Why Running on the Treadmill Won't Cut It

Those hours on the treadmill may not be as worthwhile as you think. Learn more about why you should rethink running on a treadmill.

The key to sports success is training for functionality. To be a successful athlete, your overall musculature needs to be responsive and powerful.

How muscles perform on the field or court comes down to the training methods used. Coaches of sports that involve a lot of running and sprinting usually prescribe "'homework" for their athletes: simple assignments like 20- or 30-minute runs for conditioning or logging a couple of miles in the morning.

For convenience, most athletes turn to the treadmill for running. But the treadmill has disadvantages for athletes who want their bodies to be in proper working order.

A Look at Your Muscles

A certain event sequence needs to happen in a proper running stride. Typically, the muscles of your posterior chain should fire—first the glutes, then the hamstrings and finally the low back muscles. Using the treadmill can create issues in the posterior chain's firing capacity. Why? Because you're not making any real effort to push over the ground. The moving belt is pulling your leg through on every stride, leaving less work for your body and causing the hip flexors and quads to fire to pick your knees up. Over time, this can create muscular imbalances, dominance issues, and joint problems.

Why This Matters

Dysfunctions in the posterior chain can lead to injury, cutting your training lifespan without notice. On the playing field, agility, quick starts & stops and explosiveness require good muscular balance and stable joints. Every little thing matters, right down to whether you use a treadmill.

If you do use a treadmill, it's important to take precautions, like ensuring that your posterior chain is trained sufficiently during weightlifting sessions. Exercises like the Squat and the Deadlift can help, but here are some additional tips:

• When lunging, lunge backwards and even add a deficit. When you step forward, the quads fire first. When you step back, the glutes fire first, which is what you want to happen.
• Substitute Romanian Deadlifts for conventional Deadlifts to minimize the involvement of your quads and hips
• Add more glute bridges and hip thrusts to your routine
• Perform Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats as frequently as you do Barbell Squats.
• Before adding weight for leg training, look to expand your range of motion.
• If at all possible, run outside! 


It's easy to hop on the hamster wheel and throw down for half an hour. But now that you know the facts, it might not be the smartest move. Before you head to the gym next time, think twice about the treadmill. Step outside instead. You'll be looking like Usain Bolt in no time.

Photo credit: treadmillworkouts.com

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