The treadmill can be a highly effective piece of gym equipment when it comes to getting fitter, burning calories and improving your aerobic performance but, surprisingly, it can also be used to build muscle. You won't suddenly develop thunder thighs, but you can build lean muscle and sculpt sexy legs using the treadmill. The secret is treadmill hill sprints.
Setting Up The Treadmill
You need a proper warm-up before increasing the incline and intensity, so prepare the treadmill for five minutes of fast walking and do some dynamic movements, such as squats and lunges. To begin with, set your incline to a 3 to 5 percent, recommends personal trainer Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance in Manhattan.
Treadmill hill sprints are tough, so you won't be able to sustain maximum effort for very long. The American Council on Exercise advise a work-to-rest ratio of two to three minutes rest for every minute of work. Perform your high intensity period for 30 to 60 seconds at an effort level of at least seven on a scale of one to 10. For your rest periods, drop the treadmill speed and work at an effort level of four to five for one to three minutes. Aim to complete as many intervals as you can in 20 to 30 minutes.
Unless you're a complete gym beginner, hill sprints alone are unlikely to result in the kind of significant muscle gain that makes legs curvy and shapely. You can either perform treadmill hill sprints once or twice a week along with two to three strength-training sessions focused on your lower body or mix strength work in with your intervals. To do this, sprint on an incline for 30 to 60 seconds, slow the treadmill down, move onto the floor and perform a set of body-weight squats or dumbbell lunges and repeat this process five to 10 times.
Diet is also a key player in building curvier legs. Although many women reduce their calorie intake to lose weight, you actually need to increase it to build muscle. Increase your daily intake by 200 to 300 calories and focus on protein-rich foods such as lean meats and fish, low-fat dairy products, beans and whole grains. If you've never performed hill sprints or used a treadmill before, you may wish to do hill jogs rather than sprints at first, then progress to sprinting once you're comfortable with the intensity.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.