There are 7 different ways that men and women hold onto a treadmill while walking, and NONE are a good way to get results, whether that’s weight loss, more energy or a healthier heart.

Having worked out in gyms all my life and having been a personal trainer, I have come to observe the many different ways that people will hold onto a treadmill when walking.

This is perhaps the biggest, most prevalent exercise mistake, and it’s committed by all ages, all body types, all fitness levels.

In fact, it’s just as sabotaging for a 25-year-old competitive powerlifter to hold onto a treadmill as it is for an obese middle age person, as it is for a skinny 18-year-old skateboarder, as it is for a 65-year-old who smokes two packs a day.

Seven Ways that Men and Women Hold onto a Treadmill

The Tugger

The hands are on the front bar, arms bent, because with each step, the person tugs or yanks forward. The treadmill may or may not be at an incline.

The tugging results from using a fast speed setting. The lower body isn’t working enough to keep up with the moving tread, so the arms take over.

The Switcher

This person holds onto the front bar with one hand, but switches hands every so often. When I see such individuals, I think, “Gee, take the plunge – keep BOTH hands off!”

One-Hand Bandit

This individual keeps one hand, the same arm, on the front bar the entire time.

The Shoulder Bobber

The palms are pressed against the side rails, arms locked out, sometimes even hyperextended. The shoulders bob up and down, back and forth, with every step.

The Grasshopper

This person’s palms are on the side rails, but placed behind their body, forcing their arms into an oddly bent shape – resembling a grasshopper’s bent legs. There’s also some shoulder bobbing.

The Quasimodo

When a very tall person holds the front bar, they are slumped forward, losing several inches of height with this poor posturing.

The Tilter

The hands may be on the front bar or clutching the top of the console, while the treadmill is at incline. The arms are straight, so the result is that the walker’s body is tilted or leaned back at the same angle as the incline.

What kind of person holds onto a treadmill?

Almost always, they are able-bodied. They walked into the gym without a problem, and either before or after their make-believe walking session on the treadmill, they did something that – ironically – requires balance.

One Tilter I had observed had a black belt in karate and conducted karate classes at the club!

Another gripper owned a karate studio!

Being involved in a discipline that requires balancing on one foot does not make holding onto a treadmill any less sabotaging than if the walker were new to exercise and obese. It’s a BAD HABIT, period.

Other grippers were observed doing free-barbell squats, walking lunges, box steps, group fitness classes or using a staircase without holding onto the railings.

I’ve asked many able-bodied people why they hold onto a treadmill and have gotten all sorts of responses.

Few people (and I’ve asked a LOT) ever cited a neurological disorder.

• What I’ve found is that people of all sizes, ages and exercise experience underestimate their ability to walk on a treadmill without holding on.
• Or, they have no idea that holding on is a saboteur.

Once they let go at my urging, they stayed balanced – nobody ever fell off – and in fact, their posture improved.

Neurological Disorder

One man in particular stands out. I had witnessed him many times loading 45 pound plates on the Smith machine for squats. I had also seen him bench pressing a lot of weight. He had a well-developed upper body.

But when he walked, he limped, due to a permanent spinal injury suffered years back from a motorcycle accident.

One day I saw him holding onto the treadmill. Though he had atrophied legs, he was able to squat at least 135 pounds with a Smith machine, and needed no assistance hoisting 45 pound plates up onto the bar.

Yet he was holding onto a treadmill. I told him to let go, and I was ready to “catch” his body if he lost control.

However, nothing happened after he let go – other than a surprised look on his face that he was able to walk on a treadmill without holding on. He never held on after that.

I urged other people, as well, with medical conditions to walk hands-off – including a middle age woman with Meniere’s disease (which causes dizziness) and numbness in her toes, and an obese middle age women with arthritic knees.

Their gait OFF the treadmill became improved, and for sure, their balance in everyday life improved.

So even though we can derive some amusement by naming the different ways people hold onto a treadmill, remember … it’s a very sabotaging habit that undermines the walker’s achievement of their goals.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building and fitness.