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Retrowalking is one way to keep your hamstrings strong.
Run your hand down the back of your upper leg from your buttocks to your knee and you will have located your hamstrings. Whenever you bend your knees or extend your hips, these three muscles are at work. That means, whether you're performing yoga, walking, riding a recumbent bike or running a marathon, your hamstrings are busy. That's why it's important to keep them strong. Popular ways to do that include exercising, stretching and using leg-curl machines. A less common but effective way to strengthen them is by walking backwards.
When you walk, jump, ski or skate, you are using your semitendinosus and semimembranosus tendons and the long head of your biceps femoris. Together, the trio make up your hamstrings -- three biarticular two-joint muscles that cross both your knees and hips. They work in concert to allow you to bend your knees, rotate them in and out, pull them back towards your buttocks and extend your hips. Due to their multiple functions in sports and daily activity, it's important to keep yours flexible and strong.
Retro Walking Helps
Researchers with "The British Journal of Sports Medicine" found that just 10 to 20 minutes of reverse walking was effective in strengthening the hamstrings. Subjects walked backwards on a treadmill four times a week for three consecutive weeks. While both the 10-minute and 20-minute walkers showed improvement in balance and hamstring strength, the subjects that walked the longest improved the most. While retro walking is not complicated, it can require more energy and concentration as you engage your muscles in a whole new way.
Warm up for five minutes marching in place or easy forward walking. Then, stretch slowly, bending from your waist and reaching your hands towards the floor. Hold for a count of 10 and repeat. Set your treadmill to 1.0 mph or the slowest possible speed to give yourself time to get accustomed to the sensation of walking backward. It will be challenging at first to keep your balance. Use the handrails to support yourself and work up in speed gradually. Try to walk for one minute. You can increase your time as you become more comfortable.
You can also walk backwards without a treadmill. Warm up before you begin and be sure to pick a familiar location. Choose a safe unblocked path like a hallway, driveway or vacant parking lot. If possible, have a companion come with you to make sure there are no obstacles in your way. To keep your hamstrings flexible and strong, aim for 10 minutes of retro walking three to five times a week. Be sure to check with your healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise program.