Treadmills may be our go-to for a good cardio workout. But you can also strength train with a treadmill to make the most of this versatile machine.

You can adjust its incline level to activate more muscles or try different moves besides running forward. You can also do various strength training exercises with the treadmill turned off.

With one cardio machine, it’s easy to design a workout plan that burns calories and builds muscles.

Putting treadmill exercise variations together also ensures you’re working your upper body.

Previous research even showed that resistance training improves treadmill performance.

Keen to give this a try? Here are some sample moves to get you started.

Strength Training Exercises with the Treadmill On

Running on the treadmill day in and day out can be uninteresting. And doing a monotonous routine can delay your fitness progress.

One way to shake things up is to strength train with a treadmill. Here are some ideas.

Sideway Shuffle

Why stick to treadmill running when you can do sidestepping?

Side shuffles are excellent for strengthening your inner and outer thighs and calves.

Compared with regular treadmill running, side shuffles involve your core more by stabilising your torso with each step. This exercise helps improve your balance, too.

How-to: First, stand sideways on the treadmill and bend your knees slightly. Set the treadmill speed between 3 and 5.5 mph, and make quick side shuffles. Switch sides after about 30 seconds.

Tips: If you’re having difficulty shuffling, reduce the treadmill speed or hold onto the arm of the treadmill. Also, keep your upper body straight throughout.

Variations: Try side shuffling on the treadmill at a lower speed and in a quarter-squat position to target your glutes. You can also put a resistance loop band around your knees when doing your side shuffles. This variation targets your hip abductors.

Uphill Walk

Another way to strength train with a treadmill is by steady-state uphill walking or jogging.

This move targets your leg and core muscles.

Beginners and people recovering from an injury can also do this exercise at a lower incline level.

(If you’re new to using a treadmill, this guide has everything you need to know)

As you build up leg power, you can gradually progress and try steeper inclines.

How-to: Brisk walk for 5 minutes at 0% incline to warm up. Next, set the incline level at no more than 8%, depending on your fitness capacity. Then, do your uphill walk for 25 to 35 minutes.

Tips: Avoid going more than 2% at a time when adjusting your incline level. Remember, this exercise will make your muscles tired. But you shouldn’t feel any intense pain.

Variations: Wear a weight belt or ankle weights during treadmill exercise to build more core strength. Alternatively, you can hold hand weights while walking to tone your arms. Just make sure to use either with precaution and take them off every minute to avoid injury.

Sideway Shuffle on a Treadmill

Strength Training Exercises with the Treadmill Off

If you think doing simultaneous exercises is too hard, you can still strength train with a treadmill while it’s turned off.

Check out these ideas and see which ones work with your fitness plan.

Sled Push

Some treadmill models, like the NordicTrack X22i Incline Trainer, have a feature called a push bar.

You can hold onto this bar, then manually push the belt with your legs.

This exercise makes your posterior leg muscles contract more while your core keeps you stable.

It also lets you have that semi-full-body workout without damaging the treadmill motor or rollers.

How-to: Turn the treadmill off, then hold the push bar with both hands. Your elbows should be slightly bent. Now, push the belt by driving your legs forward with alternating steps.

Tips: Avoid twisting your body when doing this exercise so as not to hurt your lower back. Keep your shoulders, spine and hips parallel to each other.

Variations: You can do single-leg sled pushes to ensure even muscle activation. Sled push sprints for about 5-10 seconds are also another alternative. Or turn your back to the console and start sled pushing backwards to work your quads and core.

Resistance Band Exercises

You can strength train with a treadmill using other tools, like a resistance band with handles.

I particularly like working with this as I can use it as is, and it doesn’t take up space.

Here are some ways to use it with your treadmill to target your upper body muscles.

Incorporate them in between 1-minute jogs or runs:

  • Biceps Curl. Loop the resistance band at the front or side of the treadmill, and hold the handles with your palms facing up. Stand on the sides with your knees bent slightly, then pull, bending your elbows towards your shoulders. You can do this while walking on the treadmill, too.
  • Chest Fly. Loop the resistance band at the front or side of the treadmill, grab the handles and turn with your back facing the console. Stand on the sides, then pull the band to the front at shoulder height. You can also face front, then perform the reverse fly move instead.
  • Triceps Kickback. Loop the resistance band at the front or side of the treadmill, and hold the handles with your palms facing down. Stand on the sides, bend your knees slightly, and keep your arms level. Lean your upper body a bit forward, then pull towards the back. This exercise reminds me of the skiing stance.
Sled Push on a Treadmill


With this list of exercise variations, you can strength train with a treadmill and say goodbye to boring workouts.

There’s more to this cardio machine than endless running, for sure!

I have one last tip, though. If you are hunting for a treadmill, I suggest picking models with features that support cardio and strength training exercises.

Look for those with stable arms, a push bar and variable incline levels.

These should make the most of your health investment and daily workouts.

1. Are treadmill workouts best before or after weight training?

It depends on your fitness goals. Prioritise weightlifting to build strength and muscle mass, or focus on treadmill workouts to enhance stamina and leg power. But if you’re working out for overall health, it’s best to give more value to workout balance and consistency rather than exercise sequence.

2. Is learning the 12-3-30 treadmill incline workout worth it?

The 12-3-30 workout combines cardio and muscle activation in one go, making it excellent for cardiovascular health and weight management. Walking uphill is perfect for improving your stamina, too. It’s also a low-impact exercise that suits most fitness levels. But make sure to complement it with other moves involving your upper body to avoid monotony.

3. Are HIIT treadmill workouts effective for fat loss?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can boost your heart rate faster than steady-state cardio. It can quickly increase your oxygen level needs, resulting in higher calorie burn within a short period. And pairing your HIIT treadmill workout with a healthy diet supports efficient fat loss.