by Danielle Clark-Fox, DPT
I recently read in Shape Magazine (monthly subscriber here!) that going backwards on the elliptical would be a good way to jazz up my crosstraining workout days. I decided to try this at the gym the very next day, 5 minutes forward and 2 backward for 6 cycles. I definitely felt the time pass quicker and more of a burn in my quads and calves. I also noticed my heart rate increased during the times I was moving backward. So I decided to do some research to see if I should permanently make this part of my crosstraining and the results have me a believer in moving that elliptical backwards!
Any type of exercise you love; running, elliptical, biking will lose its effectiveness over time. Your body knows what to expect, muscular and cardiovascular wise. Shorts spurts of going backwards on the elliptical are like surprises for your body, and therefore a better workout.
Using the elliptical forwards works your gluts and hamstrings, while backward works your calves and quads. There is also a great cardio burst from working backwards. A study put out by Penn State found that an athlete walking forward at a given pace enabling the heart rate to 106 bpm will find a heart rate of 156 if walking backward at the same given pace. That’s a nice boost in calorie burning!
Elliptical can also be a great core workout. Forwards elliptical motion, without using the static or moving handles will constantly be engaging your core to keep you upright. Watch your posture if using the handles, especially with fatigue it’s really easy to let your upper body lean in and disengage your core. Just the act of pedaling backwards will improve your elliptical posture and engage your core, even more so if not holding on to handles.
If you are recovering from a hamstring or hip injury the elliptical can be a great option for you. On an elliptical your overall hip joint motion needs are decreased while still enabling power, speed, endurance and overall workout.
So there really is something to using the elliptical backward as well as forward to jump start your cardio and lower body workout as well as a bit of core stability thrown in there. It’s definitely a favorite of mine for cross training days, and I will continue to backwards pedal my way to a healthy body!
Dr. Fox is a physical therapist at Boston Sports Medicine.