Speed vs. Incline: A Guide to Treadmill Exercises

Treadmills offer a versatile platform for cardiovascular workouts, allowing you to adjust speed, incline, and other variables to tailor your exercise regimen to your specific fitness goals.


Two common adjustments that can significantly impact treadmill workouts are increasing speed and adjusting incline. While both modifications enhance the intensity of your workout, they do so in distinct ways, targeting different aspects of fitness. In this guide, we'll explore the differences between speed and incline on a treadmill and how each can be utilised to achieve various fitness objectives.

The Benefits of Increasing Speed on a Treadmill

A man adjusting the speed of a treadmill.

Boosting the speed on any type of treadmill is similar to picking up the pace on a running track. As you increase the velocity of your stride, your cardiovascular system kicks into high gear, demanding more oxygen and fuel to sustain the heightened activity level. The heart pumps blood at a faster rate, improving its efficiency and endurance over time. 

So, higher speeds lead to better cardio workouts. Additionally, higher speed doesn’t only improve your cardiovascular fitness, but it also challenges your muscular endurance. Imagine sprinting on a treadmill at 20 kilometres per hour compared to jogging at 10 kilometres per hour. The former requires rapid muscle contractions and engages fast-twitch muscle fibres, which are responsible for explosive movements and quick bursts of energy

This type of training can translate to improved running economy, agility, and overall speed. Plus, as you likely expected, higher speeds on the treadmill elevate calorie expenditure, making it an effective tool for weight management and calorie burning.

The Benefits of Increasing Incline on a Treadmill

In contrast to speed adjustments, increasing the incline on a treadmill alters the terrain, mimicking the experience of running or walking uphill. This modification primarily targets different muscle groups, particularly the lower body. As you navigate an inclined surface, your glutes, hamstrings, and calves engage to a greater extent, working against gravity to propel you forward.

Simply think about what you feel when hiking up a steep hill compared to strolling on flat ground. The former scenario demands more effort from your leg muscles, leading to greater strength and endurance gains over time. Additionally, one of the biggest benefits of incline training is that you can do relatively intense workouts that are low-impact on your joints, namely, walking on steep inclines.

Different types of treadmills have different maximum inclines, but walking for about 20 minutes on a 30 or 40 degree incline is an excellent exercise and the risk of injury is much lower when compared to running (be it on a flat surface or on an incline). Thus, incline training is a good option for anyone easing into fitness post-injury or for someone who has joint issues and wishes to reduce the impact.

Now, these are the general characteristics of speed and incline training on a treadmill, but let’s also discuss workouts with specific focuses. 

Speed or Incline for Weight Loss?

When it comes to shedding weight and burning excess calories, both speed and incline modifications on the treadmill can contribute to weight loss efforts. However, the most effective approach typically depends on individual preferences, fitness levels, and existing health conditions.

For individuals who enjoy the exhilaration of running at higher speeds, incorporating HIIT training into their treadmill workouts can be a potent strategy for weight loss. Alternating between periods of high-intensity sprinting and active recovery can elevate the heart rate, maximise calorie burn, and boost metabolism both during and after the workout.

Conversely, those who prefer a lower-impact workout or are dealing with joint issues may find that increasing the incline on the treadmill offers a challenging yet gentler alternative. Walking or jogging at a moderate pace on an inclined surface can still provide a substantial calorie burn while placing less stress on the joints.

Ultimately, the key to effective weight loss lies in training consistency and finding a treadmill workout routine that aligns with your preferences and goals (and adherence to a balanced diet definitely doesn’t hurt).

Incline for Toning Muscles

In addition to its benefits for cardiovascular health and weight loss, incline training on any type of treadmill is an excellent way to tone and strengthen specific muscle groups, particularly those in the lower body. By incorporating incline intervals into your workout routine, you can effectively target muscles such as the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, sculpting a leaner and more defined physique over time.

Adding uphill walking or running intervals into your treadmill workout will activate the glutes to a greater extent than flat-surface activities, leading to enhanced muscle development and toning in this area. Similarly, navigating steep inclines engages the hamstrings and calves, promoting strength and definition in these muscle groups.

To maximise the toning benefits of incline training, vary the degree of incline and duration of intervals in your treadmill workouts. Gradually increasing the incline over time challenges your muscles to adapt and grow stronger, while incorporating intervals of varying intensity keeps your workouts engaging and effective.

Speed if You Are Preparing for a Race

If we are talking about sports-specific training and runners preparing for a race or seeking to improve their performance, speed training on the treadmill can be a valuable component of the training regimen. By incorporating high-intensity speed intervals into their workouts, runners can enhance their speed, endurance, and race-day performance.

For example, a runner training for a 5K race may incorporate interval workouts on the treadmill, alternating between periods of fast-paced running and recovery periods of slower jogging or walking. Besides improving cardiovascular fitness, this type of training also helps runners acclimate to running at faster speeds, ultimately translating to better race times.

Incorporating speed workouts on the treadmill also provides a controlled environment where runners can precisely monitor their pace, distance, and progress over time. This allows for targeted training adjustments and ensures that runners are adequately preparing for the demands of their upcoming race. Naturally, the benefits of speed training on a treadmill also translate to any sport where sprinting is essential.

A Few Basic Tips for Avoiding Injuries

A man in a gym standing next to different types of treadmills.

While training on a treadmill has many benefits, it does put pressure on the joints and can lead to injuries. Thus, warming up before any exercise is crucial for priming the body and reducing the risk of injury. It gradually increases heart rate, circulation, and body temperature, preparing muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the upcoming activity. 

A proper warm-up that includes stretching exercises also enhances joint flexibility and range of motion, improving overall performance and effectiveness during the workout. Plus, it can mentally prepare you for the physical exertion ahead, increasing focus and concentration. Spending just 5-10 minutes on dynamic movements such as jogging, jumping jacks, or arm circles can make a significant difference in the safety and efficacy of your exercise routine. 

It’s difficult to overstate how important it is to always prioritise a thorough warm-up

Finding a Treadmill for Various Workouts

Both increased speed and incline adjustments on the treadmill offer unique benefits for enhancing cardiovascular fitness, toning muscles, and improving overall performance. Strategically incorporating these two modifications into your workout routine can help you achieve your fitness goals more effectively.

Another factor that can help the efficiency of your workouts is the type of treadmill you use. While all function according to the same principle - enabling you to do running or walking exercises at home - some may be more or less suited to your style. So check out the range of treadmills at Flex Equipment and choose the one that is best for you.

After you have made your choice, simply place your order online, select one of the multiple payment methods, and we will deliver it right to your address. On the other hand, you can find a store near you and make your purchase in person. In any case, feel free to contact us and we will gladly help you in any way we can.