What Muscles Does a Treadmill Work Out?


A treadmill can be one of the most useful pieces of exercise equipment for a healthy heart and a well-defined lower body. To make the most of your treadmill, learn how to vary its use to target specific muscles.

Conventional Walking and Running

During conventional treadmill walking, you recruit your hamstrings, quadriceps, shins, calves and, to a lesser extent, your gluteus medius and gluteus maximus. Running intensifies the recruitment of the muscles used in walking and increases your use of the gluteal muscles. A 2012 study conducted at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and published in "Gait and Posture" found that gluteal muscle recruitment during running significantly increases with a faster step rate.

Incline Walking

When you increase your treadmill's incline, you intensify leg muscle activation. A 2011 study conducted at the University of Colorado and published in "Gait and Posture" found that walking on an upward incline of 9 degrees can significantly increase the recruitment of the gluteus maximus, the quadriceps and the calves.

Uphill Backward Walking

According to experts at Superior Physical Therapy, by slowing your speed and raising your incline by 7 to 10 percent, walking backward can restore balance to muscles that are often overused by normal forward walking and running. Backward walking can benefit your hamstrings, calves and the muscles in your feet to promote a healthier gait and better posture. Incline backward walking can reduce your risk of ankle sprains during normal walking and running.