DIY Treadmill Workouts: Killer Cardio

Treadmill Workout

Have you heard about treadmill workouts yet? You basically do a bunch of crazy stuff all over the machine instead of just walking or running steadily forward. The idea is that you integrate extra muscle groups into your workout to build more lean muscle, burn additional calories, and bust boredom. If you’re dying to try this latest fitness trend but don’t want the hassle or expense of joining a class, then you’re in luck! I’ve got the low down, some moves, and an intense cardio workout. All you need is a treadmill!

Treadmills have been around for a really long time. Devices that used man or animal power to turn a wheel and move objects date all the way back to the first century. In the 1800s giant group treadmills were used in English and American prisons to harness man power to pump water or mill grain. Eventually, this punishment was considered so inhumane that it was forbidden by law. Now, we do it for fun! Since it’s establishment as a tool for cardiovascular health in the 1950s, the treadmill had been boring us for decades.

I’ve done my time on the treadmill. Although it’s always a solid cardio workout, it’s too boring for me. I’m not really a runner, but I’ll take a lovely jog outside any day over the monotony of a hamster wheel sweat-fest. So when I heard about treadmill workouts, I was intrigued. I’d been seeing little clips online of people jumping or lunging their way around the machines and I wanted to know more. I googled a bunch of stuff, made some notes, and took my little notebook to the gym to try it out.

Here are my five favorite moves for a lower body focused, intense cardio blast. Try them yourself and see what you think! Just go nuts and do ’em a bunch or try the exercises in a HIIT* format. I promise a #sweatpool no matter which way you slice it. If you’re unsure of how to structure your own HIIT routine, I’ve organized the exercises into a full workout below.

Always use caution. Safety first! The treadmill is moving very slowly, but take your time and watch where your feet are going. Get comfortable with the moves before you go all out. If your legs get really tired, take a breather until you feel steady enough to handle a moving surface again.

  1. Deadmill Sprints: Cardio blaster. Lower the incline on your machine to zero and unplug it or turn the machine off. Grab the middle bar and get the belt moving using your own leg power to push it. Really dig in and sprint as hard as you can.
  2. Walking Lunges: Incline-15/Speed-1.0. Lunges are great for quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Keeping your legs at right angles and your knees behind your toes, slowly lunge forward as if you’re moving across a floor. Focus on getting low and squeezing through the glutes as you come up. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and core engaged. Hold onto the side bars for stability. For added intensity, add a knee up (for extra ab work) or a rear leg lift (for extra butt work) after each lunge. Knee Up: Bring the knee as high as you can and squeeze through your abs. Rear Leg Lift: Lift your straight leg behind you as high was you can without hyper-extending your low back. Squeeze your glute at the top of the move.
  3. The Gallop: Incline-15/Speed-1.5. I really felt these in my quads, but they also work glutes, hamstrings and calves. Hold onto the side bars for stability. With one foot in front, quickly hop the back foot forward. When the back foot touches down, give a fast jump with your front foot to move it ahead of the rear foot again. Continue in a galloping motion and burn those legs out. Work each leg.
  4. Side Squat Jumps: Incline-15/Speed-1.5. Works glutes, inner and outer thighs, quads, and hamstrings. Start off by turning your body sideways on the treadmill. Just walk sideways for a bit to get your bearings. When you feel comfortable, squat as low as you can and jump sideways in a galloping motion, jumping your front foot up and with back foot following quickly. Keep your knees behind your toes to protect your knees. Core tight to protect your back! Work each side.
  5. Cross Over Leg Lift: Incline-15/Speed-1.5. This one’s great for shaping your butt! Works outer glutes, inner and outer thighs, quads, and calves. Start off in the same sideways position as the side squat jumps. After you get your bearings, lift your lower leg into a lateral leg lift squeezing your outer hip at the top of the move. When you bring your lower leg back down, cross your lower foot over the upper foot foot to land above the upper foot and bend your knees to into a mini squat. Quickly step your upper foot back to the top position again and raise your lower leg into another lateral leg lift. Work each side.

When you watch the exercises, they look really ho-hum. I scoffed at them myself. But when you string them all together in a workout, they’re tough. Like, really hard. Try completing one of these treadmill workouts 2-3 times a week and let me know if you almost-barf, too. I find that the more I challenge my cardiovascular fitness in new ways, the more it grows. A healthy heart is a happy heart!

Remember to always train smart. Drink plenty of water, take your rests, and never push yourself to the point of feeling sick, dizzy, or faint. If you’re unsure of form, consult a professional.

HIIT Treadmill Workout

  • Warm-Up
  • Deadmill Sprint-30 seconds
  • 20 Second Rest
  • Walking Lunges-40 lunges (add a knee up of leg lift for added intensity)
  • Deadmill Sprint-30 seconds
  • 20 Seconds Rest
  • Cross Over Leg Lifts-20 reps each side (Carefully climb on the stationary sides of the treadmill before switching leg leads. Use caution, your legs are going to be getting tired.)
  • Deadmill Sprint-30 seconds
  • 20 Seconds Rest
  • The Gallop-30 seconds on each leg (Be careful switching sides)
  • 20 seconds rest
  • Deadmill Sprint-30 seconds
  • 20 seconds rest
  • Side Squat Jumps-30 seconds on each side (Again, be careful switching sides.)
  • One Minute Rest
    (Repeat entire cycle twice more for a total of 3 times through)

Video yourself doing some of the moves and tag me (@this_fit_mom) with #treadmillworkout on IG!

*HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. You exercise in very short, but intense bursts with very short recovery periods after each interval. HIIT has been proven to give you the same benefits as endurance cardio in shorter amounts of time along with the additional benefits of strength training.

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Treadmill image via Shutterstock