A lot of people, especially those who have never really been interested in fitness or going to the gym, think a treadmill is all about burning calories and losing weight.

While it’s true that a treadmill is a good machine to choose if these are your aims (alongside other exercises of course), they have far more benefits than simple helping you sweat away a few pounds a week.

Treadmills actually engage a lot of muscles, especially those in your lower body, and also, crucially, your core – so long as you are running with good form and posture that is.

In this article, we will look a little more deeply into which muscles are engaged when you use the treadmill.

Muscles Engaged On The Treadmill

Lower Body Muscles

Treadmills provide an effective workout for a variety of lower body muscles. These include:

1. Quadriceps: The front thigh muscles, the quadriceps, are heavily engaged during treadmill workouts. They are responsible for extending your knee and play a crucial role in propelling your legs forward as you walk or run on the treadmill.

what muscles does the treadmill work

2. Hamstrings: Located on the back of the thighs, the hamstrings act as antagonists to the quadriceps. They are involved in knee bending and are essential for maintaining balance and control while using a treadmill.

3. Calves: The calf muscles, particularly the gastrocnemius and soleus, are actively utilised when you push off the balls of your feet while walking or running on a treadmill. This action helps you move your legs forward and is essential for maintaining a steady pace.

4. Glutes: The gluteal muscles, or glutes, are located in your buttocks and are recruited to stabilise your hips and pelvis during treadmill workouts. They also provide power for propulsion and support your lower back.

Working out on a treadmill can effectively target these lower body muscles, helping to improve strength, endurance, and overall leg fitness.

Core Muscles

Treadmill workouts engage the core muscles, including:

1. Abdominals: The abdominal muscles play a crucial role in stabilising your torso and maintaining proper posture while walking or running on a treadmill.

2. Obliques: The oblique muscles, located on the sides of your abdomen, assist in twisting and rotating motions, which may occur during treadmill workouts. They help with balance and posture control.

Including core engagement in your treadmill routine can improve core strength and stability, leading to better overall fitness and endurance.

Upper Body Muscles

When using the handrails on a treadmill, you can engage your arm muscles, including the biceps and triceps. Gripping the handrails while walking or running on the treadmill can provide a modest workout for your upper body, specifically your arm muscles.

However, it’s essential to strike a balance between using the handrails for support and allowing your lower body to do the primary work to maximise the benefits of your treadmill workout.

How To Maximise Treadmill Workouts

Changing the speed and incline on a treadmill impacts muscle engagement in the following ways:

Speed: Increasing speed can intensify the engagement of lower body muscles, such as quadriceps and calves, as they work harder to maintain a faster pace.

Incline: Raising the incline targets your leg muscles more, especially the glutes and hamstrings, as they have to work against gravity.

Using intervals by alternating between high-intensity and recovery periods can enhance results. This challenges your muscles and cardiovascular system, helping you build strength and burn more calories.

Incorporating treadmill exercises is another way to enhance the benefits of using the treadmill, and also make your workout more interesting.

Try one of the following:

1. Walking Variations: You can add variety to your treadmill workout by incorporating walking variations like walking lunges, side shuffles, or walking backwards. These engage different leg muscles and enhance overall balance and coordination.

2. Running Techniques: To work on running techniques, focus on activities like high knees, butt kicks, or hill sprints on the treadmill. These help improve running form and activate various leg muscles.

3. Using Hand Weights: Utilising hand weights during your treadmill workout can engage your upper body muscles, particularly the biceps and shoulders. Be cautious and start with light weights to avoid strain and ensure safety.

what muscles does the treadmill work

To complement treadmill workouts and prevent muscle imbalances, you should also think about cross training and muscle balance:

1. Cross-Training: Incorporate other forms of exercise like cycling, swimming, or strength training to work different muscle groups and reduce overuse injuries.

2. Muscle Balance: Ensure a balanced workout routine that includes exercises for all major muscle groups. This helps prevent the overdevelopment of certain muscles while neglecting others.

Main Benefits Of Treadmill Workouts

Treadmill workouts are effective for weight management and cardiovascular health:

1. Burning Calories: Treadmill exercises help burn calories, aiding in weight management and reducing excess body fat.

2. Improving Heart Health: Regular treadmill workouts enhance cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart, increasing lung capacity, and lowering the risk of heart-related diseases.

Treadmill workouts are also effective for muscle strengthening and endurance:

1. Increasing Muscle Strength: Engaging in treadmill workouts, particularly when using an incline, can help develop and strengthen leg muscles, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

2. Building Stamina: Regular treadmill sessions enhance overall endurance and stamina, enabling you to engage in physical activity for more extended periods without exhaustion.

Treadmills offer convenience and accessibility too:

1. Home vs. Gym: Treadmills provide the convenience of exercising at home or in a gym. This choice allows individuals to adapt their workout environment to their preferences and schedules.

2. All-Weather Option: Treadmills are an all-weather exercise solution, eliminating the impact of external conditions like rain or extreme temperatures, making them accessible year-round.

Common Treadmill Myths

 Spot Reduction Myth

The spot reduction myth is a common misconception in the realm of fitness. It suggests that you can target and reduce fat in specific areas of your body through isolated exercises. However, in reality, this concept is largely unsupported by scientific evidence. When you engage in physical activity, your body burns calories, and the fat loss occurs gradually from various body parts.

It’s not possible to shed fat from a specific trouble spot through localised exercises alone. Achieving a leaner and more toned appearance involves a combination of regular exercise, a balanced diet, and overall fat reduction. Therefore, it’s essential to approach fitness with a holistic perspective rather than relying on spot reduction as a viable strategy.

Treadmill Vs. Outdoor Running

Treadmill running and outdoor running both offer excellent cardiovascular benefits and muscle engagement, but they differ in certain aspects. When running on a treadmill, the belt moves beneath you, which can affect muscle engagement and overall experience. Treadmill running often involves slightly less muscle engagement in stabilising muscles like the glutes and hamstrings because the moving belt assists with leg turnover.

what muscles does the treadmill work

In contrast, outdoor running requires more engagement from these muscles as you push off against the ground and navigate uneven terrain. Additionally, outdoor running can offer variations in elevation and terrain that engage a wider range of leg muscles. While both forms of running are effective for fitness, the choice between them often comes down to personal preference and specific training goals.