Is this you in the picture?
Then you need to learn about the right way of training at an incline on a treadmill.
If you lean back and hang onto the rails, you mess up your posture. This is because holding on changes the angle of your pelvis which means your body is in the same position as if it was waking with no incline. So you are reducing activation of the leg muscles by hanging on essentially defeating the purpose of increasing the incline.
Most treadmill runners fall into one of two categories: either they have never touched their treadmill’s incline buttons (wait, you can adjust more than speed?) or they beep their way up to max incline every chance they get (higher is harder, right?)
Neither approach is going to score you the results you want. This is because changing up your incline changes the muscles you emphasize during your workout.
Using a variety of inclines forces the body to engage different muscles (in particular your calves, quads, and glutes), increases the aerobic demand of the run (helping endurance) and boosts muscular strength.
Training with Low vs. high Inclines
When you run on a treadmill with no incline, your leg muscles work pretty much as they do when you’re running outside on flat surfaces.
If you’re just trying to improve your outside running skills, running on a flat treadmill allows you to focus on your form without throwing complicating factors like incline levels and times into the mix. However I would recommend setting your treadmill to a constant 1 / 1.5% incline to make up for the difference made by having no wind resistance on a treadmill.
But if you really want your legs to burn, turning up the incline can achieve just this!
As the incline increases, the muscles are forced to work harder as the body must produce more power to propel itself not only forward but also up against gravity. This will mean that you will burn more calories and build more muscle.
In studies it is shown that people who walked at a nine-percent incline, increased the activation of their gastrocnemius (a calf muscle) by 175%, their biceps femoris (a quad muscle) by 635%, and their gluteus maximus (the main muscle in your bum) by 345%, compared to when they walked with no incline.
Still, steeper isn’t always better. If you have any issues with tight hip flexors, high inclines can cause irritation to those muscles.
Whether you are walking, running, or sprinting, you should never set the incline or speed so high that you can’t move hands-free, your body forming a straight line. You should bend forward slightly at your ankles.
The only reason to take the incline to its max (most treadmills reach 15 % ) is when you are training for something specific, such as a very steep hike. If the goal is to prepare for a hilly race course, workouts should mimic the demands of that course with similar incline levels and speeds. Higher inclines are more difficult than lower inclines, and of course, slower speeds are easier than higher speeds. Both variables can be changed in an almost unlimited manner to vary the workout and type of stress the runner is looking to experience.
The best workout routine is going to vary things regularly. You want to keep your body guessing. After all, you aren’t going to be running up a hill, or on a perfectly flat stretch of pavement forever. Plus you can use the incline to increase the intensity, help raise you heart rate, then drop it to recover and repeat. This HIIT style training is best for those wanting to burn calories and loos fat!
How to switch up your incline
Based on what you’re training for, you might want to alternate between running on low-to-no inclines on some days and on higher ones on others. (Fair warning: If you’re new to inclines, I recommend mastering moderate inclines of two to four percent before moving up.)
Or if you want to vary inclines throughout your run, which is a great option if you only run once per week or you're training to master extremely varied terrain, settle into your typical pace for the distance you’re running and then increase the grade by 0.5 percent every one to two minutes. See how high you can go (again, while keeping good form and your hands off of the rails), and then slower to flat, decreasing your incline in 0.5 percent increments every one to two minutes.
You can also try increasing your incline to two to five percent and running at that grade for one to three minutes before lowering back to flat ground for the same amount of time.