Treadmill Tip: Strength Training on the ‘Mill!

cross-training on treadmillSo you’re at the gym and heading for your favorite treadmill for the 8397th time this winter, but you can’t stomach the thought of another run while watching Fox News or the Hallmark Channel (seriously, who picks these stations?). You could cross-train, but getting to the pool is a huge pain, all the ellipticals are taken, and it seems to take three times as long to get a good workout on a bike. Here’s an idea: strength train on the mill!

Yes, you will look dumb and your fellow gym-goers may laugh and, hey, you might even laugh at yourself. But changing up your routine is good for you. Strength training will challenge muscles that don’t regularly get used, helping you avoid injury. There’s a litany of other benefits of adding or swapping a run for some strength work even once a week.

Read on for ideas for using your treadmill as a strength-training tool!

Upper Body

Pushups: Holding on to the bar, lower your body until your elbows bend 90 degrees and your chest reaches the bar. Straighten your arms. Repeat. Do two sets of 10-15.

Pullups: Use an underhand grip, and position yourself underneath the bar. Pull your chest up to the bar, and slowly lower down. Do two sets of 10.

Tricep dips: Sit on the back of the treadmill (make sure the belt is off!!) and put your hands on either side of your hips, facing behind you. Walk your feet out until your knees are bent 90 degrees and scoot your butt off the treadmill. Keeping your back close to the machine, lower yourself down and up. The closer your feet are to your butt, the easier it will be! (Please note: my elbows don’t bend or straighten completely. If yours do, bend yours and straighten them.) Do two sets of 12.

strength training treadmill

Plank walks: Turn the treadmill on very slowly (I’m talking one mile-per-hour slow). Come behind the treadmill and get into a plank position, with your hands on the belt. As the belt moves, walk your hands forward. Do two to four sets of 30 seconds at a time.

Lower Body

strength training treadmillWalking lunges: Turn the treadmill on 1-2 mph and stand on the belt. As the belt moves, take a big step forward and bend both knees to 90 degrees. Think about trying to get your back shin parallel to the belt. Repeat on the other leg. Do two to four sets of one minute at a time.

Squats: Turn the treadmill on 1-2 mph and stand on the belt facing sideways. As the belt moves, take a big step to the side and sit down low in a squat position, keeping your back flat. Do two sets of one minute facing each side.

Uphill sprints: Set the incline as high as it will go and turn the treadmill OFF. Place your hands on the console and sprint for 30 seconds, moving the belt. Think about hinging forward from your ankles and engaging your glutes. Do five sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

Lateral lunges: Turn the treadmill on 1-2 mph and face sideways. As the belt moves,take a big step to the side, keeping the non-moving leg straight. You should feet your glutes and inner thighs engaging. Do two sets of one minute facing each direction.


strength training treadmillMountain Climbers: Come behind the treadmill and place both hands on the (non-moving) belt. Drive each knee up towards your chest while keeping your back flat. Do three sets of 20.

Heel taps: Lie on your back behind the treadmill, and lift your legs directly above your hips. Alternate tapping your heels down to the belt. To make it easier, bend your knees. Do three sets of 20.

Shoulder taps: Hold the bar and step your feet back until you’re in a modified plank position. Tap your alternating shoulders while keeping your back flat and trying to move your upper body as little as possible.

Bonus: Resistance Band Exercises

If you have access to a resistance band, grab it and wrap it around one of the poles on the treadmill. You can get in a upper body circuit with just a band!

Chest flys: Face away from the treadmill. Keep a slight bend in your elbows (like you’re hugging a tree) and bring your palms together. Do two sets of 15.

Overhead tricep extensions: Bring your hands over head and bend your elbows, lowering your hands behind your head. Straighten your arms. Keep your elbows squeezed together. Do two sets of 15.

Reverse flys: Face the treadmill. Keep a slight bend in your elbows and open your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Do two sets of 12-15.

Rows: Facing the treadmill, pull your elbows straight back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Do two sets of 12-15.


Treadmills can be so much more than just a running machine. If you use every excuse in the book to avoid adding strength training to your running routine, repeat after me: Get on the treadmill, Bertha!

Have you ever done strength training on the treadmill? If not, have I convinced you to try?

I am a stay at home mom and group fitness instructor from South Texas. I love reading, wine, and travel. I write about trends, injury prevention and maintenance, and satire. I am training to break 1:30 in the half marathon sometime soon, and for the 2017 Boston Marathon.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I’m so excited to incorporate these into my training! Everyone at the gym already thinks I’m a weirdo who is on the treadmill forever, so not much is going to change there. These are great, Olive!

  2. I do single-legged squats using the handle bar on mine! It’s perfect to use to stabilize yourself and keep good form. I love these other ideas and might have to try them. Not sure I have the nutz to do it at the gym though 🙂

  3. This is so cool! I was literally trying to figure out a strength routine for tonight since I can’t hit the climbing gym, and voila! Instant ideas- thank you!

  4. What great ideas! I love this, especially for days when I don’t feel like going out of my way to get strength done. Good thing I have a treadmill at home, though, because I imagine if I did this at our local rec center with all the elderly people walking on the treadmills, I would get a few looks !