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A Personal Trainer’s Guide To Incline Workouts.

A Personal Trainer’s Guide To Incline Workouts

March 22, 2022

As a personal trainer, you work with all sorts of clients. Each one has a different physique, fitness goals, and exercise preference. It’s your job as a personal trainer to learn as much as you can about your client so that you can choose what you feel will be the most effective workout style for them. This is your guide to incline workouts.

One thing that personal trainers often struggle with is finding ways to mix up the monotony of workouts, especially when it comes to cardio. Clients often get bored if prompted to do the same type of exercise over and over again, so it’s important to switch things up.

Incorporating incline training into a cardio session could be just what your client needs to get excited about their workout and burn calories in the process. Increasing incline levels can have multiple benefits that will stand out to different types of individuals.

Incline Training Provides High Intensity

Steady-state cardio will yield results for a short while, but will easily and quickly hit a plateau until you continue to make workouts harder for the client. The truth is, a steady pace is just plain easier for the body to get used to because it only primarily works the cardiovascular system of the body.

A HIIT workout places stress on the body to perform the drastically different demands of different workouts. Inducing as much stress during your cardio sessions by adding incline training will elevate your client’s heart rate more quickly. They will achieve the “fat-burning zone” faster and remain in that zone longer for maximal fat loss during the session and the recovery period.

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For example, if you know you are going to be doing the same activity for 30 minutes straight, you have to choose a pace that you can sustain for that amount of time. However, if you are altering the incline and resistance, you can choose a more challenging setting. In the latter example, you are only pushing your body for the higher point of your interval, which can vary depending on your time frame.

Benefits Of Incline Workouts

In recent years, researchers have discovered the benefits of incline workouts. Studies prove that this cardio style provides full-body benefits without putting unnecessary strain on the body, including:

  • Burning calories
  • Strength training
  • Increasing your endurance

Our innovators here at TRUE Fitness have also recognized the need to step it up (the incline that is) by giving users an even better training experience. As such, we are proud to announce the release of the Alpine Runner, the newest home treadmill of TRUE’s HIIT Series.

Burn More Calories

It is common knowledge that running burns more calories than walking—if both are on a flat surface. However, by increasing the incline of the treadmill as you walk, you may find that you are burning just as many calories or more, depending on the incline level. It has been scientifically proven that users burn more calories exercising on an incline than on a flat surface.

On the Alpine Runner, you are able to burn more calories than a traditional treadmill incline because of the wide range between the -3% decline level and 30% incline. These calories can be tracked and burned in a more entertaining manner by utilizing the new Ignite console.

Build More Muscle

According to Team USA track and field coach Jason Fitzgerald, “As the incline increases, the muscles are forced to do more work as the body must produce more power to propel itself not only forward but also up against gravity.”

To put into numbers, an average user walking at only a 9% incline level increases the activity of calf muscles, glute, and hamstring engagement by 175%, 635%, and 345% respectively. According to the same study, the steeper the incline level, the higher the activity level in the leg, hip, knee, and ankle muscles.

Reduce Strain & Improve Cardiovascular Health

Have you or your client ever experienced pain when running on a flat treadmill? On a flat surface, you can experience uncomfortable strain on joints that cause common injuries to the lower body. Walking uphill decreases the impact the body feels on the knees, hips, back, and ankles.

The American Heart Association says that incline training also reduces strain on the heart, lowering blood pressure and decreasing the chances of cardiovascular disease. In addition, incline training has capabilities to decrease chances of diabetes development by improving insulin sensitivity.

TRUE Fitness innovators have addressed this issue as well. With the redesigned cushioning system, the deck of the Alpine Runner relieves impact and feels softer than other treadmills on the market. Also available for comfort are the vertical, upper handgrips designed to be held at any incline on the Alpine Runner along the workout process.

Best Equipment Options For Incline Training

Our top three equipment options for incline training are treadmills, ellipticals, and benches. A treadmill is the standard option, allowing the user to adjust the intensity of the incline and speed at which you’re walking or running. A treadmill is a great place to start if your client is new to incline training.

Another great option is an elliptical trainer. Similar to a treadmill you’re able to adjust the speed to whatever is most comfortable, but you’ll be working different muscles. The moving handgrips and foot platforms on most ellipticals allow you to work your upper body and lower body at the same time.

A bench is a more advanced option that allows you to lift weights or bench press on an incline or work your core and target your chest. Most health clubs have benches that can be adjusted to different incline levels to focus on your upper chest or target a different portion of the chest. Lifting weights on an incline allows you to work different muscles and put less strain on your joints. You can also use an ab bench to work your client’s core with or without weights.

How To Determine Intervals For Incline Workouts

You want the incline to get harder for your client before you drastically reduce it. This way, you can challenge clients to get their heart rate up quickly for two minutes and then drastically drop it down to recover. There are many different ways to structure these workouts so it ultimately depends on how much time you have with your client. If I had to give someone a number, I would say there need to be 12-20 minutes of “fat burning heart rate” in the duration of the workout.

If you are asking your client for 30 minutes of cardio on an Alpine Runner, but are bumping the incline up and then back down from that -3% to 30% incline range throughout the 30 minutes, 12-20 minutes of that should be spent at an elevated heart rate and the rest should be decreasing the heart rate.

It’s never too early to start mixing up your clients’ cardio routine with higher inclines. They will reduce the impact on your clients’ joints, create variety in your cardio session, and burn more calories in a smaller amount of time.

An Incline Workout Could be The Answer if…

Your Client Is In Pain

If your client feels pain while exercising, it’s up to you to help them address it and find an exercise that’s right for them. For example, if running hurts a client’s joints in any way, increase the incline on a treadmill. That way, their heart rate is elevated as if he/she were moving faster, but the impact is lighter on joints when walking or jogging rather than running.

Your Client Feels Uncomfortable

As a trainer, I hear all the time that people feel uncoordinated on a treadmill; when they run past a certain speed (or at all), they feel as if they are going to lose their balance and fall. This feeling often leads to clients leaning on the handrails of the treadmill, which decreases the muscles worked during running. In doing so, clients will ultimately burn fewer calories than when they perform the same workout without leaning on the treadmill.

Incline training can help this type of client feel safer during their workout because they’ll be training at a slower speed as the incline gets higher. That way, they won’t feel as if they are going to fall.

Your Client Is Extremely Busy

We all have that client: the busy bee who doesn’t have time to do cardio more than 10-15 minutes after their weights session or 30 minutes all together on cardio days. Incline-capable machines such as TRUE’s Alpine Runner will allow clients to burn more calories during and after their training sessions (with the help of after-burn) and will not be catabolic to lean mass. Even your busiest client can work off the calories in a shorter amount of time with incline training.

2 Unique Incline Workouts To Try With Your Clients

We’ve put together 2 unique incline workouts of varying difficulty. Each one offers its own unique challenges to keep your client engaged in their workout and burning calories.

1 – All About The Incline With The Alpine Runner

If you are new to incline walking or running, then this workout will be ideal for you to do while you are at the gym! Incline training is an efficient and easy way to improve your physical fitness while still providing many benefits to your body. Walking on an incline treadmill can offer almost double the benefits of walking at zero inclines or walking on a flat surface.

Benefits Of This Workout

Incline training on the TRUE Alpine Runner can help cut workout time in half while still burning the same amount of calories. It is also an easy way to change up any standard walking or running exercise program and challenge your body even more.

Below Are More Ways Incline Training Can Benefit You:

  • Less impact on joints.
  • Strengthens your heart.
  • Strengthens and tones your leg muscles.
  • Strengthens bones.
  • Increases overall stamina.
  • Increases fat usage for fuel.
  • Overall improvements in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and cholesterol profiles can result from a consistent exercise program.

This workout is one that can be done when you are short on time or just need a quick cardio fix at the gym. It can also be altered to fit any level of fitness whether beginner, intermediate or advanced.

The Workout

The overall goal of this workout is to start small and finish big. It will be a gradual process with the end goal of being able to consistently walk at a 9% incline range at your normal walking speed. Keep in mind that as you start to increase the incline, you may have to decrease the speed. It is all about keeping a steady heart rate!

All Incline Alpine Workout

After The Workout

After a workout like this, it is important to make sure you do a proper cool down. As noted on the workout, you can walk as a cooldown but also be sure to stretch your muscles to prevent the body from becoming sore and decrease the likeliness of injury. When doing incline training workouts, you are increasing the activity of major muscles like calf muscles, glutes, and hamstrings.

2 – Run For The Hills! Beginner-Intermediate Alpine Runner Workout

Now that you have built up your client’s stamina with the beginner Alpine Runner walking workout, they should be ready to increase the speed. Walking, jogging, or running at an incline offers many more benefits than exercising on a flat surface. By increasing the incline on the treadmill, you are almost doubling the effectiveness of your client’s cardio workout.

Research from a University of Georgia report found that uphill running activates 9 percent more muscle each stride compared with exercising at the same relative intensity on level ground. This workout incorporates some H.I.I.T. training concepts where the exerciser will be alternating between running, walking, and at some points, not moving at all. Additionally, the speed and incline vary and change to ensure their heart rate stays up and you burn calories.

Before The Workout

Be sure your client is aware that you are nearby to assist if they need help. The side step platforms and handrails are available if they need to come to a complete stop immediately, but are not there to jump on and off of the treadmill sporadically. Also, remind them to have proper posture as to not hold onto the handles and lean back during this exercise. They should have their hands off of the handrails and use their body to push into the inclines throughout the workout.

Knowing 80-90% of your client’s maximum heart rate will be helpful so that you know when you need to adjust the speed, incline, or rest interval. For example, if your client is barely able to complete an interval, check their heart rate. If they have exceeded 80-90% of their maximum heart rate, increase the duration of the upcoming rest interval and decrease the speed.

Keeping the incline will maintain the intensity of the next interval, yet the reduced speed will help keep your client safe and in control, compared to running. There will be less risk of tripping up on the treadmill when the speeds are decreased, especially if your client is starting to reach their limit.

The Workout

Run For The Hills Workout.

After The Workout

All it takes to do this workout is about 30 minutes, and that gives you time before and after the workout to prepare and recover. This workout already includes a cooldown, but be sure to take more time to cool off if needed, at least until your heart rate returns to its normal resting rate. Cooling down after a workout like this is vital so your body recovers properly and in a healthy way.

When doing incline training workouts, you are increasing the activity of major muscles like calf muscles, glutes, and hamstrings therefore, stretching afterward is a must. Utilize the TRUE Stretch and do the following stretches. Hold each stretch for 3 to 5 seconds and repeat every 5 times while breathing in your normal rhythmic pattern.

Like the Alpine Runner walking workout, the overall goal of this workout is to start small and finish big, it will be a gradual process with the end goal being able to consistently walk at a 9% incline range at your normal walking speed. Keep in mind that as you start to increase the incline, you may have to decrease the speed.

It is all about keeping a steady heart rate! Also remember – listen to your body and take breaks if you need it and only go as fast, slow, or high as you feel comfortable.


Finding the right exercise routine for your client is never an easy task, but it’s always a rewarding one. Whether they are trying to lose weight, target specific muscle groups like chest muscles, shoulder blades, shoulders, and triceps or to gain muscle. We hope that this guide to incline workouts will come in handy whenever your client complains about being bored with their cardio circuit. It’s the perfect option for someone who wants to turn things up a notch but not attempt something as intense as HIIT.

Whether you’re new to TRUE or looking to add the Alpine Runner Incline Trainer to your current cardio product lineup, our dedicated and experienced TRUE sales representatives are here to help you! Reach out to a TRUE sales representative today to take your members to new heights!