4 Incline Treadmills Workouts To Keep You Moving

May 1, 2024
  • Sydney Kaiser
    Product Reviewer, Content Writer, Certified Personal Trainer

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Inclining your treadmill’s deck is a simple, yet effective way to add more intensity to your treadmill workouts. Even just inclining the deck by a few degrees can help you burn more calories and work your posterior muscles (aka your backside) more effectively than keeping the treadmill flat.

So, how much should you incline your treadmill to see these benefits? I’ve put together my top 4 incline treadmill workouts to keep you moving. I’m a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor who has been using and testing treadmills for years. I know pretty much everything there is to know about treadmills, including which ones my team and I think are best for inclining.

Incline Treadmill Workouts

Note: Each of these workouts is customizable to you and your fitness level. I want you to go off your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) for each one. This is on a scale of 0-10, 0 meaning no effort and 10 is max effort – think laying in bed versus an all-out sprint. This way, you can make these workouts work for you while controlling your exerted effort. This also allows these workouts to work for your treadmill because not every treadmill inclines the same amount.

A warm-up and cool-down are programmed into each workout, although feel free to warm up and cool down on your own in addition to the ones in these workouts.

15-Minute Pyramid Incline Workout

This workout is as if you could draw a pyramid with your intensity. The most intense portion is when you reach the top of the pyramid. This workout can be done walking, running, or walking and running. It’s for all fitness levels.

Tip: Remember your speed and incline settings for each portion because you’ll do them in reverse on the backside of the pyramid.

  • Start at a flat 0% incline on your treadmill. RPE should be a 2-3. You’re here for 2 minutes.
  • Next, you’ll begin inclining the deck. For this section, you’ll pick an incline and speed that brings your RPE up to 4-5. You might just incline your treadmill and keep your speed the same as in the first section. You’re here for 2 minutes.
  • Incline your treadmill (and increase your speed if you want) to bring your RPE up to 6. You’re here for another 2 minutes.
  • Next, incline your treadmill (and speed if you have been so far) more. Your RPE should be at 7-8. You’re here for 1 minute 30 seconds. You’re almost at the peak of the pyramid!
  • Here is the peak. You raise the treadmill deck up higher (and speed if applicable). Your RPE should be at 9-10. You’re only here for 1 minute.
  • After the peak, you’ll lower your treadmill to where you had it before the peak. Your RPE is at 7-8. You’re here for 1 minute and 30 seconds again.
  • Next, lower your RPE back down to 6 by decreasing your incline (and speed). You’re here for 2 minutes.
  • Next, lower your treadmill to where you first added on the incline (and speed). RPE should be 4-5 for the next 2 minutes.
  • Finally, lower your incline completely to 0% and bring your speed down to where you started, if you increased it. Your RPE is back to 2-3 for the final 2 minutes of this workout.

LISS Incline Workout

This LISS (low-intensity steady-state cardio) workout is all about keeping you at a consistent incline, pace, and RPE level. This is my version of the popular 12-3-30 workout.

The goal is to keep your RPE at around 3-4. The pace and incline you pick should be levels you can maintain for at least 10 minutes. This workout can last anywhere from 10-30+ minutes, depending on how long you want to complete it.

You’ll begin by warming up on a flat 0% incline at a speed that keeps you at 2-3 RPE. You’re here for 2-3 minutes.

Once you’re ready, incline your treadmill and set your speed to bring your intensity to a 3-4 on the RPE scale. You should be able to talk during this workout. Keep your treadmill inclined and the speed set for as long as you want to do this workout.

When finished, lower your treadmill’s deck back to 0% and slow your pace, if you increased it. Lower your RPE to 2 and cool down for the next 2-3 minutes.

10-Minute Beginner Incline Workout

This 10-minute workout is designed for beginners, but intermediate and advanced fitness levels can adjust it to work for them, too.

  • Warm-up: Begin at a 2-3 RPE at a flat 0% incline. You should be able to hold a conversation. Beginners should be at a walking pace. You’re here for 3 minutes.
  • Once you’re warmed up, you’ll add some incline onto your treadmill. Your goal RPE is 4-6. This could mean that you adjust your treadmill to 0.5-1% or up to 5-10% or higher. You should still be able to talk, but your heart rate and breathing rate are increased from the warm-up. You’re here for 5 minutes (or longer if you want this to be a longer workout than 10 minutes).
  • Optional: After 3 minutes into this section, increase your incline and/or speed to bring you up to a 7-8 RPE. Stay here for the next 2 minutes.
  • Cool-Down: For the last 2 minutes of this workout lower the treadmill’s deck back to 0% and adjust your pace so you’re at a 2 RPE.

20-Minute HIIT Incline Workout

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is all about short bursts of high-intensity intervals followed by periods of low-intensity/rest intervals. During the high-intensity intervals, your RPE should be 8-10. If you’re calculating your heart rate, it should be 80-100% of your max heart rate.

  • Warm-up: For 2 minutes warm up at a RPE of 2-3. Your treadmill should be at a 0% incline.
  • Interval 1: This interval is a part of your warm-up. Increase your incline and pace so your RPE is 6-7. You’re here for 2 minutes.
  • Rest: Lower your treadmill’s incline and speed back to a 2-3 RPE for the next 30 seconds.
  • Interval 2: This is a high-intensity interval. Raise the incline of your treadmill (and speed if you want). Your RPE should be 8-10. You’re here for 30 seconds.
  • Rest: Lower your treadmill’s incline and speed so you’re at a 2-3 RPE for another 30 seconds.
  • Repeat interval 2 followed by the rest interval for 11 more rounds.
  • Cool down: After your 12th working interval, you’ll begin your cool-down. For the last 3 minutes, lower your treadmill’s speed and incline so you’re back to a 2-3 RPE.

How Much Do Treadmills Incline?

The incline level of a treadmill depends on the type, price, and brand. For home use, most treadmills (folding and non-folding) have a 12-15% incline. These are typically treadmills that cost over $1000.

Budget treadmills, usually priced around $1200 and less, have lower max inclines of 10%. Treadmills like the Horizon T101, which is well under $1000, has a 10% max incline.

Currently, the highest incline on a treadmill that we’ve seen/tested is 40%. The NordicTrack X32i and X22i Incline Treadmills adjust up to this for an intense incline level that’s incredibly challenging. These treadmills are over $2000.

Note: Under-desk treadmills and WalkingPad treadmills do not incline.

Buying An Incline Treadmill

Inclining your treadmill has a lot of benefits like increasing your cardio fitness and muscular strength. Even just inclining your treadmill slightly can make your treadmill workouts more challenging.

If you’re in the market for an incline treadmill. I recommend considering the following.

Your Goals

If you’re looking to add incline training to your treadmill workouts, then you’ll need to get a treadmill with an incline range. First, you’ll need to determine how much of an incline you want. The average 12-15% incline max on most treadmills might not seem very high, but this is a good range to add intensity to your workouts and strengthen your posterior chain.
Bowflex Treadmill 22 Walking Inclined

Your Home

Something you’ll need to consider is if your home will fit the treadmill. High-inclining treadmills tend to be large and require a significant amount of space. If the treadmill doesn’t fold, it is most likely hard to move and not ideal for upper-level floors.

Along with floor space, ceiling height is important to consider. Whenever we review a treadmill we like to measure the step-up height of the deck. This is measured at a 0% grade from the floor up to the top of the side rail. Most treadmills are appropriate for 8.5-foot tall ceilings, but some, like the NordicTrack Incline Trainers, require a taller ceiling.

Your Budget

Incline treadmills come in a variety of budgets. Lower-inclining treadmills tend to be lower in price, while high-inclining treadmills are more expensive.

Horizon T101 Treadmill Running

So, which incline treadmill should you buy? We have our top incline treadmill recommendations here and the top treadmills that we recommend for home use, here.

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