treadmills for hiit

The Best HIIT Treadmill Workouts

One of the top training trends in the fitness industry these days is High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT). Not only can these kinds of workouts be quick and practical, the "high intensity" of these kinds of exercises can also be a unique challenge on a treadmill.

There are more than a few different ways that you can get a HIIT workout, such as spin classes, boot-camp style workouts, Tabata, and bodyweight intervals. Most people may not traditionally think of using a Treadmill for HIIT, as it is usually used for steady-state training, either walking or jogging. But it is possible.

While your body may be able to adapt rapidly to the same kind of workouts you always do, you risk the dreaded plateau setting in. A treadmill is a great way that you can break the cycle and get a great HIIT workout that gets results.

Let’s go over a quick explanation of how HIIT works before going into specific HIIT workouts on the treadmill.

The 2 Key HIIT Factors: Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers and the After-Burn Effect

HIIT uses fast-twitch muscle fibers because of the higher intensity. These fast twitch fibers are best for short, powerful bursts of energy. For example, when you're a football running back or a track & field sprinter, you use these fibers during anaerobic exercise. Steady-state cardio, on the other hand, uses slow-twitch muscle fibers. For endurance-type activities or aerobic exercise, like long distance running, slow-twitch muscles are used.

You might've heard that fast-twitch fibers require more calories than other fibers. Not only is this extra energy needed to help the function of the fiber when used, but also for recovery after a sporting event or a significant workout. If your exercise promotes the use of fast-twitch fibers, you'll burn more calories before and after the workout. The excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is known as the "after-burn effect," allowing your body to continue to burn calories after your exercise session.

What is HIIT on a Treadmill?

It may take a little experimentation to find optimal settings when using a treadmill for your HIIT workouts. To design a great HIIT workout, you'll want to adjust both the speed and incline settings, as both factors play an essential role.

Find a setting that you can't sustain for longer than one minute. If you're a beginner, this could be 5mph on a without an incline. If you've been running for a while and building up your endurance, you might try 10mph on an incline.

It's essential to learn what your HIIT limit is as you experiment. After one minute, you should feel pretty tired, and you'll likely want to slow things down a bit.

After you’ve gone all out for at least sixty seconds (your work interval), reduce speed and go “easy” for up to two minutes (your recovery interval). The specifics of your recovery will depend on your fitness level. This may be a 2.5 mph walk at a flat incline or a light job at 4-5 mph. You should feel ready to go again after a one-to-two minute recovery period.

Workout Structure

A HIIT workout should start with a warmup and then progress into one-minute intervals at 80% to 90% effort. After this you should follow up with a two-minute recovery interval with reduced effort. Repeat this for several cycles.

Runners should know that the recovery internal speed should be three miles per hour less than the speed required for your work interval.


One way to gauge your levels when starting out on a treadmill is to use the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale or RPE. If you’re running at an RPE of 1, you’re doing very low endurance, but if you’re running at a 9 to 10, you’re going to be gasping for breath and unable to speak. For a very fit person, they should be aiming to reach that 9 to 10 level. Beginners or less conditioned athletes should shoot for a 6 or 7.

Working out for as hard as you can for one minute, followed by one to two minutes of recovery, is one cycle. Beginners should attempt to complete 6 to 8 cycles at first. Before starting, you’ll want to warm up for 6 to 10 minutes. You might even try doing a few low RPE intervals just to get physically acclimated.

How to do HIIT on a Treadmill?

Here’s a basic HIIT treadmill workouts:

  • Start off walking briskly and slowly escalate into a light jog. Do this for 10 minutes
  • At 10 mph, start running for 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • Walk for 2 minutes at 3.5 mph
  • Repeat this rotation 7 more times for 8 cycles total
  • If you’re still haven’t worked out as hard as you think you can, you can add an incline to the treadmill
  • Cool-down by walking for 5 minutes, then stretching and drinking plenty of water.

  • Treadmill Workouts

    As you get some experience with these kinds of HIIT treadmill workout routines, you should attempt creating your own workouts. For example, this is a favorite set up that has worked well for some trainers and their clients.

  • 5 minutes of warm up, walking at a brisk pace.
  • Start running at 7mph for 1 minute, then follow it up by 2 minutes at 5.5 mph. Repeat this about 5 times. (Should take you about 15 minutes)
  • Recover by walking for 1 minute.
  • Run for 30 seconds at 10 mph, followed by 1 minute at 4mph. Repeat this for about 8 minutes.
  • Cool-down with a 5-minute walk.
  • 0:01 – 5:00: Walk or job at an RPE of 5, increase the incline slightly without increasing your speed. You should be at RPE 6 by the end of the first 5 minutes.
  • 5:00 – 7:00: Increase your speed, running at an RPE of 7.
  • 7:00 – 9:00: Now, increase the incline, running at an RPE of 8.
  • 9:00 – 12:00: Reduce your speed, keeping the same incline, at an RPE of 7.
  • 12:00 – 15:00: Increase speed again, and the incline if you can. These last 3 minutes of the workout should be your most intense, so try and get to an RPE of 9.
  • 15:00 -20:00: Reduce speed and incline. Cool down at an RPE of 4.

  • HIIT Treadmill Sprint

  • 0:00 – 2:00: 6mph at an incline of 1%.
  • 2:00 – 6:00: Switch between 10mph at a 3% incline for 30 seconds, and 4mph at a 3% incline at 30 seconds.
  • 6:00 – 8:00: Run at 6mph at an incline of 1%
  • 8:00 – 12:00: Switch between 10 mph at a 4% incline for 30 seconds, and 4mph at a 4% incline.
  • 12:00 - 14:00: 6mph at an incline of 1%.
  • 14:00 – 18:00: Do 10 mph at a 3% incline for 10 mph, and then a 4mph at a 3% incline at 30 seconds.
  • 18:00 – 20:00: 6 mph at an incline of 1%
  • 20:00 – 22:00: 4 mph at an incline of 1%
  • Conclusion

    Make sure you push yourself. If you want results with HIIT, you will get back the effort you invest.

    Always be safe and smart when using a treadmill. Know that you can hurt yourself on this kind of machine, so always be aware of safety features, such as where the emergency shut off is located. Try not to run holding the handles.

    How often should you exercise? Try to get in about 2 HIIT workouts per week, incorporating your other favorite activities.

    Many treadmills already have preexisting interval-based programs already in the console. These kinds of applications can be helpful when you're having trouble keeping on top of your speed and incline. Look for treadmills with iFit or the science back Sprint 8 program.