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  • Writer's pictureJamie Elmer

HOW and WHY to walk backwards...January, 2024

I’m sharing 1 thing with you in this email newsletter:


HOW and WHY to walk backwards.


A couple of months ago I sent out an email with a few pointers about walking backwards…It can be so useful, so I’m sending this email with more info on the topic.


*Warning, if you don’t know what some of the body parts or muscles I mention are, don’t worry about it…my teacher friends may find this language useful. If some of the terms I’m using sound like a different language, read and implement nonetheless!


A couple of decades ago I was working with a client one on one. I remember well that his calves were incredibly tight, hip flexors (the front of his hips) were tight, his gluteal muscles were underdeveloped, his thighs were turned out when he walked, his shoulders were rounded forward, his arms hung in front of his body while standing, and his palms turned backwards. No coincidence he had hip and back pain.


The last thing I wanted to do with him were movements like forward bends. I saw that what his body needed, on a larger scale, was everything that walking backwards could give him. And, I was right. After the initial, “This feels awkward” statement, he immediately found some hip and back relief when he walked backwards.


Think of all the things you do in a day that are forward:


Walking forward

Sitting with our knees in flexion and hips in flexion with our thighs forward

Often, especially when sitting, our upper spine is rounding forward

Often, our shoulders are rounded forward

Often, the neck and head are jutting forward

We look forward most of the time (or down at a phone, at our feet, at a keyboard or TV screen)

We use our phones in front of us

We use our computers in front of us

We sit in our car

We sit on the couch

We sit, sit and sit some more


Overall, the above movements result in:


Tight achilles and calves (which can lead to tight lower back muscles)

Weak and tight hamstrings

Underdeveloped gluteus maximus muscles

Tight hip flexors

Weak and tight lower back muscles

Weak mid and upper back muscles

Tight front of shoulders

Weak front of neck


Here are the benefits of walking backwards:


Improved overall balance

Anterior tibialis strengthening (front of shin…a muscle that helps to keep your inner arch lifted and flex your ankle…necessary to keep strong in order to help prevent falls)

Possible achilles and calve stretching as you step back

Possible lower quadriceps strengthening (especially when done up a hill)

Hamstring strengthening while stepping back

Gluteus maximus strengthening while stepping back

Hip flexor (front of hip) stretching while stepping back

Lower back (erector muscles) strengthening while stepping back

Mid and upper back muscles strengthening

Front of shoulder/chest opening

Front of neck strengthening


How to do it:


I’m not asking you to start walking backwards everywhere you go. And, I’m not asking you to turn your 20 minute forward walk that you do, into a 20 minute backwards walk all of a sudden.

I am suggesting that you start to incorporate some backwards steps into your day.

If you have space in your home, walk backwards 10 paces down a hallway.

Use the wall for support if you feel timid about balance.

Turn your head over one shoulder for 4 steps, then the other shoulder for 4 steps. Most of us don’t get nearly enough neck rotation, and this is a great way to incorporate it.

A few steps backwards can add up to big changes.

When getting up off the couch, walk backwards a few steps.

When getting out of your car (if in a safe area of course), walk backwards a few steps.

After sitting at the dinner table, get up and walk backwards a few steps.

And, when time and space allows, walk backwards for longer…while turning your head from side to side every few steps.


Walking backwards is also EXCELLENT to do after more active forward movements, like running and cycling. I knew a man in Venice, CA that ONLY ran backwards. And, when I am using an elliptical, I generally use it backwards, not forwards. My lower back feels much better after than if I use the elliptical forwards!


Please try this out. There are very few people that walking backwards ISN’T good for! And yes, it will feel awkward at first because it’s new, and you’re not used to it. With time, it’ll feel more natural.


Spread the word, please.


And, if back pain is an issue for you, you may be interested in my Back Care Align and Refine Tutorials. The 3 videos are available for purchase, or included in your membership if you’re a member of the streaming site. Click below to access the site. The Back Care Videos are in the Align and Refine Category.


Last, I’m opening up a bit more time in February for one on one sessions. If interested, email me and I’ll send you details. Want help with an injury, your teaching, or an at home routine? Contact me:


Enjoy your backwards walking and let me know how it goes!





PS. In 2024, I'll be giving a portion of all Movement Therapy Company streaming memberships to MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) - a branch of Native Hope. For more on this organization, click HERE.

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