The Simple Treadmill Hack That Can Give Your Booty a Serious Boost

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There are plenty of ways to make your treadmill workouts more effective, whether that’s doing a dynamic warmup before you start running or firing up your heart rate with some intervals instead of keeping the same pace throughout your entire sweat sesh. But one of the best hacks doesn't actually involve running at all. Enter: incline treadmill walking.

From the Silly Little Walk trend to Hot Girl Walks, walking is finally getting the attention it deserves for bettering our cardiovascular health, mental health, and beyond. Incline treadmill walking is no exception. “This is the best possible form of cardio outside of running, as you're using your entire body,” Holly Roser, a personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness, previously told Well+Good. Aside from these other pros, it’s also a sneaky way to give your booty a boost.

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If you're looking for a less boring workout that packs some serious bang for your buck, keep reading. Incline treadmill walking could quickly become your new favorite way to sweat.

Incline treadmill walking benefits

While walking is great for your health as-is, adding the incline ups the ante. Before you hop on the treadmill (if you’re looking to purchase one, check out the best small space treadmills!), these are the incline treadmill walking benefits to look forward to.

1. It works your entire body

Not only is it more challenging, but there are also more muscles used when walking on an incline, putting your entire body to work. “When you engage in incline treadmill walking, you work multiple muscle groups, including your abs, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings,” says Sarah Brooks, certified trainer and founder of Brooks Pilates. “This engagement of the backside of your body differs from our daily activities, which predominantly focus on the front.”

2. It’s great for heart health

According to Brooks, having more muscles used when incline walking on the treadmill makes it a better choice for a full-body workout compared to flat-ground walking. As you're walking uphill, you're working against gravity, increasing the intensity of your workout. “This significantly raises your heart rate, making it an excellent choice for cardiovascular exercise,” Brooks says. In a small 2013 study that looked at how incline running affected 18 competitive male runners, researchers found that, compared to running on a flat surface, running at an incline increased heart rate by 10 percent.

3. It boosts your booty sans squats

Sure, when comparing squats vs incline walking, squats may come out on top. But not everyone loves squats, and a prime incline treadmill walking benefit is being able to strengthen your backside with every step you take. “The incline targets the muscles at the back of your legs, effectively lifting and toning your glutes,” Brooks says.

4. It’s easy on your joints

When comparing incline walking vs running, Brooks says an incline treadmill workout still gives you the same cardiovascular benefits... all with reduced joint impact. In a small 2014 study published in the journal Gait & Posture, researchers found walking at an incline on the treadmill is a better option for the knees in particular, especially for those with knee osteoarthritis or knee replacements.

Proper form during your incline treadmill workout

In order to get the most out of your high incline treadmill workout—or any treadmill exercise, for that matter—you need to ensure you're prioritizing proper form. “Proper form during incline treadmill walking is crucial for both results and safety,” Brooks says. Here are some incline walking tips she says to keep in mind.

1. Choose the right incline and speed

If your incline is too high, maintaining proper form is going to be impossible. "Many people, especially beginners, cannot tolerate such a steep incline for such a long period of time," Roser says. "Doing so can increase knee pain, calf tightness, flare up any old injuries, and if you're not wearing correct shoes for your feet, increase plantar fasciitis pain."

While Brooks says many people find that walking at a 12 percent incline is a great goal to work your way up to, always start lower until you build up your strength. The same goes for speed. When you’re walking at an incline, stick to three miles per hour (or less) for a safe and challenging pace.

2. Maintain an upright position

When you’re walking at an incline, your body is going to want to hunch over or lean back. “To get the best results and minimize the risk of strain, maintain an upright posture with your chest lifted,” Brooks says. When you don’t stay upright, you’re increasing your risk for pain or injuries.

3. Engage your core

Aside from maintaining an upright position, Brooks says it’s also key to keep your core engaged during any high incline treadmill workout in order to prevent discomfort in your lower back. It might take practice, but you’ll notice a difference once you make this treadmill exercise a core workout, too.

4. Use your arms

While you may not be walking up an actual hill, one incline walking tip to keep in mind is that you should still be acting like it. For the most effective—and most challenging—workout, keep pumping your arms and only use the treadmill handles when you want to take a break (or if you have a balance issue).

5. Avoid looking down

While it’s tempting to look down at your feet as you're walking on the treadmill, keep your head up, eyes forward, and shoulders back. By doing so, you'll keep proper walking posture, prevent injuries, and get the most out of your workout. (Pro tip: If you want to watch something on your phone as you go about the treadmill exercise, ensure it's positioned straight ahead of you so you're keeping your gaze forward.)

Treadmill workout tips for maximizing your sweat session

Now that you've mastered how to keep proper form during a high incline treadmill workout (you're officially a pro!), you might be curious about other ways to maximize your time walking on the treadmill. These incline walking tips will help you amp up your sweat session.

1. Add incline push-ups

If you need a breather while you’re incline treadmill walking, pause the machine and do some incline push-ups. Astrid Swan, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer, previously told Well+Good that it’s a great opportunity to work your chest and core. “Place your hands on the top rails of the treadmill and your feet on the side panels,” she says. “Bend your elbows to lower down so that your chest is parallel to the bars, the way you would in your usual push-up, then extend your arms to push back up to start.”

2. Do some intervals

If you don’t want to stick to one set incline during your entire workout, spice things up with intervals. Start with a low incline for a few minutes as a warmup, then increase your incline for the next three minutes. Alternate between challenging, higher inclines and easier, lower inclines throughout your workout, pretending like you’re walking through a hilly neighborhood.

3. Keep the motivation

Even with inclines adding a little excitement to a traditional workout, let’s be real—walking in place can still get boring. To help you stay motivated for your entire workout, choose a 30-minute show you enjoy and reserve it exclusively for your exercise sessions. Who knows—you might actually look forward to your next workout just to see what happens next episode.

Frequently asked questions about incline treadmill walking

What is the best incline setting for walking?

The most effective choice for incline walking is the 12-3-30 workout, which continues to dominate everyone’s social feeds. “Many people find that setting the treadmill to a 12 percent incline and a speed of three for a 30-minute session is an effective choice,” Brooks says. “This combination challenges your muscles and cardiovascular system, resulting in a workout that induces a healthy sweat and promotes calorie burning.”

Should you lean forward when walking on an incline?

Always avoid leaning forward when walking on an incline. “The ideal form involves walking upright, even though it may be more challenging,” Brooks says. “This upright position ensures better form and engages your muscles effectively.” Proper posture also helps prevent pain and injuries, keeping your body in tip-top shape.

How long should I walk on an incline treadmill?

If you’re looking for a challenging workout, Brooks recommends walking on an incline on the treadmill for 30 minutes. With that being said, those new to incline walking may need to walk at a lower incline until enough strength is built up to keep proper form during the entire 30-minute period.

Squats vs incline walking: Which is better for building up your booty?

So, squats vs incline walking—which is better for your backside? The muscles used when incline walking are similar to those used when performing squats, meaning you’ll get a great booty workout from both options. Brooks says it all comes down to what feels best to you. “Whether squats or incline walking is better for building up your glutes largely depends on personal preference,” she says. “Both exercises effectively target and work the same muscle groups, so the choice should align with your specific fitness goals and what you enjoy more.”

What’s better for your body: incline walking vs running?

Incline walking vs running: that is the question. While both are great ways to get in a sweat, those looking for a more low-impact option will want to go with an incline treadmill workout. “Walking on an incline is generally better for your body when compared to running,” Brooks says. “The incline provides the same cardiovascular benefits with reduced joint impact, which makes it a more joint-friendly option. It can also help alleviate pressure on your joints, making it a preferable choice for individuals looking to protect their joint health.”

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Padulo, Johnny et al. “A paradigm of uphill running.” PloS one vol. 8,7 e69006. 10 Jul. 2013, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069006
  2. Haggerty, Mason et al. “The influence of incline walking on joint mechanics.” Gait & posture vol. 39,4 (2014): 1017-21. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2013.12.027

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