Running Up That Hill – Incline Training on a Treadmill

Incline Training on a Treadmill - strip image

You can control more than just your speed on a treadmill. In fact, if you want to get the most out of your workout then you should control more than just your speed!

The incline settings allow you to add resistance to your run, to really challenge yourself and to get more from your workout. In this post, we are going to explain why you should be paying attention to your incline settings and provide you with a template for an incline-focused workout.

Is incline running on your treadmill better for you?

Adding an incline to your workout increases the resistance that you must power through to maintain your speed. As we know, resistance builds muscle, which is why an incline workout is great for toning the legs.

Your glutes, quads, and hamstrings will all benefit from this form of training. It also helps to build ankle strength, which is often a problem area for very active people and can be particularly beneficial for stretching the Achilles tendons and calves.

Does incline running burn more calories?

The increased resistance will make your body work harder to maintain speed and, because of this, you will burn more calories than you would be running at the same speed without any incline. If you are trying to lose weight, then incline training is a good way to burn more fat.

Is incline training better than running

Is incline training better than speed training? In some ways, yes. But if you think about it, incline training has to be combined with some degree of speed, so really using them both together is the optimal way to structure your workout.

One of the problems with people’s tendency to solely focus on speed is that it puts a lot of pressure on the joints. Remember, running is a high impact exercise that puts stress on weight-bearing joints. With each strike of your foot, you send power down from your hips which is felt in the knees, ankles and feet.

Running at a faster pace inevitably involves more strikes and, to drive yourself forward, those strikes will be more powerful and therefore detrimental to your joints. Incline training circumnavigates this problem.

Once you have reached a decent jogging pace, you can gain more from your workout by increasing the incline instead of pushing your speed up further. This is because it will challenge your muscles in a way that simply running faster does not.

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Incline treadmill workout for beginners

There are a few different ways to train using the incline settings. Before we jump into that though, we will first mention incline ranges. Most treadmills have an incline range of 0.5-15%, although some models will allow you to incline as much as 40%.

You should always use the treadmill on at least 1-2% incline, as this mimics the effects of wind resistance and elevation changes that you would find on an outdoors run.

Treadmills often come with pre-programmed runs that will change the incline for you. These can be great because they ensure that you get a varied workout and that your body does not get too used to a single setting, thus ensuring that you are constantly making progress.

These programmes also allow you to focus on your running, as you do not need to mess with the settings or time your intervals.

If you would prefer to adjust the settings yourself, try the following 25-minute workout template, which can be adjusted it your ability and workout goals:

  1. 5 mins warm-up, 1-2% incline
  2. 5 mins jogging, 5% incline
  3. 5 mins jogging at a higher speed, 5% incline
  4. Drop your speed, 5 mins jogging, 10% incline
  5. Drop your incline, 5 mins jogging, 5% incline

Is incline training unsuitable for anyone?

JTX Club-Max incline

Incline training has many benefits but, unfortunately, is not suitable for everyone. As mentioned above, running is a high impact activity. When we up the speed, we increase the pressure on the knees, ankles and feet.

When we up the incline, more pressure is placed on the lower back. People who have back pain should therefore avoid incline training…at least, if it involves speed. Walking on a treadmill, however, is a different story.

Walking is a low impact activity because you are not producing the striking action. Sufferers of back pain can benefit from incline walking because it will build strength in the lower back region.

Is holding the sides of the treadmill bad?

One final tip, if you are jogging or walking on a treadmill while using the incline settings, you will want to hold onto the sides…resist! If you keep your arms in, you will engage your abs and get a better workout.

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?