Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 1083–1096 | Cite as

A New Direction to Athletic Performance: Understanding the Acute and Longitudinal Responses to Backward Running

  • Aaron Uthoff
  • Jon Oliver
  • John Cronin
  • Craig Harrison
  • Paul Winwood
Review Article


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 characterised 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.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Data Availability Statement

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflicts of interest

Aaron Uthoff, Jon Oliver, John Cronin, Craig Harrison and Paul Winwood declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Uthoff
    • 1
  • Jon Oliver
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Cronin
    • 1
    • 3
  • Craig Harrison
    • 1
  • Paul Winwood
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ), AUT MillenniumAUT UniversityAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Youth Physical Development Unit, School of SportCardiff Metropolitan UniversityCardiffUK
  3. 3.School of Health and Medical ScienceEdith Cowan UniversityPerthAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Sport and Recreation, School of Applied ScienceToi Ohomai Institute of TechnologyTaurangaNew Zealand

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