Body Weight Support for the Runner – Enhancing Running Performance and Injury Rehabilitation

by Michael Herrera, PT, DPT

What is Body Weight Support?

When it comes to discussions on how to enhance running performance or rehabilitate runners, Body Weight Support (BWS) is a main talking point. Body Weight Support (BWS) is one of the many tools we have to manipulate stress on the body. By manipulating stress, we can better control how we are loading the runner during the run.

Examples of BWS 

Runners are VERY used to finding ways to run with alternative methods. In my competitive college career, our program frequently trained with aqua jogging. In the rehab setting, we can use tools like the AlterG and the Lever System to manipulate stress on the runner.

What are the benefits of BWS?

  • Increase mileage: By modifying the loading on each step of the run, I can introduce more mileage to my runners, allowing me to still tap into building a larger aerobic engine with a decrease in joint stress.
  • Adjust speed: We can also introduce speed and “over-speed” training in a controlled environment.


In many runners we rehab from injury, we can use the Lever System for post-operative patients and those returning to running. By utilizing foundational exercises to progress toward return to sport, we can use body weight support to offload in a calculated way with patients, including Achilles repair/tendinopathies, s/p ACL, Labral repair and other bone stress injuries.

Who would you recommend BWS to?

  • Individuals who are coming back from injuries: In the rehab process, there is a return to run progression. BWS systems allow me to grade the return to run while controlling variables, such as modifying stress at lower extremity per step, all while keeping the runner in the better-controlled setting.
  • Healthy individuals: With a BWS, we can modify recovery runs and decrease body loading stress per mile while allowing the runner to build an aerobic engine.

Role of Physical Therapists

If you’re a runner and ready to explore ways to help prevent injury or enhance your running performance, working closely with one of our physical therapists is an appointment away. Give your nearest Evolution a call or set up an appointment online today.

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