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3 Treadmill Incline Workouts to Build Strength and Speed

Get ready to tackle hills outdoors with these power-boosting intervals.

treadmill incline workout
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Yes, running outdoors can offer a lot of mind and body benefits. The fresh air and scenery seem to have a lot more to offer than a treadmill that leaves you stuck tackling miles inside. However! Running on a treadmill also has its advantages. Case in point: You can tackle specific incline workouts that get you strong and powerful to handle all the hills you encounter outdoors—and in a controlled environment. No wind or cold to hold you back.

To help you build that drive to tackle any hill, try these three treadmill incline workouts. Each one offers a new challenge that’ll keep your body strong and your mind engaged.

Power Hill Workout (50 minutes)

This workout doubles as a high-intensity interval session and builds power to help you run long and strong.

  • Warm up by walking for 2 minutes
  • Run easy for 5 minutes
  • Run for 90 seconds at a 4 to 5 percent incline at a pace that elevates your effort to the Red Zone (hard effort, breathing vigorously, can’t talk); recover with a very easy jog at 0 percent incline for 3 minutes
  • Repeat 8 times
  • Run easy for 5 minutes
  • Cool down by walking for 2 minutes

    Trainer tip: The quality of your performance on the hill intervals depends greatly on the quality of your easy jog recovery in between. Make sure to go slowly enough to get your breathing and heart rate down before you attempt the next hill interval.

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    Incline Tempo Workout (45 minutes)

    This is an effective combination of a tempo run and hill workout. It will boost your redline threshold and will teach you how to run hills by feel, a skill that will pay off on race day.

    • Warm up by walking for 2 minutes
    • Run easy for 8 minutes
    • Run 5 minutes at a 1 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to the top of the Orange Zone, or Zone 4, if you use a heart rate monitor
    • Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover
    • Run 5 minutes at a 2 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to where it was on the previous hill
    • Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover
    • Run 5 minutes at a 3 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to where it was on the previous hill
    • Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover
    • Run 5 minutes at a 4 percent incline and at a pace that elevates your effort level to where it was on the previous hill
    • Jog or walk for 2 minutes to recover
    • Run easy for 5 minutes
    • Cool down by walking for 2 minutes

      Trainer tip: The secret to running this workout optimally is to tune into your effort level (or heart rate) and find the pace that puts you in the target zone on the given day. The pace will slow as the incline increases with each repetition.

      Mindfully Long Incline Workout (50-60+ minutes)

      This workout is all about running mindfully, getting in the flow of hill running, and building endurance.

      • Warm up by walking for 2 minutes
      • Run easy for 8 minutes
      • Run 1 mile at a 3 percent incline at an easy effort in the Yellow Zone or Zone 2 for heart rate; after each mile, run 2 minutes at 0 percent incline, at a faster, but controlled Orange Zone (or Zone 3 heart rate) effort to simulate the speed of running downhill; then, run 1 minute easy (Yellow Zone) at 0 percent before moving on to the next rep
      • Repeat 3 times
      • Run easy for 5 minutes
      • Cool down by walking for 2 minutes

        Trainer tip: Adjust your speed to truly run easy on the incline. If you can’t hold the incline within the easy Yellow Zone, lower the incline percentage or powerwalk it until you build the fitness to do so. Ultrarunners train and race with run-walking to keep their effort at an appropriate level, and it pays off with energy conservation during longer runs and races.

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