December 13, 2018 6 min read

Most of us know that regular exercise can help us maintain our weight, boost our energy, relieve our stress, and make us feel healthier and more confident. Even so, some forms of physical fitness may be seen by some as… well, boring. It’s tough to get excited about exercise when you face a monotonous hour running in place on the treadmill. The thought might be enough to convince you to cancel your trip to the gym.

Of course, the treadmill can be a great option for runners -- especially in the wintertime. And in 2017, there were nearly 52.97 million treadmill users throughout the United States. Clearly, a lot of people are using this device to up their fitness level. But even if the only piece of exercise equipment you own is a traditional treadmill, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with walking, jogging, or running as your only workout options. 

In fact, there are numerous exercises you can easily do with help from your treadmill that don’t involve running at all. This piece of equipment might be a lot more versatile than you thought. By using your treadmill a bit more creatively, you can fit in a whole body workout without having to sprint. Here are five ideas that will allow you to put your treadmill to good use -- no running required.

Side Shuffle

Walking or running on the treadmill while facing forward is simply too ordinary. But if you turn yourself to the side and switch up your leg movements, you’ll be able to fit in some cardio in a way that’s anything but mundane.

Start by setting your treadmill speed low (around four miles per hour) and walk forward on the belt as you normally would. Then, put your left hand on the treadmill’s front handle and your right hand on its right railing. Slowly step forward with your left foot and turn your whole body (including both feet) towards the right side of the treadmill. This will place you in the correct position to execute this exercise.

Start your side shuffle by taking a large side-step with your left foot towards the front of the treadmill, with your right foot following suit. You’ll need to press your palms down on the handle and rail in order to obtain the proper hopping motion. When you land on your right foot, repeat this exercise for up to a minute. Then, go through the process again to switch to the left side and perform the exercise for up to a minute. Voila! A more amusing way to fit in your cardio.

Pull-Ups and Push-Ups

If you thought your treadmill was just for cardio exercises though, you’re dead wrong. You can actually use this type of exercise equipment to increase your overall strength and tone. Your treadmill will be turned off for these exercises, allowing you to utilize the actual structure of the machine to aid in your workout.

You don’t necessarily need a hanging bar in your home gym to do pull-ups; the side railings on your treadmill will do just fine. Start by sitting down on the center of the belt with your back towards the front of the treadmill. Your knees should be bent and the soles of your feet should be on the belt. Place one hand on each side railing with your palms facing inwards. Then, press your weight into your heels and lift yourself up off the belt. Make sure to engage your core and your buttox to keep the belt from moving. Your chest should be parallel to the ground, so lean back a bit if you need to readjust. You’ll then want to bend your elbows to bring your chest towards the middle of the railings (be careful not to drop your hips!). Slowly release your arms with control so they’re extended. Repeat this last section until you’ve completed 10 reps. You can do up to three sets of these reps, total.

Did you know you can do push-ups on your treadmill, too? You can do them on a bit of an incline using the main body of the treadmill (where the monitor and handles are) as leverage. Start by placing your palms on the front handle(s) of the treadmill and taking a few steps backward on the belt. Then, bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the front bar. While doing this, your body should be in a straight line and your core should be engaged. Then, press up through your palms and extend your elbows. Repeat this last section until you’ve completed 10 reps. Just like with the push-ups, you can do up to three sets of these reps, total.

Plank Crawls

Planks are a great way to engage the core and build muscle. While you can do them just about anywhere, the structure of your treadmill can make it easier to be innovative with your planks.

For instance, you can try a backwards plank crawl. In this exercise, you’ll keep your treadmill turned off -- but you’ll actually end up moving the belt manually. Start standing with your back facing the front of the treadmill. Get into plank position from there, with your feet on the front part of the machine and your hands facing down on the belt. While you keep your legs extended, use your palms to push the belt forward. As you do this, lift one hand at a time and place it under its corresponding shoulder. Essentially, you’ll be walking your hands backward while you push the belt forward at a consistent pace.

Alternatively, you can do this same exercise with your feet on the floor while you’re facing the front of the treadmill. If you feel your treadmill won’t provide the stability you need while facing backwards, you can do your plank this way and have only your hands on the treadmill belt.


If you thought you could only do lunges while standing still, think again. This exercise has become quite popular for toning one’s derriere and there are loads of inventive ways to get your squat on.

If you liked doing the side shuffle, you might enjoy doing lunges this way, too. Your treadmill should be set to a low speed (around .5 miles per hour). Start by walking forward, placing your left hand on the front handle and your right hand on the right side railing. Step forward with your left foot and turn so your whole body is facing the right side of the treadmill. Start by bending your left knee into a side lunge. Your left knee should be positioned straight over the toes of your left foot, with your right leg straight. Press down into your left heel while you step your right foot over your left foot. Then, step out your left foot towards the front of the treadmill to bring you back to your initial position. Repeat this process for 30 seconds and then reposition yourself on towards the treadmill’s right side to do the sequence on the other side.

You can do lunges on the treadmill without the moving belt, too. You can do a basic lunge while standing on a powered-off treadmill with your arms reaching back for a deep stretch. For those who would rather do their lunges on solid ground, you can use your treadmill in another way. Stand on the ground below your treadmill, facing away from it. Place one foot on the belt of the treadmill and push it backwards to move the belt until you reach a full lunge. Then, slide your foot back towards you and come to a standing position. Repeat on the other side.

Leg Lifts

Another excellent way to engage your core during exercise is to do some knee raises or leg lifts. The structure of your treadmill can help here, as well.

You can use those side railings again by doing some cross-legged knee raises. With the treadmill powered off, stand on the belt and with your back facing the front of the machine. Place one hand on each railing and press into your palms to lift yourself off the ground by extending your elbows. Keep your ankles crossed but open your knees out towards the sides. With your ankles still crossed, engage your core to bring your knees in towards your chest. Slowly lower your knees to complete the rep and repeat until you’ve done 10 reps.

Another version of this same exercise can allow you to lift your legs entirely so that you’re supporting yourself in a lifted sitting position. You’ll be facing backwards with the treadmill off for this one, too. Keep your hands on the treadmill railings and straighten your elbows until you’re in a raised position. Then, lift your legs (keeping them straight) until they are parallel to the ground. Hold this position until you’re fatigued.

You can expand on the above exercise by maintaining that held position and drawing both knees to your chest in a set of reps. Your body should be suspended the entire time and your feet should not touch the belt until the last rep has been completed.

As you can see, the treadmill can be used for so much more than running or walking. If you’re a non-runner who previously saw no value in owning this piece of exercise equipment, you may want to rethink your fitness strategy. In many ways, a treadmill can actually replace the need for several other, less versatile workout tools. Subsequently, it’s a good investment that can quickly become your go-to to achieve your fitness goals.

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