If you have knee pain, try pedaling backwards on the elliptical machine and see if this doesn’t alleviate your joint discomfort.

Most people don’t pedal backwards on the elliptical trainer, but this may actually alleviate knee pain, according to a study.

Most people don’t pedal backwards on the elliptical presumably because it taxes the quadriceps muscles of the thighs more, and also because most people do not think outside the box.

However, the leader of the study, Elmarie Terblanche, PhD, says that those who pedaled backwards experienced much greater gains in thigh and hamstring strength when compared to those who used the equipment going forward. 

The stronger the quadriceps, the more stable the knee joint. The study also showed that those who pedaled backwards on the elliptical had greater aerobic function than those who moved forward.

The study subjects represented numerous knee injuries and were randomly assigned to forwards or backwards pedaling on the elliptical for a series of supervised sessions. Terblanche urges “do it backward!” for those with knee pain.

What people don’t realize is that only five minutes of backward pedaling are all it takes to produce a training effect and help alleviate knee pain, as well as strengthen knees in people without pain in this joint.

Next time you use the elliptical machine, toss in some backwards pedaling here and there for several minutes. 

Don’t clutch onto the rails and lurch forward. Keep your back vertical to force your core to be engaged. Try not to hold on.

Move your arms in synch with your body and keep the back straight. By focusing on balance and good posture without holding on, you will burn significantly more calories.

For a deeper “burn” in the quadriceps, lower yourself to increase the bend in your legs.

This isn’t necessarily recommended for those with knee pain, but just as a general way to modify the exercise.

Remember to keep erect, straight posture and try not to hold onto the rails.

Fitter people should raise the pedal tension to increase the intensity of going backwards on the elliptical. Holding onto the rails will reduce pedal tension.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
Top image: Dreamstime.com Orangeline
Source: http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/acsm-in-the-news/2011/08/01/moving-backward-helps-injured-knees-move-ahead