Treadmill VS Incline Trainer: Exploring the Differences and Benefits

Author: Ihor Shymechko (26 years of Oly Lifting & Training experience)

When you think about cardio or burning those extra calories, running on a treadmill is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Although recently, incline trainers are also gaining quite attention for cardio workouts. But what is the difference between a treadmill vs. incline trainer, and which one is the better fit for you? In this article, I’ll dive deep into all the differences between the two machines and discuss their pros and cons. So continue reading ahead to find out more. 

So which is better: incline trainer or treadmill? The main difference between an incline trainer vs treadmill is its incline range, which is up to 40 degrees for incline trainers and 10-15 degrees for treadmills. It makes incline trainers a better fit for intense cardio and faster calorie burning.

treadmill vs incline trainer

What Is A Treadmill?

A treadmill is an exercise equipment that is used for cardio training. It has a continuously moving belt for the user to run or walk on. This belt is powered by a motor, the speed of which can be adjusted based on your preference.

Whether you’re at a public gym or making a home gym, treadmills are an absolute staple. This is because of their ease of use and how they’re proven to show promising results in a wide range of users and positively impact work performance and physical activity.

It is used for cardio training or as a warm-up before strength training exercises.

What Is An Incline Trainer?

Let’s start comparing the difference between an incline trainer and treadmill.

An incline trainer is pretty similar to a treadmill, except the belt used in it is inclined at an angle of up to 40 degrees. It simulates the path of a steep hill. The difference between an incline trainer and treadmill is that it requires much more effort and intensity, so more calories are burned in less time, making it great for low-impact yet more efficient workouts.

Incline trainers are generally used at gyms but can also be used at home. They are beneficial for activating the glutes, hamstring, and calf muscles without putting much impact on the knees and other joints. Using such equipment is great for runners as it helps in muscle activation.

runner in blue on treadmill

Treadmill Vs. Incline Trainer

Now that you know what both these exercise equipment are for, let's talk about some factors that set incline trainers apart from regular treadmills. Here are those factors, along with their brief description.

1. Structure

A regular treadmill has a straight deck. It may give you an incline range of up to 15 degrees. Treadmills come in various structural sizes ranging from foldable, compact treadmills to bulkier and sturdier options used in public gyms.

On the other hand, an incline trainer is bigger and needs considerable space for it. Since incline trainers offer an incline up to 40 degrees, they have a wider range of training options, from simple running to intense uphill climbing.

2. Motor 

The simple straight deck of a treadmill makes it easy to run even when not much power is provided. It does not require a very powerful motor.

Alternatively, an incline treadmill motor is much more powerful, and this additional power is necessary to maintain a smooth and sturdy user experience even at a 40-degree incline.

female athlete on incline trainer

3. Calorie Burn

The number of calories burnt on an incline trainer is much greater than the calories burned on a treadmill during the same time period. This is because you are working against gravity on an incline trainer, and muscle activity is greater.

4. Workout Type

Jogging and running on a treadmill is a high-impact workout. During such exercise, the impact on the joints is much higher. Alternatively, using an incline trainer is a low-impact exercise and is better for joints

5. Price

The comparison of the price of an incline trainer vs regular treadmill shows that incline trainers are more expensive as compared to regular treadmills.

DifferenceTreadmillIncline Trainer
MotorLess powerfulMore Powerful
Calorie BurnComparatively lessHigher
Workout TypeHigh impactLower Impact
PriceLess expensiveMore pricey

Treadmill Vs. Incline Trainer: Summary

Still confused about which one suits your requirements? In this section, we will summarize the pros and cons of each machine to help you decide whether a treadmill or incline trainer is the better fit for you.

Pros/Cons Of Treadmill


  • High impact, just like running 

  • Easy to use

  • You can multitask while using it

  • Compact


  • It allows reduced muscle engagement

  • Lower calorie burn

Pros/Cons Of Incline Trainer


  • Results in higher calorie burn

  • Low Impact

  • Strengthens ankles and improves mobility

  • Engages more muscle groups including hamstrings, calves, and glutes


  • It takes up more space

  • It is pricier as compared to regular treadmills

Our Recommendations

There’s a wide variety of brands offering good quality treadmills and incline trainers. It gets very difficult to find out which one is better. That’s why we are here with honest treadmills and incline trainers' reviews.

proform city l6 treadmill

The Pro-Form City L6 treadmill is designed with a reduced footprint in mind and has a compact structure. The treadmill weighs around 125 lbs and has a maximum capacity of 250 lbs. The dimensions of the machine are 29 inches x 70.25 inches x 40.5 inches.

proform city l6 in a room

photo by @captjax_16

I’m personally in favor of the compact size since you can fit in a small space. As a bonus, once you're done, you can comfortably put it away where you want.

And that’s not it. The treadmill offers interactive training sessions, and you can stream global and studio workout sessions on it, which makes your workouts a lot more personalized and productive.


The NordicTrack x22i Incline trainer is a top-notch trainer with an incline range of 40% to -6%. This treadmill weighs 417 lbs, and its dimensions are 70L * 39W * 72.5H. The maximum user weight capacity is about 300 lbs. You also get a 22-inch smart HD touchscreen.

norditrack x22i incline trainer at home

photo by @ahappypace

Although you might consider it pricy, the range of angles and veridicality of angles that it offers is unmatched.


Are Incline Trainers Better Than Treadmills?

Incline trainer vs treadmill: which one is better? If you want to engage more muscles and do a low-impact exercise, then using an incline trainer is better than using a treadmill. But if you want to have compact equipment and be able to walk or jog, then treadmills are better.

Are Treadmill Incline Workouts Effective?

Incline workouts are very effective, especially if you want fast calorie burn and want to train your glutes, hamstring, and calf muscles. 


An incline trainer takes up more space and is pricey, but it is great if you want to do low-impact exercise to train your lower body muscles and burn more calories. Alternatively, a treadmill offers high-impact exercise just like a run, and lesser muscles are involved.

Let us know in the comments if you would prefer to opt for an incline trainer or do you want to stick to your standard treadmill.

Also read:


  • The Effects of Walking while Working //  NCBI:
  • The effects of incline // PubMed:
  • Predicting the Metabolic Cost of Incline Walking // NCBI:
  • Low Impact Exercise // Teacher Retirement System:
  • Effects of Treadmill Incline // PubMed:

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Coach, PRO Olympic Weightlifter

Experience: 26 years

Best Results: Snatch - 208 kg,

C&J - 240 kg

My name is Ihor and I have been a professional weightlifter since 1996. With over 20 years of competition experience, my resume includes European Champion in 2009 and the silver medalist at 2011's Senior World Championships – 105kg division.

I competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

After hanging up my own competitive lifting shoes, I decided to share my huge background as a coach. I am currently coaching multiple athletes who are competing at national and international competitions.

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