5 HIIT Treadmill Workouts to Get Your Heart Pumping

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I’ve reviewed dozens of treadmills, so I know a thing or two about how they work. Treadmills have been an important part of my training for over a decade, but HIIT workouts always intimidate me when I’m using a treadmill. You don’t quite have the freedom to speed up or slow down as fast as you might like. The size of the running area or the treadmill’s maximum speed may limit how fast you can run.

HIIT Workouts Horizon 7.8 AT Treadmill Review

The Horizon 7.8 AT Treadmill adjusts the speed and incline quickly so you always stay on pace.

As a treadmill expert, it was important to me to make sure these workouts were safe and practical for the treadmill. So, I did my best to factor in the time your treadmill takes to adjust speed and incline. The intervals in these workouts are a bit longer to give you plenty of time to get up to speed and slow back down.

Notes for Before You Start Your Workout

  • The workout times include a warm-up and cool-down segment. Add additional time if necessary or desired.
  • Press the speed and incline buttons at the start of the interval time. At the end of the “hard” or high-intensity segments, decrease the speed or incline with 5 seconds remaining in the interval.
  • Intensities are given using the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale of 0 to 10. 10 is the hardest effort you can give. 0 is no effort at all. If you aren’t sure where to start, runners could treat each level as miles per hour. For example, 3 would be 3 miles per hour (20 minutes per mile pace) and 10 would be 10 miles per hour (6 minutes per mile pace).
HIIT Workouts NordicTrack Commercial x22i

The NordicTrack X22i’s 40% incline is more than enough to get your heart rate to 85% to 90% of your maximum.

HIIT Treadmill Workouts By Time

1. 15 Minutes HIIT Treadmill Workout

This workout is inspired by my recent enjoyment of the CAROL bike, an AI-powered bike with smart resistance adjustments. For this workout, I adapted the CAROL bike’s intense workout to the treadmill and made it safer for running.

  • 5-minute Warm-up (1 to 3/10 RPE): Start at a very light effort. Most users should start at a walk. If you are scaling this workout up for a more advanced run, start in a jog or light run. 2 minutes into the warm-up, pick up the pace. Progress to a fast run or walk, leaving some time to slow back down to an easy walk if desired.
  • 30 seconds Hard (8 to 10/10): Use speed, incline, or a combination of both to reach an intensity of 8/10 RPE. Experienced athletes can push for a 9 or 10 RPE.
  • 4-minute Recovery (1 to 3/10): If you stop your treadmill completely, that’s okay. Include the time to restart the treadmill in your recovery time. You should completely recover during this interval. Walk as slowly as you would like. If you are going for speed and not incline, accelerate to a 2 or 3 out of 10 jogging pace in the last 30 seconds of your recovery.
  • 30 seconds Hard (8 to 10/10): If the previous interval was challenging enough, repeat it. If it was too easy, consider adding more speed or increasing the incline. If you are getting close to the treadmill’s maximum speed or running out of space on the treadmill deck, add incline instead of speed.
  • 5-minute Cool-down (1 to 3/10): Go as slow as you would like. Runners may want to jog lightly for a portion of the cool-down. Just keep moving, even if it is a very light walk.

2. 20 to 25 Minutes HIIT Treadmill Workout

This workout is inspired by a classic track workout: 200 meters hard, 200 meters easy. I’ve made a few adjustments to make it more treadmill friendly.

  • 5-minute Warm-up: Get those legs moving, progressing in speed to prepare your legs for sprinting. Reserve the last minute, slowing down to recover before starting the hard segment. Your legs should feel loose and limber by the end of this warm-up.
  • 0.1 miles or 200 meters Hard (8 to 9/10): If your treadmill tracks miles, your hard interval is 0.1 miles. If it tracks kilometers or meters, your hard interval is .2 km or 200m. Don’t worry about the 30-meter difference between these distances. This workout is about ratios, so it will all work out. Set your incline to 4%. Adjust your speed to reach an RPE of 8 initially, factoring in the incline. If you get too close to your treadmill’s maximum speed, increase the incline rather than the speed. For an extra challenge, progress to a 9 by your last interval.
  • 0.2 or 400 meters Recovery (1 to 2/10): Go as slow as you would like. Your recovery is twice the distance of your hard segment. If you are more advanced, you can jog or run your recovery segment. If you are struggling, 3 minutes standing rest on the foot rails of the treadmill is acceptable.
  • Repeat for 15 minutes: Once your treadmill reaches 20 minutes total, your workout is over. Finish your last hard interval and complete your last recovery segment as your cool down.
  • Progress: Try to complete more repeats when repeating this workout. If you got 3 the first time, see if you can get to 4 the second time. If you maximize the speed or incline you can handle during your hard interval, increase your pace during your recovery interval instead.

3. 30 Minute HIIT Treadmill Workout

This run is a “fartlek,” which means “speedplay” in Swedish. Get ready to press all of the buttons on your treadmill. Make sure that your safety key is clipped on.

  • 5-minute Warm-up: Start slow and progress to a harder pace to prepare your legs for sprints and climbs.
  • 20-minute Fartlek: Run steep hills and sprint along flat stretches without considering the clock. If you are listening to music, try running as long as the chorus lasts or a powerful verse. Drop your pace and see how steep of an incline you can handle. If you start to settle into a moderate pace for multiple minutes, slow down to recover or increase your speed or incline.
  • 5-minute Cool-down: End on a high note with a challenging pace or incline you just discovered you can tackle. Then, cool down for 5 minutes. Walk or jog as slow as you want, but keep moving.

4. 45 Minute HIIT Treadmill Workout

This one is a long-time favorite of mine. It is also very challenging. It’s a great way to build upon the second workout on this list.

  • 5 to 10-minute Warm-up: Start at an easy pace of 1 to 2 and progress to a 3 to 4 on the RPE scale.
  • 400-m repeats: We are finally going to put that oval track that so many treadmills show on the screen to good use. If your treadmill doesn’t have one of those displays, your hard interval should be .25 miles or .4 km. Run at about a 7 on the RPE scale for these repeats. Increase speed or incline to reach this difficulty level. Consider running with your treadmill flat for this workout and cranking up the speed. Walkers can continue to use the incline to increase their intensity.
  • 1 to 2-minute Recovery: Advanced runners should minimize recovery time to 1 minute if possible. Beginners should attempt a 2-minute recovery period. Slow down your treadmill and walk easily or take a standing rest on the footrails. I suggest a standing rest over a walking rest.
  • Jog 400 meters every 4 Hard Repeats: Walk or Jog for 400m after every fourth hard interval. Your pace should be no greater than a 4 on the RPE scale. Try to complete 4, 8, 12, or 16 hard repeats to end on a complete set.
  • 5-minute Cool-down: You’ve earned your rest. Add 5 minutes to your last 400-meter jog.
  • Progress: Try to run another set or half of a set of 400s within the 30 to 35-minute time frame. Advanced walkers and runners are welcome to increase the total time of the workout to accommodate another set.

5. 60 Minute Treadmill HIIT Workout

This spicy workout is designed to get your legs used to running fast for a long period of time. This workout is intended for walkers and runners who are more advanced and not pressed for time. It has a long warm-up and cool-down sandwiching 20 minutes of intense work.

  • 20-minute Warm-up: For this workout, start by walking or running at a 1 to 2 for 10 minutes. For the second 10 minutes, increase your speed or incline to reach a 3 and progress to a level 6 for the last minute of the warm-up. If you want to get some water, stretch, or perform dynamic drills, shorten the warm-up and complete those now.
  • 20 x 30 seconds (7 or 8/10) with 30 seconds (1 to 3) recovery: Start with 30 seconds at your recovery pace to transition more smoothly into your hard interval. Then, you can end on a hard interval and go straight into your cool-down. If this is your first time doing a workout like this, back off your intensity to a 6 or 7 for the first half of the intervals before picking up the pace or increasing the incline. If you are walking, try inclining the treadmill all of the way up during your work interval.
  • 20-minute Cool-down: Take your time. Bring your pace back up a little for 5 minutes and then slowly decrease to an easy walk by the end of the cool-down. This extended cool-down will help you recover from a difficult session. If you want to hop off the treadmill sooner, consider a stretching or foam rolling session afterward.
HIIT Workouts Sole ST90 matt sled

The Sole ST90 is a motorized treadmill with a ‘free mode’ that lets you manually power the belt.

What Are HIIT Treadmill Workouts

First, let me describe what a HIIT workout is. These are interval workouts with really short and fast intervals. There is some disagreement over the exact length of a HIIT interval, but I prefer to describe it by maximum heart rate. Typically 85% or higher of your maximum heart rate is the intensity you want to achieve during these intervals. 10 seconds is a great option for users who want a really fast and intense effort. This length of interval impacts your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. More advanced users can sustain a higher heart rate for longer, so HIIT intervals could be as long as 5 minutes for trained athletes. The longer the interval the more aerobic it becomes with less and less anaerobic impact. Most HIIT intervals are between 10 seconds and 60 seconds.

For a treadmill, I like to make a few adaptations. Treadmills take longer to get up to speed and back down, so I like longer intervals that factor in this adjustment period. I recommend 20-second long HIIT intervals that include your treadmill’s ramp-up and down periods. This keeps you from worrying about how much time you are really spending at the top speed and keeps you on the right time marker.

Next, I like to incorporate incline into HIIT workouts. You can’t control the grade of an outdoor workout as easily unless you are doing hill repeats. On a treadmill, you can use the incline to make a HIIT interval more challenging without speeding up. Adding an incline can make HIIT on a treadmill feel safer. If your sprint speed is faster than the treadmill’s maximum speed, adding an incline helps you to achieve the right training stimulus.

Benefits of Doing HIIT on a Treadmill

  • You can store all of your belongings on the console. When I’m running fast outdoors, I hate how the weight of my phone or water bottle slows me down. A treadmill lets me keep all of my belongings accessible without carrying them. It’s easier to stay hydrated and listen to music.
  • Precise speed and incline control. You have very little control over the incline outdoors unless you carefully plan your route. A treadmill also keeps your speed more consistent.
  • Tackle faster paces. Treadmills cut out wind resistance and provide more cushioning. This makes it easier to run on a treadmill than to run outside. By tackling faster paces indoors than you can handle outdoors, you get your legs used to a faster pace. This can help you build strength to eventually tackle the same pace outside.
  • It could be safer. Running inside on a treadmill can be safer because it protects you from weather and dangerous running routes. When you are running fast on the treadmill, you don’t have to worry about obstacles like dogs, children, or broken sidewalks. You also don’t have to worry about getting kicked off your local running track when the school’s practice starts.

Best Treadmills for HIIT Workouts

If you are looking for a good treadmill to perform HIIT workouts, we have a few recommendations for you. The Horizon 7.8 AT Treadmill is our top pick. It has one of the fastest incline and speed adjustments we have seen. The QuickDial controls are easy to reach and spin while you are running or walking. There are also easily programmable interval keys to make adjusting your pace and incline even easier. The Horizon 7.0 AT Treadmill is a more affordable option, and it’s the treadmill I used to test out some of these workouts.

The NordicTrack X22i Treadmill is a great option for a walker who needs an incline to get their heart rate in the right zone. With an incline range of -6% to 40%, you don’t have to move quickly to work hard.

For a motorized slat belt, try the Sole ST90 Treadmill. You can also put the treadmill in free mode to move the belt manually with an incline of up to 8%. The ST90 gives you a lot of options for increasing the intensity of your workout.

The AssaultRunner Pro and Bells of Steel Blitz are both great manual treadmill options. They have no speed limit, so you can run as fast as you can. They have steep curved belts which helps you build speed faster. The Blitz treadmill also has 6 resistance levels, so you don’t have to go faster to work harder. The resistance lever doubles as a brake should you need to slow down the belt quicker.

Regardless of which treadmill you are doing your HIIT workout on, good luck! Let’s Go!