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Treadmill Incline

Topic: Treadmill

Will Incline Walking Bulk up my Legs?

By Jillita Horton

Many women are concerned about getting “bigger” legs from using a treadmill incline (or outdoor hills). And some men will use the incline in an effort to build bigger legs. Both genders are off-base.    

First of all, haven’t you ever noticed the legs of your typical hiker? A seasoned hiker has lean, toned legs, not tree stump legs. And when an experienced hiker does have “big” legs, the rest of his or her body is big to match. Big people hike too. That’s all that means.    

There are basically two types of muscle fiber in your body: slow-twitch, and fast-twitch. Slow-twitch fiber is designed for sustained activity, such as riding a bicycle, jogging, dance classes…and of course, walking. These are aerobic activities that recruit slow-twitch muscle.     

Slow-twitch fibers do not grow in size. If they did, then marathon runners—who work the daylights out of their slow-twitch fibers—would have colossal legs. Slow-twitch fibers become highly efficient with the proper training but stay the same size. 

Now, look at the people who do have large leg muscles. Do not confuse such individuals with people who have big legs from excess fat. But keep in mind that many overweight people think their ample leg volume is mostly muscle. That’s human nature, to convince yourself you have too much muscle rather than too much fat.  

What kind of activities do people with overly muscular legs do? Compare the legs of long-distance runners and hikers, to the legs of 100-meter-dash specialists or competitive bodybuilders. And speed-skaters!  

In exercise that involves short bursts of intense energy, or short-durations of power and speed, the slow-twitch fibers are initially recruited. But they quickly “realize” that they can’t handle the job! So, the fast-twitch fibers take over to get the job done.     

Fast-twitch fibers, under the right training conditions, have the capacity to grow in size. They get bigger. But this doesn’t mean that just because you engage in short stints of high-voltage lower-body workouts, that your legs will hulk out. Fast-twitch fibers can be very stubborn when it comes to increasing in size.  

The bodybuilder with the huge thighs doesn’t do barbell leg squats for 30 nonstop minutes. He perhaps does only 10 repetitions for a total of just one minute (short duration, high intensity), because the barbell is too heavy to sustain the action. Fast-twitch fibers are the dominant force here. Same with speed-skaters, who are known to have bulky legs. Think of how they move on the ice. One explosive stride after another. Short-distance speed-skaters have bigger legs than the long-distance speed-skaters.   

 If you spend an hour everyday walking on an incline, your legs will not bulk up. That’s great news for women. And sorry guys, your dreams of getting beefed up legs aren’t going to happen on a treadmill or hiking trail.  

 If a woman wishes to slim down her legs, she must take measures to sheer off the layers of fat that are making her legs big. This can be accomplished by only one thing: Burn off more calories than you are eating.    

And this happens when you eat less, in combination with exercising more. If you’re already eating sensibly, then your greater variable is your exercise routine. It needs upgrading. It needs more intensity.    

For example, suppose you currently spend 30 minutes on a treadmill several times a week, at 3 mph and a 5 percent incline. Be daring and increase the speed to 4 mph. Make your legs pump! If you get too winded to continue at this speed, then slow down to 3 mph for a few minutes to regain some energy, then fire back up at 4 mph.

If you like a higher incline, apply the same principle. Increase the speed. Or, if you’ve been using a low incline all along, keep the speed the same, but raise the incline all the way up. Offer your body variety. Use different speeds and inclines so that your body doesn’t become too adapted to the same settings all the time.

Walking with an incline burns tremendous calories, provided the settings are forcing you to work really hard.

Special note: Do not hold onto the treadmill unless you are taking a momentary heart rate check or turning around to greet someone. Otherwise, your arms should be swinging the entire time. Holding on literally cancels out the effect of the incline. If you can’t walk unless you hold on, then the settings are beyond your capacity. In that case, adjust speed/and or incline so that you can walk without hanging on, yet at the same time, feel very challenged. Remember, when you walk outdoors, you don’t hold onto anything, so why hold onto a machine?



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