A New Direction to Athletic Performance: Understanding the Acute and Longitudinal Responses to Backward Running
Backward running is an activity seldom used in the training of athletes in power sports, yet this movement pattern is common for linebackers and defensive backs in football and all players in basketball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, tennis, and some other sports. The abstract below describes a study by Oliver, et. al (2018) that examines the value of backward sprint training.
Backward running (BR) is a form of locomotion that occurs in short bursts during many overground field and court sports. It has also traditionally been used in clinical settings as a method to rehabilitate lower body injuries. Comparisons between BR and forward running (FR) have led to the discovery that both may be generated by the same neural circuitry. Comparisons of the acute responses to FR reveal that BR is characterized by a smaller ratio of braking to propulsive forces, increased step frequency, decreased step length, increased muscle activity and reliance on isometric and concentric muscle actions. These biomechanical differences have been critical in informing recent scientific explorations which have discovered that BR can be used as a method for reducing injury and improving a variety of physical attributes deemed advantageous to sports performance. This includes improved lower body strength and power, decreased injury prevalence and improvements in change of direction performance following BR training. The current findings from research help improve our understanding of BR biomechanics and provide evidence which supports BR as a useful method to improve athlete performance. However, further acute and longitudinal research is needed to better understand the utility of BR in athletic performance programs.
Coaching Application\: In the NASE 5-Step Model, both sprint-assisted and sprint-resisted training (weighted suits, vests, or pants) includes backward sprinting that both underload and overload the lower extremities during high speed work. The drills attempt to mimic the specific movements that occur during competition in the sport. For example, strength coach, Bob Otrando, recommends that defensive backs in football end each workout with repetitions of backward sprinting to improve back pedaling skills. Training loads should be kept light enough to allow athletes to reach a high backward sprinting speed. Backward sprinting repetitions with added weight are also an important aspect of improving the speed-strength of the hamstring muscle group.
Jon Oliver, John Cronin, Craig Harrison, and Paul Winwood. , Craig, Cronin. 2018. A New Direction to Athletic Performance: Understanding the Acute and Longitudinal Responses to Backward Running. Sports Medicine May, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 1083–1096.