive impacts on your cardiovascular system. It places greater demands on your aerobic capacity and muscular strength, helping to boost your overall fitness levels.

Overall, running backwards can be a fun and effective way to improve your running performance. It not only strengthens your leg and core muscles but also enhances your agility and running economy, leading to better overall running form and reduced risk of injury.

Lower Impact on Joints One of the main advantages of running backwards is that it has a lower impact on the joints compared to regular forward running.  When running in reverse, the body's weight is distributed differently, putting less stress on the knees and ankles. This reduced impact can help decrease the risk of common injuries, such as knee pain and muscle imbalance.  Research shows that by running backwards, runners can improve their range of motion and develop stronger muscles. Additionally, running in reverse engages different muscle groups, particularly the calf and hamstring muscles, leading to improved muscle strength. This unique form of exercise also helps improve balance, coordination, and proprioception.  Overall, incorporating running backwards into your training program can provide a fun and effective way to improve your running form, strengthen your muscles, and reduce the risk of joint-related injuries.

8. Adds Versatility to Your Running Program

Running backwards, also known as reverse running or retro running, can bring about a range of benefits for runners of all levels. One of the key advantages of running backwards is the added versatility it brings to your running program. By incorporating reverse running into your workout routine, you can target different muscle groups and engage in a unique form of cardiovascular exercise. This not only helps to prevent muscle imbalances but also adds variety to your fitness routine.

Will Running Backwards Make You Faster?

While it may seem unconventional, this alternative form of running can help improve muscle strength, range of motion, and posture, while also reducing the risk of certain injuries. When running backwards, the calf muscles are particularly targeted and strengthened, leading to enhanced power and endurance. Additionally, this activity can promote a more upright posture and engage the core muscles, leading to a reduction in knee pain and other common running injuries.

Running backwards also increases the activation of hamstring and gluteal muscles, which can help correct muscle imbalances and improve overall running form.

Furthermore, it can lead to a higher calorie burn due to the increased muscle activity and the cardiovascular demands it places on the body. Incorporating reverse running into a training plan, whether through mixed running sessions or dedicated retro running workouts, can have a positive impact on aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and body fat reduction. It is important to gradually introduce reverse running and ensure a soft landing to minimize the risk of injury.

Therefore, adding backward running to your fitness routine can be a valuable addition to your regular running workouts.

When introducing reverse running into a training plan, it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity over time. Begin by walking backwards for short distances to help gain coordination and build strength in the lower body.  Then, as you feel comfortable, add short periods of jogging or retro running into your runs.  As with any form of exercise, be sure to warm up before starting and cool down afterwards in order to avoid injury. Incorporating reverse running into your schedule can help improve speed, power, balance and coordination – all essential components for becoming a better runner!  By gradually increasing the distance and intensity at which you run backwards overtime, you can get maximum benefits from this type of exercise while avoiding strain or injury.

How to incorporate reverse running into a training plan?

When introducing reverse running into a training plan, it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity over time. Begin by walking backwards for short distances to help gain coordination and build strength in the lower body.

Then, as you feel comfortable, add short periods of jogging or retro running into your runs.

As with any form of exercise, be sure to warm up before starting and cool down afterwards in order to avoid injury. Incorporating reverse running into your schedule can help improve speed, power, balance and coordination – all essential components for becoming a better runner!

By gradually increasing the distance and intensity at which you run backwards overtime, you can get maximum benefits from this type of exercise while avoiding strain or injury.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Walking backwards versus running

Walking backwards is a great way to build lower body strength and stability, as it requires you to use different muscles than those used when walking forward. Additionally, it can help improve coordination and balance.

Walking backwards also allows for more time spent on each stride which can be beneficial for runners looking to increase their endurance. However, it has been shown to have greater benefits in terms of improving performance due its higher intensity level.

Backwards walking or running can help engage more muscles while providing an effective cardio workout that helps promote better speed and efficiency.

2. Is Running Backwards Good for the Joints?

Backwards running or retro running can be a great way to strengthen your joints, as it requires different muscles than forward running.

A study published in the journal of biomechanics compared backward running to forward run, and concluded that running backwards is more beneficial for the hamstring, quadriceps and shin muscles. The study was conducted at the University of Milan in Milan, Italy.

Reverse running also helps build strength in the calf muscles and tendons due to its reverse movement. In addition, it can help reduce the potential for injury since it is less strenuous on the body compared to forward running.

Ultimately, this form of exercise can be beneficial for those looking to strengthen their joints without putting too much strain on them.

3. Can running backwards hurt your back or knees?

Backwards walking or running can be a great way to improve your running performance, but it is important to do so safely.

Those with existing back or knee issues should take extra caution when performing this type of exercise. As with any form of running, warm up and cool down periods are essential for preventing injury.

Additionally, it is important to start slowly and use controlled movements in order to avoid putting too much strain on the back and knees.

4. Can running backwards improve my time?

Backwards running is a great way to improve your running technique and performance. It has been shown to help strengthen muscles in the lower legs, core, and glutes while also improving coordination and balance.

Additionally, running backwards can help increase oxygen intake which helps promote better endurance.

Adding a few backward runs into your weekly training plan can help you become a more efficient and effective runner!

5. Who Should Try Running Backwards (and Who Should Avoid It)?

Backward running or walking can be a great way to switch up your workout routine and challenge your body in different ways.

It is an excellent way to work the muscles you don’t normally use when running forward, and it can be combined with other cardio exercises for more variety. However, it is important to note that reverse running does have some risks associated with it. Those with knee injuries should avoid backwards running as the sudden reversal of motion could worsen an existing injury.

Additionally, those who are just starting out with running should wait until they’ve established a good level of fitness before attempting to run backward as their bodies may not yet be ready for the strain.

Ultimately, everyone should consider the risks associated with backwards running before trying it out and make sure they are properly prepared before doing so.

6. How do you run backwards?

When running forwards you can generally eliminate the visual impediment of not being able to see anything on the ground or in the way, but when running backwards this is not possible and can be much more difficult.

To get around this it is important to concentrate on your feet and make sure that you are not going to trip over anything. It is also important to look up regularly so that you can spot any potential hazards ahead of time.

Running backwards can generally eliminate the need for a warm-up since it works more muscles at once, but it should still be done with caution and care as injuries are much more likely when running in reverse direction.

All in all, retro running is an interesting way to add some variety into your runs and it will definitely challenge you!

7. Which muscles does running backwards use?

Running backwards, or retro running, is a great way to exercise and challenge the muscles in the body. The reverse motion of running works some different muscles than traditional forward run.

The calves, quadriceps, and shin are all engaged in this reverse movement. Running backwards also helps to increase strength in the hip flexors, which often become weak from a regular forward run.

It can help to improve balance and coordination, as well as increase speed for when you return to running forwards.

Retro running also has cardiovascular benefits: it increases your heart rate more quickly than a traditional forward run would. So if you're looking for an interesting way to mix up your workout routine, give retro running a try!

8. Can you run backwards on a treadmill? Is it Safe?

Backwards jogging on a treadmill can be an effective way to increase the intensity and challenge of your workout. Running in reverse allows you to use different muscles and activate different muscle groups than when running forward, so it can be great for overall strength and stability development.

However, it's important to note that running backwards on a treadmill is not without its risks. Be sure to go slow and pay close attention to the belt speed, as it can be easy to lose your balance if you're not careful or if you try to go too fast. You should also avoid going in reverse for extended periods of time, as this could cause strain on your joints and muscles.

All in all, running backward on a treadmill can be a great way to add variety and challenge to your workouts - just make sure you do it safely and with proper caution!

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Jeremy. 

I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods

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