We all have different goals when walking uphill on a treadmill. Some want to burn more calories. Others like well-toned glutes. But can treadmill incline walking make your calves bigger?

Incline walking workouts on a treadmill will not give you bulging calves, even at maxed-out levels. That’s because it is an endurance exercise that targets slow-twitch muscles. And these muscle fibres can only firm up and tone your legs.

Read further to know more about this exercise and how to do it correctly.

Can Exercising on a Treadmill Incline Build Calves?

Some people are wary about treadmill incline walking for fear that it can make their calves bigger.

It is probably because we often associate that burning feeling on our legs after exercise with muscle growth.

But that’s not how it works. To debunk this fitness myth, we need to understand the muscles in our body and how specific exercises affect them.

And two types of muscle fibres develop when we work out. One type is the slow-twitch muscles, and the other is the fast-twitch muscles.

How are they different?

  • Slow-twitch muscle fibres work during aerobic or endurance activities like walking, running and dancing. Exercise tones and makes them more efficient. But they do not grow in size.
  • Fast-twitch muscle fibres work during anaerobic or strength activities like lifting heavy weights, sprinting and resistance training. Doing the correct exercise challenges these muscles, encouraging them to grow and bulge.

How Should I Work Out on a Treadmill for Better Calves?

From the comparison above, we can now conclude that incline walking on a treadmill will not make your calves bigger.

It will only happen if you perform more intense workouts than this to recruit your fast-twitch muscles.

So, if you have been exercising on an inclined treadmill for shapely but not bulging calves, then you’re on the right track.

But for beginners, here’s how to start your calf training workout with a treadmill. I’ve also added some workout ideas for variety.

is incline walking good for calves - Treadmill Incline for Calf Training

1. Change your regular treadmill walks into slow uphill walks.

The best way to achieve defined calves is to use the treadmill incline and walk uphill.

One study showed that leg muscle activation increases when walking on sloped surfaces.

Other researchers also concluded that this exercise could benefit people with weakened ankles.

That means incline walking gives more benefits other than shapelier legs.

The key to this exercise is to set the treadmill incline high and its speed low.

Keeping your movement slow will not boost your heart rate as much, but it can redirect the energy and blood to your calves.

You can try this guide to get started:

  1. Warm up by walking for about 5 minutes.
  2. Keep this speed, or ramp it to a level that will not make you breathless. Then, adjust the incline to 3%. Continue walking for 3 minutes.
  3. Add 1% incline every 3 minutes until you reach 8%.
  4. Cool down by walking at 0% incline for 5 minutes.

Keep your back straight when doing this exercise. Also, push up your calves at every step.

If you start struggling, lower the incline level first, then your speed. Just adjust the treadmill settings later when you’re ready.

Also, to make this workout more challenging, aim to boost the incline level up to 12%.

2. Try doing the 12-3-30 treadmill workout.

Treadmill incline walking for the calves is challenging at first. But once you get used to it, it will be great to try all sorts of incline exercises.

Steady incline, speed walking and interval training are some variations. Doing them can spice up your daily workouts and make them less repetitive.

One similar variation is the viral 12-3-30 workout. It works by setting your treadmill at a 12% incline and 3 mph speed, then walking for 30 minutes.

I like this mainly because it is not only for toning your calves. It’s also a low-impact exercise that combines cardio workouts and muscle activation.

It can improve your stamina, too. The only downside I can think of is it can lead to boredom, considering you’ll be walking uphill at the same pace for 30 minutes.

So, if you wish to try this, I suggest doing it while playing your favourite workout playlist. The more upbeat, the better!

Ankles Weights on Treadmill Workouts

3. Add ankle weights to your treadmill routine.

Ankle weights are sand-filled bands that you can wrap around your ankles. And wearing these while walking on a treadmill increases the resistance on your calves.

It also intensifies your workout, boosting your heart rate and caloric burn. Using ankle weights while working out is not for everyone, though.

People with pre-existing joint issues should probably not wear them to avoid injury.

It’s also best to consult your doctor or fitness instructor before adding ankle weights to your workout.

When you get the go-ahead, use weights at least 1% but no more than 2% of your body weight.

Also, start with a walking routine before progressing to incline walking.

To avoid leg injuries, take them off every minute or so during workouts. You can also use it during your recovery periods.


If you’re after serious leg muscle building, you need to do anaerobic exercises, like weightlifting, to stimulate your fast-twitch muscles. Dietary changes should be in place as well.

But if your goal is to get toned legs without making them too muscular, then walking uphill, an aerobic exercise, is the way to go.

Using the treadmill incline will not make your calves bigger. But it can work your lower legs better than exercising on a flat surface.

Wearing ankle weights during your incline walks can even boost the health benefits you get.

Keen on getting shapely calves while exercising indoors?

Check out my list of treadmills and look for models with variable speed and incline levels.

1. Can a treadmill build my glutes?

On the contrary, treadmills can potentially flatten your butt. It is because you tend to reduce calories and body fat with running, which can make your gluteal muscles lose shape. There’s minimal glute muscle activation with this exercise, too. However, you can use the incline feature of your treadmill and do other alternative workouts for a shapelier bum.

2. How long should I run on a treadmill to get abs?

Running on a treadmill for 30 minutes five days a week can lead to body weight loss. When you complement this routine with consistency and a balanced diet, your belly will naturally shrink within 4 to 6 weeks. Once you achieve a healthy weight, you can switch to more targeted treadmill exercises for a defined midsection.