Increase the incline on your treadmill to increase toning.

Does Incline in the Treadmill Tone Your Body?

by Suzy Kerr

Treadmillls offer an effective way for you to squeeze in some cardio exercise, but did you know that you can also use them to tone up? By increasing the incline on your treadmill, you can work your muscles even harder, resulting in a stronger, better defined core and lower half. For new moms trying to lose the baby weight or busy parents with not much extra time, this added intensity will maximize your treadmill time to give you faster results and the fit, toned look you want.

Incline Basics

All treadmills are equipped with an incline feature, which you can adjust to your own preferences. Most treadmill inclines range from 0.5 to 12 percent, with the higher percentages representing steeper inclines. The incline feature can be used to vary the intensity of your workout and simulate hill runs with the push of a button. Some treadmills can even be preprogrammed, automatically raising and lowering the incline as you walk or run.

Incline Benefits

Adding incline to your treadmill workout intensifies the resistance, forcing your muscles to work harder to compensate for the added difficulty. Running or walking uphill activates more muscle fibers, and there’s a shorter distance between the ground and your foot when you run on an incline, which means there’s less of an energy boost for your tendons. All of this makes your workout just a little bit harder, but your results are a little bit sweeter. You’ll burn more calories -- about 100 more in a half hour with just a 5 percent incline -- which will contribute to weight loss and overall toning, and you’ll also enhance your performance by increasing your speed and endurance.

Sample Treadmill Incline Workout

It’s easy to add incline to your treadmill routine, and there are a couple different workouts you can try. You can do a basic ladder pattern, starting at the lowest incline and gradually working your way up by increasing it by two levels every two minutes until you reach your max. Work your way back down in the same manner, reducing two levels every two minutes. Another walking workout that specifically targets your glutes for toning uses random incline intervals. Set your treadmill to 4 mph and walk at a level three incline for five minutes, then bump it up to level eight for two minutes. Decrease to level four for one minute, then back up to 10 for two minutes, then reduce to level five for one minute. Spend the next two minutes at level 12, then a minute at 10, back up to 12 for one minute, and then cool down for five minutes at a level two. The whole routine takes 20 minutes, but the mixed incline levels will blast through 150 calories even though you maintain the same speed from start to finish.

Other Treadmill Toning Options

Toning up on your treadmill isn’t limited to just incline work. You can also work your upper body by adding dumbbells and doing biceps curls or triceps extensions while you walk, or hop off the machine and use weights for lunges, squats and other sculpting moves. Adjust your speed on the treadmill in conjunction with the incline for a seriously intense workout, or try variations like walking backward or side shuffling.

About the Author

Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.

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