How to Increase Lower Leg Toning While on the Treadmill

Raise the incline to build calf muscles on the treadmill.

Raise the incline to build calf muscles on the treadmill.

If you adore the treadmill but aren't gaining the shapely calf muscles you desire, fear not. With a bit of tweaking, you can increase lower leg toning during your workout. Not only will you sculpt your leg muscles by using the treadmill, you will also boost your heart and lung function while managing your weight. If you walk on the treadmill, do 150 to 300 minutes per week or do 75 to 150 minutes per week if you run.

Increase the incline. Whether you're walking at a leisurely pace or running your heart out, moving uphill forces your muscles to fight gravity; the extra work will make your lower legs stronger and more toned. Set your treadmill program to a hill or mountain setting, or control your own incline with the incline up and down arrows on the control panel. Hills are tougher to navigate than flat land, so start with an easy program level or only walk uphill in brief intervals if you set the incline manually. For example, stay at 0 percent incline for two minutes, increase the incline to 8 percent for a minute, and then repeat the cycle for the duration of your workout. Over time, increase the incline to maximum for your uphill intervals.

Perform walking lunges. These help develop the gastrocnemius and soleus calf muscles as well as the tibialis anterior muscles of your shins. Warm up with five minutes of moderate walking and then set the treadmill to 1 mph with a 15-percent incline. While holding the railing for balance, step forward with one leg and then bend both knees to 45-degree angles. Push back up and repeat with the other leg in front; continue so that every step goes into a lunge. Continue for a minute or two and then return to normal walking. Work up to two or three sets of walking lunges.

Walk backward. It takes some getting used to, but you'll work your calves harder and also build more muscle in your quads and glutes. Start with the speed at 1 mph until you get the technique down comfortably and then work your way up to 2.5 mph. While holding the railings for safety, walk backward for two minutes, walk forward for two minutes at 3 to 4 mph, and repeat the cycle for the duration of your workout.

Tip

  • Grip the treadmill railings lightly. Don't support your weight with your hands and arms.

Warnings

  • See your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
  • Wear shoes specifically made for walking or running.
  • Avoid using ankle weights on the treadmill; they increase your risk of muscle injury, according to MayoClinic.com.
 

About the Author

Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.

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