Getting creative with your home gym equipment can diversify your workouts – whether you want to build total body strength, sculpt muscle, or burn calories. Here are seven things you didn’t know you could do with your treadmill.
Whether you’re heading to the gym or working out at home on one of the best treadmills, your treadmill isn’t just for running. Many treadmills now have options to switch between modes like a parachute or sled, but if you’re looking at the standard treadmill at your local gym without the high-tech features to play with, there are other ways to activate muscle groups everywhere — and not just Your legs.
Below we cover seven total-body strengthening exercises you can do with your treadmill, how to do them and why you should do them.
7 strength exercises you can do on the treadmill without running
If you’re short on weights at home or in line at the gym, wondering why you bothered in the first place, stop for a moment. Your treadmill isn’t just for logging kilometers. Here are seven strength exercises you can do as part of a standalone strength program or mixed with cardio and running to channel your inner Barry’s Bootcamp.
1. Mountain climbers on the treadmill
If your tread belt does not move while the machine is off, reduce the speed to a number you can safely work with. You can also increase the speed, pressing 0 on your treadmill, then jump down into the mountain climbers while the belt slows down.
Place your hands on either side of the belt, holding the sides of the treadmill. Tighten your core muscles and place both feet on the band in a plank position. Place the ball of your left foot directly behind your left hand and push the band back. Repeat the same with your right foot, moving quickly to maintain movement through the band.
Here’s how to do mountaineering in more detail if you want to hone your technique first. You can also add an extra challenge to your muscles by placing your treadmill on an incline if the option is available.
2. Push the mill sleds
High-tech treadmills like the Technogym have parachute and sled modes built into the machine, but if you’re working with a more basic model, there’s another way to use the sled mode. This exercise works best with a walking belt that manually moves when turned off.
Turn off the machine first, then hold the handles of the treadmill in front of you. Move your torso and lean forward on the treadmill slightly, then start pushing the belt with your legs. Pushing a sled burns your legs and front muscles – chest, shoulders, arms, trunk and hip flexors, as well as your glutes and calves. You can bend or straighten your arms, so we recommend trying both.
Here’s how to do a proper sled push and try a sled push exercise program.
3. Walking lunges on a treadmill
Choose a challenging but manageable speed, then stand on your treadmill. For an extra challenge, multiply the slope and increase the percentages. Hill training is a great way to increase intensity and activate muscle groups more. Inclines engage the posterior chain muscles like your glutes and hamstrings while walking or running on inclines and target the quads more.
Start by pushing your right foot forward, then lower into a lunge position, then gently press your left knee into the band. Drive through your right heel to stand and then immediately step forward with your left foot, observing the movement of the belt. Lean forward slightly with a neutral spine to hit your glutes more forcefully, and lift weights if you feel comfortable during the exercise.
Here’s how to do lunges properly.
4. The bear crawled on the treadmill
The bear crawl targets every major muscle group and requires a lot of hard work from your core muscles.
Start on all fours on your treadmill, using a speed you can keep up while crawling. Lift your knees one inch from the belt and squeeze your abdominal muscles, then move your right hand and left foot forward at the same time. Do the same with your left hand and right foot, continuing to crawl along the belt. You can increase the speed or add incline to make the movement more difficult, and a weight vest can increase the intensity. You can also reverse the bear crawl and place your hands on the floor behind the treadmill and rest your feet on the belt (see above).
Here’s how I tolerated crawling and what happened when I did the crawl exercise for 7 minutes every day for a week.
5. Walking board on a treadmill
There are two ways to approach the treadmill plank exercise. The first option only uses the treadmill partially and can be used if you do not feel comfortable placing your hands and feet on the belt.
Set a manageable speed first (about 1-2 km/h), then start in a plank position with your hands on either side of the treadmill. Squeeze your stomach, buttocks, and shoulders to prepare. Step with your right hand, then your left, on the treadmill and walk one hand at a time slightly forward to maintain the plank position as the belt moves. Avoid dropping your hips or lifting your butt high in the air while walking with your hands.
You can also turn off the treadmill and operate the belt yourself by pulling with your hands while pulling the belt toward you.
The second option can be done by assuming the plank position with the hands and feet fixed on the belt. As your belt moves, move your left hand and left foot forward slightly, followed by your right hand and right foot. Add speed or incline to increase the intensity of the basic exercise.
6. Farmer’s walk
The farmer’s treadmill walk requires walking on a treadmill while holding one or two weights in your hands. We recommend placing them on either side of the moving belt so you can safely pick them up and put them down freeing up your hands if you want.
Choose a challenging but manageable pace, then begin walking while holding one or two weights. Add incline and dip options if you prefer, and scale your speed accordingly. Keeping your spine long without bending or sagging, pull your shoulder blades together to open your chest.
Here’s how to do a farmer’s walk on a treadmill and why we love it.
7. Refuse push-ups on the treadmill
We recommend alternating upper body strength exercises with sprint intervals to alternate between cardio and upper and lower body strength exercises. The combo will ignite your entire body.
Press 0 on the speed settings, then move into push-up position with your feet supported on the end of the band. As your feet are raised above your upper body, push-ups become more difficult. Perform a set of push-ups, lowering your chest to the floor, then fully extending your elbows while pushing away from the floor. For a more challenging variation, place both hands on either side of the treadmill (as shown above) and lift both feet on the treadmill behind you.
Strength exercises on the treadmill can challenge your large, strong muscle groups as well as your smaller, stabilizer muscles responsible for support, balance, coordination and stability. We prefer to work with the treadmill turned off, which forces your muscles to eventually turn on the movement – which is called treadmill training. If you don’t have this option, use the pace settings to find a challenging pace.
Deadmills strengthen muscles and require more energy as you move weight using your body alone. This exercise style can burn more calories, increase your heart rate, and benefit from altered running mechanics.
Some research shows that sled training can improve sprint power and forms a lot of sprint training programs. So, even if you’re an avid runner and prefer to do it on your treadmill, there’s a benefit to building strength, power and endurance in your legs. Furthermore, each of the above strength exercises also requires core strength groups, which are muscles necessary to support the torso when running.