This Treadmill-Based HIIT Move Will Shock You

Lara Rosenbaum
by Lara Rosenbaum
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This Treadmill-Based HIIT Move Will Shock You

We all know treadmills can come in handy when the weather is crummy or even as a matter of convenience. We also know it can be a long, boring slog on those machines. But this ubiquitous piece of gym equipment didn’t earn the “dreadmill” nickname for nothing.

Deadmills are a high-intensity workout method that can help you beat boredom and challenge your running muscles (including your heart) in a major, calorie-torching way.


You can complete a deadmill workout on virtually any type of treadmill; the key is to have the machine switched off.

Yep, that’s right. You’ll be the one powering the belt.

To start, keep your treadmill flat and start walking on it, moving the belt with your feet. You’ll likely want (or need) to lean slightly forward and hold onto the front of the treadmill or the rails, and that’s completely OK.


Notice that resistance? “It will challenge your glutes and hamstrings more than you’d experience if the treadmill was switched on,” says Jeff Cavaliere, certified strength and conditioning specialist and Athlean-X creator based in Connecticut. “As a high-intensity workout, it’s even more effective than sprinting, because it’s a resistance exercise, like running with a parachute. You’ll fully engage the muscles all along your posterior chain.”

The other thing about deadmills is that they’re, in Cavaliere’s words, “hard as hell. It won’t take long to get your heart rate up,” he says. That means you can get a quick power workout (which can help strengthen your running muscles and, in turn, boost your speed) in a matter of minutes.



Once you’ve gotten the hang of how the treadmill feels with the power switched off, begin your run. Cavaliere suggests running for 30 seconds as hard as you can and then walking (or resting off the treadmill) for 30–60 seconds, depending on your fitness level. “Anytime you exercise at 70% of your maximum heart rate or higher, you’re doing a high-intensity workout,” Cavaliere says. “The key is maintaining it. You can get a harder workout in faster, but the intervals need to stay short.”

For a full HIIT deadmill workout, Cavaliere recommends aiming for 10 minutes of total exercise. Once it becomes easy (or in this case, noticeably easier), set the treadmill on an incline before shutting it off for an extra challenge.

About the Author

Lara Rosenbaum
Lara Rosenbaum

Lara is a writer, athlete and wellness expert living in Nashville, Tennessee. She has held editorial positions at several magazines, including Women’s Health, where she was the founding fitness editor. Lara is a former elite athlete, traveling the world as a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, as well as a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher. In her free time she enjoys playing with her dogs, spotting art and strumming her guitar.

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5 responses to “This Treadmill-Based HIIT Move Will Shock You”

  1. Avatar BusyBeeMeli says:

    I’m a little skeptical to try this, should a person be concerned this will wreck the treadmill motor or other inner components of the mechanism that runs the treadmill belt?!

    • Avatar Austin Carter says:

      It won’t do immediate damage, but it will over time. The friction from the belt being pushed down against the deck of the treadmill (from your body weight and from pressing hard to push the belt back) will wear out the belt and deck faster than typical, and your gym will have to replace those parts earlier than normal. Also, I could see fitness center staff stopping someone doing that on their treadmills. If you’re interested in doing this, I would recommend looking for a machine called the “HIITMill”. It does not have a motor, is built on an incline, and is made for this exact type of exercise.

  2. Avatar Des Shillingford says:

    I feel sorry for GYM owners with this advice. Do it on your own treadmill by all means, but please don’t use the one at the GYM it wrecks them for all of us, and at our GYM it will be 4 months before its fixed.

  3. Avatar 80110x says:

    Why is so much of the fitness pal advice dodgy?

  4. Avatar Joe says:

    Do not do this. It is very damaging.

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