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Manual vs Electric Treadmill: Detailed Comparison

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Can’t decide what model of a treadmill is better – a treadmill manual vs electric one? Do you hesitate about which one will be more effective for your training regime? Besides the primary fairly obvious difference which is the necessity to be plugged in, these treadmills bring other distinctive features. In this consistent review, we’ll dive deeply into the characteristics of each running machine, their pros, and cons, and define which model is worth purchasing better.

Can’t decide what equipment is better for complementing your running workouts – a treadmill manual vs electric one? Choose a manual treadmill to control your training intensity or a motorized one to excel at your running performance and make considerable progress.

manual vs electric treadmill

What Is a Manual Treadmill: General Description, Purposes of Its Usage

As the name says, a manual treadmill doesn’t require electrical power to run the belt and a user can control its speed range with their own stride. Let’s find out first are manual treadmills good in terms of operation and performance.

There’s no motor that moves a running surface, so only a runner can manage it with their own power: the faster you move, the faster a running belt will move. Such a specification makes running on a manual treadmill closer to outdoor running.

Unlike energy-assisted running machines, a motorless model requires more concentration and persistence because it’s only you who determines the intensity of your training. You can accelerate or slow down any time you want, without pushing yourself too hard with high speed and incline options.

A user of a manual treadmill can choose between walking or light running mode by lowering their personal tempo, and consequently decreasing the running belt speed as well. As usual, such a treadmill comes with a fixed incline option or has a curved running belt that looks closer to running outside. To make a non-motorized treadmill work (including a curved motorless model), you need to make an extra effort to keep it moving while keeping your legs moving simultaneously too.

So, if you want to run for a longer time, you need to tune in to efficient work.

A manual treadmill can fit those people who want to control the intensity of their running and not be dependent on the built-in motor capacity. It also can be useful for people with knee and joint issues: by choosing a walking mode, they can maintain their condition without high loads.

female runner on treadmill

What Is an Electric Treadmill: General Description, Purposes of Its Usage

An electric or motorized treadmill is another option to have an effective running workout. Being electric-powered and computer-controlled equipment, it can bring multiple functions and opportunities to improve your running technique, namely running pace and foot setting, and generally tone your body. Featuring interactive options and being compatible with Bluetooth and fitness apps, you can bring your running session to the next level and upgrade your performance.

When comparing an electric vs manual treadmill, for getting more options to diversify your running, pick up a motorized treadmill. Today, there are numerous models of electric treadmills on the market: of different dimensions, speed, and incline adjustability, equipped with motors of various capacities, cushioned belts, HR monitoring, etc. You’ll undoubtedly find a treadmill that will meet your needs and requirements.

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A superb feature of a motorized treadmill is its excellent workout performance, meaning you’re able to track your running metrics during the workout and see your progress. The vast majority of electric treadmills come with a console and an LCD display that helps you to monitor key performance indicators like time, distance, calories, SPM, and heart rate.

Besides the above-mentioned specs, a motorized treadmill possesses the following capabilities: you can choose a tool just for walking at low speed, or for high-intensity running with a speed up to 15 mph, and adjustable incline and decline options.

Who can fit this treadmill best? An electric treadmill meets the needs of a wide range of athletes: from starters in fitness to seasoned runners who participate in marathons.

athlete training on treadmill in gym

Treadmill Manual vs Electric: Main Differences

Comparing these two types of treadmills, the key difference between manual and electric treadmill is quite obvious and clear. The rest depends on your preferences and your training goals. The first one offers lower-intensity running that can be fitting for people with knee issues and as a rehabilitation therapy, the second is designed to bring ultimate running training making it more interactive and customized.

Have a look at the main points that differentiate them and at the same time make them unique. Consider these aspects when thinking about whether a manual or motorized treadmill is a fitting option for you.

1. The Way It Operates

This is the first obvious feature that distinguishes these two treadmills. A manual treadmill works due to our own power that we translate on the running belt by accelerating it.

So, literally, you’re a driving force for this type of treadmill. A motorized running machine needs to be plugged in since it requires electrical power.

2. Speed and Incline Adjustment

If you want to challenge yourself and add up some miles, or imitate uphill running, a motorized treadmill is a perfect fit for these purposes. Some models that are of a higher price range have a maximum speed range of up to 12 or 15 mph.

Additionally, you can manage your incline too to make your leg muscles burn.

However, it’s one of the manual treadmill disadvantages: as usual, it features a fixed incline or has no incline at all. While the speed depends on your own stride.

athlete using treadmill at home

3. Interactivity

If you compare motorized vs manual treadmill in terms of their interactivity, the first one brings more options to upgrade your running. Most electric treadmills are Bluetooth compatible and can be synced with specific fitness applications. More expensive models offer a one-month trial for free, so you can join the running community and choose a specific training mode.

On the contrary, a non-motorized treadmill doesn’t have such perks: there is no opportunity to connect it to your device.

4. Extra Perks and Capabilities

An electric treadmill can provide you with a cushioned running belt with shock absorption features to bring your knees milder impact.

Additionally, this type of running machine comes with preset programs, so you can choose among uphill training, speed races, heart zone intervals, or HIIT sessions.

By the way, motorized treadmills can be also equipped with Bluetooth heart rate monitoring options: you can track your pulse zones right on the console, or it can have contact pulse sensors on the handlebar.

Manual treadmillElectric treadmill
● doesn’t require to be plugged in, you’re the motor● needs electric power
● fits most people with joint/knee problems, for rehab, elderly● is a perfect option for well-trained people, regular runners, marathoners
● can have a small console with basic metrics, no app/Bluetooth connectivity● can be highly interactive, can be synced with a device, Bluetooth and fitness apps connectivity
● features a flat or curved running belt● running belt can have absorption/cushioning features, a multi-layered design
● there’s no option to adjust the incline: has no incline at all, or has a fixed one● can change the incline level and even a decline option for some models
● lacks multi-function monitor, comes with a small console with basic data● equipped with an LCD display showing all performance stats
two athletes running on treadmills

Treadmill Manual vs Electric: Summary

Taking into account the main features and functionality specifications of each running machine, let’s summarize our manual vs electric treadmill review. Before the purchase, think carefully about which features are the key ones that make particular equipment the best choice. To make it easier to pick up a decent treadmill, look at which advantages and pitfalls you’ll get with each type.

1. Pros and Cons of a Manual Treadmill

Here’s a consistent list of the most distinctive positive points and drawbacks of a non-motorized treadmill you need to know before choosing a fitting training tool.

Positives:

  • Energy-free
  • can be more lightweight and compact
  • more budget-friendly (flat-belt models)
  • It’s cheaper to fix in case of malfunction
  • You can control your speed with your own stride
  • Safer since you’re a motive power: as you slow down, the running belt moves slower as well

Could be better:

  • Not designed for running mainly
  • can’t change the incline level
  • Zero interactivity: no built-in workouts, app/Bluetooth connection
  • Produces more noise and has less sturdy construction (in the case of flat-belt models)
  • Has a shorter running belt
  • You need to strain to start a belt running

2. Pros and Cons of an Electric Treadmill

These benefits and disadvantages should help you to outline whether it’s a truly worthy piece of equipment. Weigh all positive and negative points of a motorized treadmill before making the final decision.

Positives:

  • Can adjust the speed and incline levels, still can use it for running, walking, and jogging
  • Has a great workout variety
  • Fits for longer running sessions
  • There’s a wide variety of motorized treadmills: commercial, foldable, under-desk, 2-in-1 foldable
  • you can customize your training due to the preset workouts and modes
  • No need to exert to make the belt run since it’s fully motorized

Could be better:

  • More expensive
  • May require much space for its placement and storage
  • needs to be linked to a source of electricity
  • You may have extra expenses for its maintenance
  • can be quite loud depending on the motor capacity

Sunny Health & Fitness Manual Walking Treadmill: Our Recommended Manual Treadmill

sunny health fitness treadmills manual walking treadmill

The top-pick choice of a motorless treadmill is a Manual Walking Treadmill from Sunny Heath&Fitness. It comes with a small monitor that displays your key performance data, i.e., time, distance, calories, and speed.

Also, it features soft non-slip handrails to bring you better balance while you’re walking. The treadmill has a fixed incline of 13.5% (10.4 degrees) which brings you a moderate load on your leg muscles.

The treadmill is compact enough: its dimensions are 49” L x 23” W x 50” H, with a running surface of 42” L x 13” W.

Additionally, it’s pretty lightweight – just 46.7 lb. It can be folded upright which saves you living space and you can store it in the corner. So, it’s a decent option for small apartments.

Despite there are no interactive features, the manufacturer gives an opportunity to watch diverse running workouts that you can find in the library on the website or YouTube channel.

So, this is a decent manual treadmill for those who want to get a slight to moderate running load without extreme speed and incline.

ProForm Carbon TLX: Our Recommended Electric Treadmill

PRO-FORM CARBON TLX

PRO-FORM CARBON TLX
  • Type: Treadmill
  • Best for: Running, walking
  • Dimensions: 74.3’’D x 35.1’’W x 59.1’’H
  • Item weight: 249 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 300 lbs
  • Warranty: 10-Year Frame, 1-Year Parts, 1-Year Labor Warranty
  • Main features: 7’’ display, 3.0 CHP motor, ProShox cushioning, iFit

ProForm treadmill is an innovative running machine that brings the ultimate training experience thanks to its high-end functionality and interactivity opportunities. Its great perk is the connectivity with the iFit platform which brings exceptional and personalized workouts that are led by expert-level trainers.

Using this app, you’ll find almost unlimited opportunities to propel your running training. Also, it’s Bluetooth compatible, so you can connect your phone via the app easily.

PRO-FORM CARBON TLX Instagram
Photo by @proform

It features a strong motor of 3.0 CHP that can handle constant speed changing. The speed range is 0-12 mph. As for an electric treadmill, it is not very compact, but that’s not a bad thing because a larger size can accommodate people of all heights. The treadmill belt is 20’’W x 60’’L that has a ProShox cushioning feature that will keep your knees protected from extra stress.

All in all, the treadmill brings comfortable running and walking sessions with numerous perks and adjustments for runners.

athletes training on treadmills in gym

FAQ

Is a Manual or Electric Treadmill Better?

First of all, if you hesitate, a manual or electric treadmill is a worthy investment for your home gym, keep in mind that it depends on your preferences and workout goals. If you prefer walking and mild loads, then choose a manual treadmill – it enables you to manage the intensity of your running on your own. If you’re a dedicated runner, an electric treadmill will be better for you.

Is It Worth Buying a Manual Treadmill?

Yes, buying a self-propelled treadmill can be a worthy investment if you don’t want to push yourself hard and run at high speeds.

Also, you’ll benefit from such a treadmill if you don’t have sufficient space for it and don’t want to worry about regular maintenance.

Is It Harder to Use a Manual Treadmill?

Since a manual treadmill is non-motorized, you need to exert a force on the running belt to make it start to move.

Literally, you create a power to make it work. While an electric treadmill comes with a motor that moves the belt.

Conclusion

Having observed the key features, advantages, and disadvantages of each running machine, we hope you cleared up the difference between a manual and electric treadmill without hassle. With the samples of the best models, it’s easier for you to imagine the working mechanism of both treadmills, so you’ll pick up a top-notch running machine appropriate for your needs.

Nevertheless, do you want to get additional information about these types of running machines from respected experts in running? Feel free to write us your queries, we’ll provide you with the detailed answers concerning the running progress and what treadmill to choose.

Also read:

References:

  1. Treadmill and Running Speed Effects // NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8160945/
  2. Physiological and Perceptual Demands // NSCA: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2020/05000/Physiological_and_Perceptual_Demands_of_Running_on.1.aspx
  3. Is treadmill walking biomechanically comparable // ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966636221005889?via%3Dihub
  4. Is Motorized Treadmill Running Biomechanically Comparable // NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7069922/
  5. Biomechanical Differences of Foot-Strike Patterns // JOSPT: https://www.jospt.org/doi/10.2519/jospt.2015.6019
  6. Joint kinematics and ground reaction forces // ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966636218304491?via%3Dihub
  7. A comparison of centre of pressure behaviour // ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966636220306056?via%3Dihub

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Ihor Shymechko

Author: Ihor Shymechko
Pro Olympic Weightlifter, Coach

Experience: 26 years
Best Results: Snatch – 208 kg,
C&J – 240 kg

Ihor has been a professional weightlifter since 1996, boasting over two decades of competition experience. His notable achievements include clinching the European Championship in 2009 and securing a silver medal in the 105kg division at the Senior World Championships in 2011. Ihor represented his country in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics. After retiring from competitive weightlifting, he transitioned to coaching, leveraging his vast experience to guide athletes who now compete on both national and international stages.

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