Saturday, 1 June 2013

Going backwards?

By U.S. Navy photo by
Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua Valcarcel
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Last night, while I was working, I overheard a father telling his son that he had to go backwards on the cross/elliptical trainer to work his muscles in a different way. This was a popular idea a few years ago, and although there are a few people still advocating it (I did a little Google search) this has moved more into the myth category.

I was never actually convinced by going backwards, although a few years ago - before I became an instructor - part of my programme was to do backwards intervals on this machine. I don't think I did it for long.

Reasons for not going backwards on the cross trainer:

  • First and foremost, the cross trainer is a cardio machine - you are trying to raise and maintain your heart rate. Going backwards slows you down and lowers your heart rate.
  • If you want to work your leg muscles, do some leg weight exercises - squats and lunges are awesome.
  • Our legs are designed to propel us forward, it makes no sense to train them to go backwards.
  • Current research suggests the same muscles are working backwards and forwards, there is no extra benefit, but it may put extra stress on the knees.
  • If you really want to work your muscles harder, letting go of the handles works well. Your abs and inner thighs work harder to keep you upright, and your glutes work harder because you can't cheat and lean over the machine.

Do you use the cross trainer backwards?
How do you find it?
Will you give no holding on a go?


  1. Oh I'm so glad to read this. I've been given this very same advice and ignored it. I always felt clumsy and yes, it slowed me down and I wanted to get my heart rate up. I never hold on to the handles (on the treadmill either) so glad to know I'm on track. I love the elliptical for an indoor workout.Thanks for this article.

  2. I've always thought the same thing....the elliptical being, first and foremost, a cardio machine...why would you need to 'work different muscles' on it.

    That's advice I never heeded :)

    1. It's always worth thinking logically about anything you're advised!

  3. Yeah, been doing this for the past few weeks. Now my knees are aching. I thought it was this.

  4. Yeah, been doing this for the past few weeks. Now my knees are aching. I thought it was this.