Let's face it: The treadmill can get boring pretty fast. Plus linear motions such as walking and running are not the most effective means of exercise—our bodies are meant to move through various planes.
To help kick this mundane one-dimensional form of exercise to the curb, here are six of my favorite treadmill exercises that don't involve any running and train your body in a more functional manner. You'll look like a fitness rockstar when you do these at the gym.
How it works: Perform each of the exercises for 30 seconds, resting 30 to 60 seconds between exercises. Beginners perform one set, intermediate exercisers perform 2 to 3 sets, and advanced individuals perform 3 to 4 sets. For powered treadmill exercises, begin at a 0.1 to 0.2 miles per hour to ensure proper form; I recommend doing these with a partner to ensure safety. For the other exercises, turn the treadmill off and use your own strength to move the belt.
You'll need: Treadmill
Powered Treadmill Exercises
1. Turtle Walks: Begin in a pushup position with hands on the sides of the treadmill and in line with shoulders. Position feet hip-width apart with toes resting firmly on the floor. (Your body form a straight line from shoulders to hips.) Brace core and slowly place hands on the belt of the treadmill as you begin to walk them forward. Perform smooth strokes with arms as if painting with a brush.
Coach's tip: If you feel your hips begin to sag, stop immediately, place hands on the sides of the treadmill as you re-position yourself, and start again.
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2. Crab Crawls: Turn back to the treadmill with feet hip-width apart and and come to a low squat approximately 12 inches behind the belt. Place hands on the outside of the belt. Brace core and extend hips toward the ceiling to form a straight line with shoulders and hips. Slowly place one hand at a time on the moving belt and begin walking hands forward.
Coach's tip: Avoid wearing a ponytail or any loose shirts that hang during this exercise.
3. Kickback Lunges: Increase the treadmill incline to between 3.0 and 5.0 degrees and raise the speed to up to 3.0 miles per hour, depending on current fitness level. Place hands firmly on the handrails and begin walking. Brace core and drive right knee up toward navel, then place right foot down and lower hips until right knee forms a 90-degree angle and you are in a lunge. Rise up, kick left leg back at hip height, then drive left knee upward in front of body and into a lunge position just as you did with the right side. Keep switching sides, aiming keep the swinging leg straight as it moves behind the body.
Coach's tip: To avoid hinging too far forward at the hips, keep chin parallel to the floor.
4. Lateral Squat Sliders: Begin walking sideways on the treadmill with right side facing the front of the machine. Place hands on hips while keeping a natural arch in lower back. Brace core and step out to the side (toward the front of the machine) with right foot. Simultaneously lower hips until knees almost form a 90-degree angle. Reverse direction back to start position and pull left leg quickly under hip. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Coach's tip: If you are a beginner, you may want to reduce the depth of your squat until you gain confidence and can ensure proper form.
Non-Powered Treadmill Exercises
5. Lateral Glides: Start in a low squat with left hip facing the treadmill about 6 inches from the belt. Brace core and, in one strong movement, place left foot onto belt and push it away from body. As soon as left leg fully extends, reverse direction back to start position. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Coach's Tip: To ensure optimal mobility and flexibility gains, aim to keep your body in a low squat at all times.
6. Reverse Lunge Gliders: Stand approximately 6 inches from the treadmill with back facing the machine. With hands on hips and chin parallel to the floor, place ball of right foot on the belt. Brace core and drive ball of right foot into the belt, pushing it backward. Continue pushing until left knee forms a 90-degree angle, then quickly return foot under hips. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Coach's tip: To avoid rounding your back, aim to keep the natural arch in your lower back at all times.