Yesterday someone showed me that a reporter was looking for someone to speak about “walking backwards on a treadmill for knee pain” because of a “trend going around on social media that shows people walking backward on a treadmill… It not only works different muscle groups, but is said to help reduce knee pain.”
As the person who created this trend, I can answer these questions. So can physical therapists such as Brian Ziegler, who has written public articles on this subject, with research cited.
When you step backward, your knee is over your toes. Knee over toes was found in 1978 to equal more pressure on the knee. This unfairly created a rumor to avoid that position, when in fact the research shows ABILITY in that position makes the knee more protected and less painful!
But like anything, the DOSE has a lot to do with effectiveness, and walking backward is the lowest dose of knees over toes training.
I also recommend dragging a sled backward, along with other exercises that scale to virtually any level. However, when gyms don’t have sleds, I’ve come up with all sorts of ways to mimic a sled. A treadmill not turned on (using your own strength to spin the belt) works GREAT — but might not be good for the treadmill. So I can only advise it if the owner of the treadmill approves.
5–10 minutes 3 times a week works great.
The quadriceps muscles — and in particular the vastus medialis (the lower, teardrop-shaped of your 4 quad muscles) — have to work harder when the knee is over the toes, but there’s more!
This position also loads and strengthens your FEET, which don’t get to work like that on the main weight room leg exercises: squats, deadlifts, leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls… all flat-footed!
Therefore, for knees and for feet, backward walking or sledding would be a common-sense step for the longevity of any exercise regimen. It’s the opening step of my programs, which have produced thousands of success stories. I’ve now done over 200 miles of resisted backward walking, and I’m glad for every single mile! I believe anyone has some degree of potential to “reverse aging” by using this method.
[My parents sledding backward!]
Yours in Solutions,
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