What Muscles Does the Treadmill Work? 

Treadmill Running to Gain Muscle


By Simon Gould

Treadmills are great at working out the lower body. The act of walking and running uses the lower body most while sprinting uses the arms as well. It’s a great fat burner and incorporates many of the leg muscles. Here we’ll go through which muscles are worked out during walking and running and which muscles the incline enhances.

1. Heart

We may not think of the heart as a muscle, but it is. It arguably gets the most work from our treadmill exercise. It adapts over time by becoming more efficient. Getting on a treadmill regularly helps keep our heart healthy for years if we maintain our routines. It can really extend our life and help us remain more mobile in later life.

Brisk walking or running on a treadmill gets the blood pumping to the muscles above to give them oxygenated blood. Your heart gets so efficient that your resting heart rate decreases. Resting heart rate is normally 60 to 80 beats per minute. But in athletes and people who exercise a lot it can go as low as 30 to 40.

2. Hamstrings

These are found on the back of your thighs, you can easily feel then with your hand. Hamstrings help you push off from the deck with every stride. You use this force to help propel the foot up and forward. They help you run efficiently and with the proper form by stabilizing your gait. When you get tired, your hamstrings work harder.

As you bend your legs during your stride, your hamstrings extend and contract. These are often a weaker muscle than they should be for runners. They should be strong and flexible. Athletes will do exercises that target the hamstrings specifically such as hamstring curls and squats. They play a vital role in our runs and can cause problems if they’re weak.

3. Quadriceps

These are 4 muscles on the front of your thighs. They also help extend your knee and propel you forward. The energy starts at the quads and is transferred to the hamstrings. A treadmill will help tone and strengthen these muscles over time. Other exercises that target your quads are lunges and single leg raises.

4. Glutes

These are the muscles in your buttocks. They hold our pelvis level as we run on a treadmill. They help you lift each leg off the deck. Then they assist your knee to go behind you after you push off. When you run at speed, or whatever speed your treadmill can handle, it’s the glutes that generate the powerful stride. They’re often over looked.

They may not be as active as the other muscles listed here, but they play an important role. The proper name for these muscles is glutes maximus and hip extensions and step ups are a way of strengthening them. Walking on a steep treadmill incline is a great way for them to get a workout too. Try brisk walking for 5 minutes at a 10% incline and you’ll soon feel it.

5. Hip flexors

These are located above your thighs. They help you raise the leg upward during your running stride. They also help with stabilization and when they’re weak, you can be susceptible to injuries. Running on a treadmill helps build them, but you can do specific exercises. These include leg raises which can be done seated.

6. Core muscles

When you think of running on a treadmill, you don’t think of your core doing much, but it does. The core muscles are essential to keep you upright and stabilize you. Without s strong core, your posture would suffer. This would be apparent when you run long distances. Abdominal crunches and planks are perfect for strengthening the core. You can also review our guide to treadmill workouts that will reveal your abs. These exercises and routines will work for men and women.

7. Calf muscles

These are located on the back of your lower leg. They’re activated when you push off from the deck, especially when you walk or run on an incline. They are stretched during your treadmill workout and help absorb the shock on your muscles and joints from landing. Even a cushioned treadmill deck can cause an impact as you run.

Aerobic and anaerobic treadmill exercise

There are 2 different ways of working your muscles. Aerobic exercise is what you do when you’re running or walking and it’s a steady pace. This works out your body well in that maintaining this intensity helps you burn calories and lose weight. You can maintain this intensity for a long period. This is the intensity you’d run a 10k or half marathon at.

Anaerobic exercise increases muscles mass. This is what weight lifting and brief high intensity training does. This helps you in many ways. It increases the amount of calories burned when not exercising because you’re body needs energy to build up the muscle you used. It’s good to get this type of workout in once or twice a week.

The incline helps you get anaerobic exercise and this uses more of some muscles than others. The incline set at 10% gives you a tough workout and is certainly not one you could do for a long period. Walking uphill which is what the incline does means you use more of your butt muscles, your quadriceps and calves.


Walking and running on an incline or not works out your muscles pretty well. Sprinting uses the core and the arms as well, note that sprinting on a treadmill is not the easiest thing to do and only recommended for experienced treadmill users. If you’re looking to get in shape then running on a treadmill is ideal, it will make you lose weight like no other exercise.

If you’re looking to gain muscle then you’re better off lifting weights with your legs to sculpt the lower body. If you’re looking to tone your lower body and lose the weight around the frame then walking and running will do it. Nothing works the lower body muscles like a treadmill. So walk and run freely and enjoy it because it has many benefits.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

Similar Posts