What Incline Should You Walk on a Treadmill?

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

Reviewed by: Oleksiy Torokhtiy (Olympian with 21 years of Oly Lifting experience)

If you’re into treadmills, there’s a good chance you already know about and probably use incline often. But, what incline should you walk on a treadmill?

If you’re just starting out, though, you’re most likely wondering which incline is ideal and what exactly walking at an incline can do for you.

Whatever your level of experience is, you’re here to see what different inclines do.

The incline is the reason I love treadmills so much; it adds so much versatility. If you’re dealing with those nasty plateaus, changing the incline will do the trick and your walk will feel like an actual workout again.

Let’s take a stroll and see how to choose treadmill incline levels that are right for you and what workouts you could do.I’m inclined to say - “Let’s do this!”

What incline should you walk on a treadmill? The sweet spot is anywhere between 1% and 5%. This will simulate outdoor walking conditions and won’t put a lot of stress on your joints.

exercise on the treadmill

4 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Incline of a Treadmill

In my experience, the vast majority of people think – the higher, the better. I understand why that would make sense, because as you up the incline, you feel like you’re progressing. 

But the problem with that attitude is that you never learn what different inclines do. More often than not, a lower incline is ideal for the result you’re working towards and you’re exhausting yourself with a high incline for no reason. 

There are a few factors to consider before you choose the best incline to walk on a treadmill.

1. Level of Fitness

If you’re new to treadmills, set your treadmill elevation lower while you’re getting used to the workout. A lower incline (1% - 5%) is perfectly fine for calorie burning and you don’t need to go crazy and start with a high incline the first time you see a treadmill.

2. Intensity of the Workout

This makes perfect sense; the incline affects how intense your walk is. If your incline is set too high, your walk will be a lot more challenging because it will require a lot more effort and increase your heart rate.
exercise on the treadmill

3. Impact on Joints

If you have joint issues, it would be best to keep the incline at 5% max because a higher incline will put quite a bit of stress on your ankles, hips, and knees. But keep in mind, walking at an incline is actually good for your joints.

4. Muscles Targeted

Think about which muscles you’re trying to target. A higher incline will target your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. On the other hand, a lower incline focuses mainly on your quadriceps.

Tips From the Champ

If you’re in the market for a new treadmill, I have something exquisite to recommend. NordicTrack really outdid themselves with this one. The 22’’ inch HD touchscreen is next level. The quality is outstanding and the size… Wow. The treadmill is also quite big. Its dimensions are 70’’ L x 39’’ W x 72.5’’ H. The belt is 60’’ L x 22’’ W.

Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Main Incline Ranges Explained

1. Flat (0%) Incline

If you want the experience of walking outside, but want to stay in your living room, a 0% incline is what you need. If, on the other hand, you still want the challenge of an incline, starting with 0% is a great way to warm up.

2. 1% to 3%

This one is ideal for beginners. It will still feel almost like you’re taking a walk outside, but it will be slightly more challenging than that. You’ll feel this incline in your calves and quadriceps, but it won’t up the intensity of your workout too much.

Basic incline ranges for treadmills

3. 4% to 6%

With this one, you’ll start to feel that burning in your hamstrings and glutes a lot more than you would at a lower incline. The intensity is right there in the middle – not too crazy, but not like you’re taking a light stroll. It’s ideal if you want to increase your calorie burn.

4. 7% to 10%

If you’re walking on this incline, you’re doing a lot more than just taking a walk. Your glutes, hamstrings and calves are engaged, and you’ll notice that you need to put in a lot more effort into your walk. 7% to 10% builds strength and endurance.

5. 11% to 15%

This incline means business and will really increase the intensity of your walk. Or maybe I shouldn’t even call it a walk because you won’t feel like you’re just walking anymore. This one engages all of the muscles that lower inclines do, plus the core. Leg strength, calorie burning, cardiovascular fitness… All of these benefit from a high incline.

3 Incline Walking Workouts

If you think all you can do on your treadmill is run or walk the same way every time – think again. I have a few workouts that will make your walks far more interesting. 

1. Pyramid Incline

For this one, start on a 0% incline and warm up. After 5 minutes of warming up, increase the incline to 2% and then walk for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes have passed, increase the incline to 4% and walk for 4 minutes. Keep increasing the incline by 2% every 2 minutes until you reach a big one (10% or more). You’ll want to keep walking on the highest incline for 4 to 6 minutes and then slowly decrease the incline by 2% every 2 minutes until you get to 0.

2. Steady Climb

Your incline should be set anywhere from 6% to 8%. Walk for 35 to 45 minutes and keep your pace steady. Make sure your posture is correct and engage your leg muscles and core. If you want to spice it up a bit, increase the incline every 5 minutes. 

3. Incline Intervals

Warm up for 5 minutes on a 0% incline. After you’ve warmed up, set the incline to about 4% to 6%. Walk at a moderate pace for 2 minutes on the incline, then increase the speed for 1 minute. Continue your workout by going from challenging incline intervals and increased speed intervals. Do this for about half an hour and then cool down for 5 minutes on 0% incline.

Treadmill We Recommend - NordicTrack Commercial X22i

NordicTrack Commercial X22i

If you’re in the market for a new treadmill, I have something exquisite to recommend. NordicTrack really outdid themselves with this one. The 22’’ inch HD touchscreen is next level. The quality is outstanding and the size… Wow. The treadmill is also quite big. Its dimensions are 70’’ L x 39’’ W x 72.5’’ H. The belt is 60’’ L x 22’’ W.


photo by @mrs_kronester

The incline options go from a -6% decline to a whopping 40% incline. My favorite thing about it is the ActivePulse technology. This will automatically adjust the incline and speed(0-12 MPH) to keep you in your target heart rate zone. You’ll need to buy the Bluetooth heart pulse reader separately.

The treadmill is joint-friendly and kin to your hips, ankles, and calves. And the dual workout fans will keep you nice and cool during longer strolls. A winner in my book!


  • High range of inclines

  • Padded surface

  • 22’’ screen

  • Smart OneTouch speed control

Could be better:

  • Sometimes lags on WiFi

  • Bluetooth pulse reader sold separately


Is Walking on an Incline Good for Weight Loss?

Walking on an incline is great for weight loss because it increases the intensity of your walk. And more effort means more calorie burning.

Is 12 Incline Good on a Treadmill?

12 incline is a great option for an effective cardio workout because 12% is a rather high level of intensity. It engages more muscle groups than a lower incline does and torches even more calories.


Our stroll for today has come to an end and now you’re ready to set that incline to be ideal for your runs and walks. Well… What incline to run on treadmill is a topic for another discussion, but we’ve discussed walks in-depth. 

I would love to hear what you think and what your experience has been like! What is the incline on a treadmill that works best for you? What is a high incline treadmill you recommend, or have you maybe tried the NordicTrack one? Do you prefer running or walking on a treadmill? What made you choose the treadmill over taking walks outside? Share your opinions and tips!

Also read:


  • The effects of grade and speed on leg muscle activations during walking // Sciencedirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966636211002827
  • A Paradigm of Uphill Running // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3707880/
  • Asymmetric walking on an incline affects aspects of positive mechanical work asymmetrically // Pubmed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35413513/
  • Effects of gradient and age on energy expenditure and fat metabolism during aerobic exercise at equal intensity in women // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9081356/
  • The Effects of Grade and Speed on Leg Muscle Activations during Walking // Researchgate: http://surl.li/jlaue

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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.

Reviewed by: Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Experience: 21 years

Best Results: Snatch – 200 kg,

C&J - 240 kg

My name is Oleksiy Torokhtiy. I am a professional athlete with 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. I have won multiple European, and World titles and have taken part in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012).

After finishing my career, I have committed myself to coach, and as of 2022, I’ve hosted 200+ weightlifting seminars all over the globe. I’m the founder of an international sportswear and accessories brand, Warm Body Cold Mind (my motto), author, and creator of a series of training programs and eBooks.

If you have any questions/suggestions/any other inquiry, you can reach out to us via email - reviews@torokhtiy.com

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