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November 15, 2023 4 min read

We have to admit that exercising on a treadmill has countless health benefits. Even better, walking or running on the running exercise machine is an excellent exercise source, which puts less pressure on the joints of the body than walking or running on a flat surface outdoors. We all have different goals when walking uphill on the running exercise machine. Some want to burn more calories. Others like well-toned glutes. But can running exercise machine incline walking make your calves bigger? Read further to know more about this exercise and how to do it correctly.

Exercising on a Treadmill Has Countless Health Benefits

Can exercising on a running exercise machine incline build calves?
Some people are wary about running exercise machine incline walking for fear that it can make their calves bigger. It is probably because we often associate that burning feeling on our legs after exercise with muscle growth. But that’s not how it works. To debunk this fitness myth, we need to understand the muscles in our body and how specific exercises affect them. And two types of muscle fibers develop when we work out. One type is the slow-twitch muscles, and the other is the fast-twitch muscles. How are they different? Slow-twitch muscle fibers work during aerobic or endurance activities like walking, running and dancing. Exercise tones and makes them more efficient. But they do not grow in size. Fast-twitch muscle fibers work during anaerobic or strength activities like lifting heavy weights, sprinting and resistance training. Doing the correct exercise challenges these muscles, encouraging them to grow and bulge. Incline walking workouts on a running machine will not give you bulging calves, even at maxed-out levels. That’s because it is an endurance exercise that targets slow-twitch muscles. And these muscle fibers can only firm up and tone your legs.

Incline Walking Workouts on a Running Machine Will not Give You Bulging Calves

How should you work out on a running exercise machine for better calves?
From the comparison above, we can now conclude that incline walking on a running exercise machine will not make your calves bigger. It will only happen if you perform more intense workouts than this to recruit your fast-twitch muscles. So, if you have been exercising on an inclined running exercise machine for shapely but not bulging calves, then you’re on the right track. But for beginners, here’s how to start your calf training workout with a running exercise machine. I’ve also added some workout ideas for variety.

1. Change your regular running exercise machine walks into slow uphill walks
The best way to achieve defined calves is to use the treadmill incline and walk uphill. One study showed that leg muscle activation increases when walking on sloped surfaces. Other researchers also concluded that this exercise could benefit people with weakened ankles. That means incline walking gives more benefits other than shapelier legs. The key to this exercise is to set the running exercise machine incline high and its speed low. Keeping your movement slow will not boost your heart rate as much, but it can redirect the energy and blood to your calves. You can try this guide to get started:

  • Warm up by walking for about 5 minutes.
  • Keep this speed, or ramp it to a level that will not make you breathless. Then, adjust the incline to 3%. Continue walking for 3 minutes.
  • Add 1% incline every 3 minutes until you reach 8%.
  • Cool down by walking at 0% incline for 5 minutes.

Keep your back straight when doing this exercise. Also, push up your calves at every step. If you start struggling, lower the incline level first, then your speed. Just adjust the running exercise machine settings later when you’re ready. Also, to make this workout more challenging, aim to boost the incline level up to 12%.

2. Try doing the 12-3-30 running exercise machine workout
Running exercise machine incline walking for the calves is challenging at first. But once you get used to it, it will be great to try all sorts of incline exercises. Steady incline, speed walking and interval training are some variations. Doing them can spice up your daily workouts and make them less repetitive. One similar variation is the viral 12-3-30 workout. It works by setting your motorized treadmill at a 12% incline and 3 mph speed, then walking for 30 minutes. I like this mainly because it is not only for toning your calves. It’s also a low-impact exercise that combines cardio workouts and muscle activation. It can improve your stamina, too. The only downside I can think of is it can lead to boredom, considering you’ll be walking uphill at the same pace for 30 minutes. So, if you wish to try this, I suggest doing it while playing your favorite workout playlist. The more upbeat, the better!

3. Add ankle weights to your running exercise machine routine
Ankle weights are sand-filled bands that you can wrap around your ankles. And wearing these while walking on a running machine increases the resistance on your calves. It also intensifies your workout, boosting your heart rate and caloric burn. Using ankle weights while working out is not for everyone, though. People with pre-existing joint issues should probably not wear them to avoid injury. It’s also best to consult your doctor or fitness instructor before adding ankle weights to your workout. When you get the go-ahead, use weights at least 1% but no more than 2% of your body weight. Also, start with a walking routine before progressing to incline walking. To avoid leg injuries, take them off every minute or so during workouts. You can also use it during your recovery periods.

If you’re after serious leg muscle building, you need to do anaerobic exercises, like weightlifting, to stimulate your fast-twitch muscles. Dietary changes should be in place as well. But if your goal is to get toned legs without making them too muscular, then walking uphill, an aerobic exercise, is the way to go. Using the treadmill incline will not make your calves bigger. But it can work your lower legs better than exercising on a flat surface. Wearing ankle weights during your incline walks can even boost the health benefits you get.

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