If you were asked to name the most boring piece of equipment in the gym, you’d probably say the treadmill. Its reputation is for monotonous, never-ending cardio exercise; a walk, jog or run that gets you nowhere and has no end point.
But in reality, the treadmill is so much more than this.
In terms of just walking or running, you don’t just need to get on and hit the quick start button. So many people get on without a clue of what they’re going to do. But if you plan a routine before you start, you can use the treadmill effectively for a wide variety of interval exercises, challenging your heart, burning fat and building muscle.
You can use it for a HIIT workout, sprinting and walking at intervals; you could challenge yourself with a selection of hill climbs; you could even push yourself to the max with big incline intervals.
And remember, there’s no cheating with a treadmill. It holds you to account, you have to keep going and push to your limits, or face falling flat on your front!
Beyond basic running
Besides the typical forward motion on the treadmill, there are also a number of ways you can use this versatile machine to vary your workout. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started:
Beginning with the easiest first, set the treadmill at a slow pace, turnaround and walk backwards. It’s harder than you might think, so be sure to hold on to the rails initially. You’ll be working the anterior muscles you normally use to run, targeting your legs in a different motion than the one you’re used to.
As with backwards walking, this is a good place to start for something different. Turn sideways, and perform a shuttle, moving your feet from side to side in pace with the belt. Again, go easy at first, but when you’re confident, be sure to lift those hands off the rail and keep your chest up, to get into the most effective position. Don’t forget to switch and work both sides equally, so each push off leg puts in the same amount of effort.
With the treadmill off or set in dynamic mode, you’ll be using your own force to move the belt here. Set the machine at an incline; hold on to the front or sidebars, and start pushing your legs forward, one after the other. You’ll begin to move the belt, and can then build up this momentum until you’re at a running pace, but pushing hard to strengthen your muscles.
It’s like pushing a sled in front of you. Try and stay close to the front of the treadmill to keep your back in a strong position. Remember that a higher incline on this exercise makes things easier, as gravity will help.
Bear crawl plank
A more advanced exercise is to get into a raised plank position, feet on the floor and hands on the treadmill belt. Begin by pulling your hands backwards one by one, pulling the belt towards you as if you were performing a bear crawl across the floor. All the effort will be on your arms here, toning your upper body. You can also reverse this motion, and push your hands away from you.
From the plank position, flip around into a crab position, as if you were about to perform a tricep press or leg raise. With your hands behind your back on the treadmill, push the belt (and your hands) towards your bum, as if you were about to crab walk backwards. This is a tough exercise on your hands, and you’ll need to be careful not to slip.
Reverse the plank position, so your hands are on the floor and your feet are on the treadmill belt, facing away from the machine. Now, you’re just going to perform the mountain climb movement, but instead of lifting your legs up to your chest as you run, you’re just pushing the treadmill belt away from your body.
In the same position as a mountain climber, for this exercise you’ll be pulling your legs towards your chest, moving the belt underneath your body. On the tips of your toes, you’ll pull both legs simultaneously to your body, raising your hips and sticking your bum up into the air into the pike position. Hold for a few seconds, lower back down, and repeat. If you’re feeling confident, you can even add a pike press-up to work the arms and shoulders too!
Need more advice on using the treadmill effectively? Please feel free to speak to any of our trainers in the gym, as they’ll be more than happy to help!