Most people only walk forward on a treadmill to get cardio exercise. But have you ever tried walking backward? This simple modification engages your muscles in a whole new way, torching calories while correcting muscle imbalances that lead to poor posture. Read on to learn how backward walking on a treadmill boosts your workout.
Walking backward comes naturally, as toddlers do it instinctively. But as we get older, this movement pattern gets neglected. Retraining your body to walk backward takes concentration and coordination. Turn around on a treadmill and start at slow speeds. Hold the handlebars at first for stability. It feels awkward at first. But with practice, backward walking becomes more comfortable and automatic. Start with short intervals until you adapt. The novelty helps break up the monotony of standard treadmill routines.
Muscle activation differences
Backward walking uses different leg muscles than forward walking. Every step you take requires much more work from your hamstrings and glutes. This balances strength compared to using quads and calves more during regular walking. Your core also engages to keep posture upright and balanced. Side-to-side stabilizer muscles get used more without the stability of forward momentum. Arms and shoulders assist more with the counterintuitive backward movements. Strength training is highly effective when new muscle groups are used during backward walking. You tone key lower body areas like the glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs often neglected during regular cardio. Your core stabilizers receive an intense workout.
Upper body muscles in the back, shoulders, and arms balance and propel your backward movements. Backward walking provides a highly efficient, full-body muscle training boost. Poor posture results when some muscles get overworked while others remain underused. The imbalanced pulling distorts natural alignment. Backward walking strengthens muscles neglected in everyday activities to improve posture. Targeting the weaker glutes, hamstrings, and upper back straightens posture. Your core connects the upper and lower body in proper alignment. Using these atrophied muscles also reduces injury risk from tightness or weakness.
Burns more calories
The added muscle recruitment and balance demands of backward walking mean you burn more calories per minute. You work harder while building strength. Heart rate elevates faster as more muscles work. Use brief intense backward intervals for maximum calorie scorching. Steady-state backward walking for longer periods targets strength and endurance. Either way, you amplify the burn beyond standard forward walking. Physical benefits aside, backward walking also boosts brain activity as a neuro-sensory challenge. Navigating space and movement in reverse engages motor control and spatial processing areas more. With no visual cues as when walking forward, your brain must react in real-time to stay upright and coordinated. It heightened mental focus benefits cognition, attention, and memory. It’s like a challenging brain workout! If you don’t walk backward for entire sessions, sprinkling a few backward intervals into your usual cardio workout boosts engagement. The novelty breaks up the mundane forward motion for renewed motivation. Eventually, you start looking forward to the backward walking on a treadmill session. Varying the stimulus keeps workouts feeling fresh, promising better adherence.