You can reap serious benefits with a 30 percent incline on the treadmill–but you’ll get ZERO benefits if you hold on!
You may have spotted those treadmills at your gym that go up to a 30 percent incline, and thought, “What’s the point? You have to hold on or you’ll fall off.”
I’m a former certified personal trainer, and you do not have to hold on, any more than you’d need to if you were walking up a flight of stairs or a dandy hill outside.
Walking a 30 percent incline on a treadmill will produce a training effect only if you don’t hold onto the bar in front or the console.
If you walk slowly enough, this will not be necessary. Problem is, people typically set the pace too fast for a 30 percent incline.
Benefits of 30 Percent Incline on a Treadmill
You need not spend a lot of time at this steepness to reap benefits. Benefits come in the activation of muscles that are only marginally tapped at lower inclines. At 30 percent, your Achilles tendon and calves will get a superior workout.
Another benefit goes to the anterior tibialis muscle, at the front of your lower leg. Another benefit of 30 percent incline work is that of ankle strengthening.
Plus, at this steepness, there is very pronounced hip and knee flexion. This means that the hip flexors (there are several of these) and the knee flexors (hamstrings) will get fruitfully engaged.
The benefits of a 30 percent incline don’t stop there.
Your low back will have to work to keep your body vertical. However, it’s natural to lean forward as fatigue sets in, as you would if hiking a steep trail.
Remember, to reap benefits of a 30 percent incline, do NOT hold onto the treadmill, or you’ll totally defeat the purpose.
Your body must be vertical, though leaning forward to keep up with the tread is also acceptable, and in fact, will invariably happen as you become fatigued enough.
When you don’t hold on, you’ll feel all sorts of uncomfortable fatigue setting in, all over. But of course!
Walking 30 percent is very new to your body; you’re not used to it. Like any new form of exercise, your body will have to adapt, and in the process, it will “hurt.”
Remember how walking lunges felt the first time? Or barbell squats? Or pushups? Don’t cheat by holding onto the treadmill. Another benefit of 30 percent incline exercise is that it’s easy on the knees.
Though I just mentioned there’s pronounced knee flexion, this means more work for the hamstrings, but there is far less impact and shock absorption on and in the knee joint itself.
If you have painful heels from plantar fasciitis, a 30 percent incline will provide the much-needed stretching of your plantar fascia.