treadmill incline

Treadmill Incline: Definition, How to and More

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If you’ve used or seen treadmills in the gym or a friend’s house, you may have noticed several differences between different types and models. Some are flat, some can be adjusted to simulate going uphill, and still some combine both uphill and downhill workouts.

Today, we’ll talk about treadmills that you can use and adjust to mimic walking, running, and sprinting uphill – let’s fiddle with treadmill incline.

What Is Treadmill Incline?

Treadmill incline refers to the slope or angle that a treadmill’s running surface makes with the ground. Treadmills with auto incline or manual incline allow you to adjust this setting according to your training goals and level of fitness. Most treadmills come with an incline setting that ranges from 1% – 15%.

Using this feature is a sure way to burn more calories by simulating hill climbing or hill running in the comfort of your home. As mentioned earlier, apart from the incline function, some machines are also designed to have a decline feature. Both decline and incline on treadmills will help you vary your cardio training intensity. Below we’ll discuss more about this feature and how to use it effectively in your weight loss journey.

Our Top Home Fitness Picks: A Quick Overview

If you’re pressed for time and simply want to find the best home fitness machine, here are my recommended choices:

1. NordicTrack Commercial 2450 Treadmill

2. Hydrow Interactive Rower

3. Teeter FreeStep – Recumbent Elliptical


Using the Treadmill 

Treadmills with incline come with many features and new technologies, so it’s good to know how to properly use them, both setting inclines and incorporating them into your workouts.

How to set the incline

Depending on the brand, some treadmills such as NordicTrack can be adjusted automatically when you’re on the move. In other brands, you’ll have to do it manually, meaning you will have to set your incline before you start your workout and stop whenever you need to increase or decrease it.

How to use the treadmill incline in your workouts

Tip #1 – Warm up

Warming up is crucial for all exercises. Before you increase the incline on a treadmill, you should warm up for five minutes by doing jumping jacks, jogging, and squats.

Tip #2 – Go slow on the incline

Start the workout at a slow speed as you gauge your physical ability to sustain pace. Do not force yourself to run at the same speed you do while on a level/flat belt.

Tip #3 – Maintain proper body posture

Keep your body in the natural running form and slightly lean forward. Avoid learning backward when the treadmill is inclined since this can cause you to fall backwards and slip. Aim at taking shorter steps and find your rhythm. Long strides will wear you down so fast that you may not even complete your workout.

Tip #4 – Let go of the handrails

Holding the handrails may slow you down so much to effectively burn calories. If you find yourself having to hold onto the handrails, consider reducing your speed or taking a break.

Tip #5 – Change intensities one level at a time

There are three ways to increase your intensity – by increasing your speed, duration, or the incline percent. You can also use a treadmill with decline for the decline/downhill feature. Whether you’re increasing or decreasing your intensity, do it gradually – one level at a time.

Tip #6 – Cool off

Don’t just jump off the trainer. To end your treadmill incline workout, finish by setting the incline to zero percent, slow down to walking speed, and keep walking for about five minutes to cool off.

Why Should You Get a Treadmill with Incline?

A treadmill with incline gives you access to more challenging (read: more intense) workouts in the same machine. You will outgrow a flat treadmill faster than you will a treadmill with incline. If you’re buying one and thinking about using it for the long term, you should invest in a smart treadmill with incline/decline. It will bring you endless possibilities with its connected features along with the incline function.

Treadmill Incline Benefits

woman using treadmill

Great Cardio

The incline helps you raise your heart rate and maintain it to the recommended 65 – 85 percent of the maximum to ensure that your cardiovascular system works, optimizing and pumping more  blood to the muscles as you work out. It also goes a long way in reducing your blood pressure.

Amazing Muscle Strengthener and Builder

Treadmills with incline make your routines more intense than when you do them on a regular flat treadmill, plus, if you do HIIT on it, you’ll burn more calories and strengthen your muscles in a shorter time.

Reduces Risk of Injury

When running outside, you expose yourself to injuries from uneven ground, traffic, shady elements, and other outdoor-related risks. When using a treadmill with incline at home, you eliminate this risk. The handrails and speed adjustments provide you with a safe environment for exercising.

Increases Aerobic Capacity

Incline treadmill workout increases your lung capacity. The high intensity of the physical activity will train your respiratory system. A well functioning lung ensures efficiency in oxygen supply and uptake.

Good for the Abs

This cardio training raises your heart rate and increases oxygen uptake, helping your body shed more fat and tone your abs and every other part of your lower body.

Muscles Worked by a Treadmill with Incline

inclining treadmills

You work your lower body primarily and some parts of your upper body secondarily.

  • Quadriceps: These are  found on the front part of your thighs and are responsible for extending your leg. A treadmill that inclines works the quads harder as compared to running on zero slopes. Also, if you want your quads to bulk rapidly, we recommend you also try a calf raise machine.
  • Hamstrings: It is located at the back of your thighs. As you pull your leg, they help you to extend the thigh.
  • Glutes: We’re talking about your butt, which you recruit when your workout involves an incline. They help you maintain stability by enhancing balance at the pelvis.
  • Calves: Pushing your foot away from the ground recruits the calf and other muscles on your lower leg.
  • Abs and entire back: They’re always worked when walking or running, but inclining treadmill workouts will put more pressure on these muscles to tighten and help you maintain an upright posture.
  • Upper arms and shoulders: Walking and running needs you to swing your hands which works your arms and shoulders.

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Factors Affecting Calories Burned in Treadmill Incline Workouts

The amount of calories burned during an inclined treadmill cardio training vary depending on the following:

1. Treadmill Incline Percentage – The steeper your running surface (higher incline percentage), the more intense your workout. Raising your incline will make the exercise much harder and result in burning more calories.

2. Speed – How fast can I run on a treadmill? Running the same distance on an inclined treadmill in  around 15 minutes will burn more calories than a slow-paced 1-hour run.

3. Stride length – You will burn more calories when you take shorter strides than when you opt for longer ones. With shorter strides, you hit your feet on the floor more times and work your muscles more than with long strides.

4. Your weight – The heavier you are, the more calories you burn. A more substantial body weight will require more energy to carry the body mass. Imagine running while carrying a heavy dumbbell or a loaded backpack. This is how weight translates to more calories.

5. Proper form – Failure to maintain the appropriate running form or walking form will result in burning fewer calories. For example, holding on to the handrails prevents you from burning maximum calories. In other words, an improper form prevents you from optimizing your workout.

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Treadmill Incline

incline percent

1. Holding onto the Handrails

Many people are tempted to hold the handrails for support as they work out on an inclined treadmill. You can do this when you’re just starting but aim to work out without it. You will always achieve more by walking or running slower without holding the handrails that when you go faster while gripping them.

2. Starting off at high speeds

A few people start running at top speeds around 8 mph. This can be dangerous. Whether you’re running on a small compact treadmill or a larger treadmill with wide belt, always begin by setting the trainer at a slow pace as you get on it and then increase the speed gradually. This will save you from possible injuries.

3. Poor Walking or Running Posture

Do not look down or hunch your shoulders while on your equipment. This is not the proper running form, and it may lead to neck, shoulder, and low back pain. Keep your eyes fixed to the front, head held high, and neck aligned with the spine.

Taking a deep and complete breath is not possible with a poor posture, and that will affect oxygen uptake and optimal calorie-burning.

4. Long Strides

Fight the temptation to take longer than your normal stride. Over-striding may result in your foot stepping far beyond the safe zone, and you may trip and fall. Treadmill inclines must not be done for speed; instead, you should concentrate on your heart rate to achieve your goals. Long strides can easily throw you off balance.

5. Poor Hand Positioning

If your arms are not positioned and moved well during your training, you will strain your neck and shoulder. Don’t let your hands hang loosely downwards.

Angle your arms at 90 degrees and keep them moving in sync with the opposite leg. Proper hand position and motion will help you get your rhythm as you train.

6. Not Understanding Your Fitness Equipment Features

Please don’t step on a treadmill until you’re sure you fully understand its features and how to adjust it. It’s not enough to know the on/off button.

There is more to a trainer than that. The vital treadmill features you have to know how to adjust include speed, incline, pulse monitor, apps, and preset programs. Knowing this is key to efficiently using a treadmill.

7. Speed

Many people get it wrong when it comes to speed. I’ve been there. Take it slow for a minute or two. Check your pulse as you make every stride. Set the right pace that will get your heart rate up and leave you sweating during your cardio training.

Keep on walking/running your way to a healthier bod!


1. Is incline on a treadmill a good workout?

The incline feature lets you get the best out of your running/walking workout by increasing the intensity of your exercises and pushing you to the next level. It helps you burn more calories.

2. Is walking on an incline good for weight loss?

Walking on uphill will only help you lose weight if you do it vigorously enough to raise your heart rate. It’s also important to add other strength training activities to help you lose fat rapidly.

3. How fast should you walk on a treadmill to lose weight?

Try to walk at a pace of 4 mph for about 30 minutes at least 4 or 5 times a week. This will help you lose weight and stay fit. Gradually increase your speed or workout duration to keep your body challenged. Using HIIT workouts on a treadmill with incline is best for preventing weight loss plateaus.