The Ultimate Treadmill Warm-Up, According To Our Run Coach

Use this warmup to kick off your next treadmill session effectively.

No matter where you stand on the “Is the treadmill better than running outdoors?” debate, before you do any type of treadmill workout, you should do a warm-up on the treadmill. 

Then, if you plan to do an actual structured treadmill workout or a longer treadmill running session, you can get into the bulk of the interval training on the treadmill.

Similarly, if you are using the treadmill as a cardio warm-up before doing exercises like lunges, squats, deadlifts, or other strength training exercises, you will also need to have a good treadmill warm-up routine.

In this guide, we will discuss the benefits of using the treadmill for a warm-up before strength training or before interval training and practical suggestions for how to do a treadmill warm-up based on your fitness level and the type of workout you will perform.

We will cover: 

Let’s get started!

The treadmill can be a great training tool for distance runners, particularly for hill training, running in bad weather, and doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT workouts).

A person warming up on a treadmill.

Should I Warm Up Before Running on the Treadmill?

Here are the top benefits of doing a treadmill warm-up for runners before a treadmill running workout:

  • A treadmill warm-up will help prepare your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems for a more intense run.
  • A treadmill warm-up eases you into your workout mentally and physically.
  • Doing a warm-up on the treadmill before starting high-intensity interval training or running at faster speeds will reduce the risk of injury by increasing circulation and range of motion in lower body muscle groups.

Is the Treadmill a Good Warm Up for Lifting Weights?

With the strength athletes or everyday athletes striving for weight loss that I train as a certified personal trainer, we also use the treadmill religiously as a warm-up tool before workouts with dumbbells, kettlebells, or other weights.

I also sometimes throw in some high-intensity interval training treadmill running into circuit training workouts between reps of weight lifting exercises for clients who are trying to lose weight.

People running on treadmills.

Here are the benefits of doing a treadmill workout before strength training exercises such as squats, lunges, or other lower body exercises:

  • Doing a warm-up on the treadmill will increase your heart rate and, therefore, blood circulation to your muscle groups.
  • A warm-up before strength training helps activate your central nervous system for more coordinated and efficient muscle contractions.
  • Consistently doing a treadmill warm up (or elliptical warm-up) before lifting weights helps build in cardio exercise to meet the physical activity guidelines for adults.1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 2). How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm Weightlifters who spend a lot of time lifting weights don’t always have as much gym time to devote to aerobic exercise, so doing a longer warm-up and cool-down before and after strength training can help you get in your cardiovascular conditioning.
  • Brisk walking on the treadmill or light jogging before lifting weights will help mobilize your joints and increase your range of motion before doing dynamic stretches.2Iwata, M., Yamamoto, A., Matsuo, S., Hatano, G., Miyazaki, M., Fukaya, T., Fujiwara, M., Asai, Y., & Suzuki, S. (2019). Dynamic Stretching Has Sustained Effects on Range of Motion and Passive Stiffness of the Hamstring Muscles. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine18(1), 13–20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6370952/
  • Like the elliptical, a treadmill warm-up can provide a full-body cardiovascular warm-up while also warming up all of the muscles of your lower body, such as the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, hip flexors, adductors, and core muscles. As long as you are not holding onto the handrails, a treadmill warm-up also will warm up your upper body.
A windmill stretch.

What is an Effective Treadmill Warm-Up Routine for Runners?

The best treadmill warm-up will depend on your fitness level, the type of treadmill workout you are doing, or whether you are just doing the treadmill as a cardio warm-up before strength training exercises.

Generally, for runners who are going to be doing a distance run on the treadmill— running for a certain number of minutes or miles at a steady pace—a treadmill warm-up might involve 1 to 2 minutes of brisk walking and then some easy jogging.

Then, you might hop off and do a few reps of lower body dynamic stretches such as a lunge matrix or bodyweight squats before doing your 30 minute treadmill run, 60 minute treadmill run, etc.

After the bulk of your treadmill run is done at your regular pace, you would end the workout with a few minutes of brisk walking as a cool down.

You can follow a similar treadmill running warm-up for interval training sessions on the treadmill before you get into the faster running reps.

However, depending on your fitness level, the warm-up for a high-intensity interval training run on the treadmill generally involves a longer time spent running at an easy pace than you might need to do for a distance run.

For example, if you are going to do a 20 minute treadmill workout involving 10 x 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, I would suggest doing at least 10 minutes of jogging before starting your first running intervals.

This will help you build in more distance if you are trying to get some aerobic exercise and hit a certain weekly mileage.

However, beginners might just do 3 to 5 minutes of brisk walking before starting the first running interval, as beginners are still building up cardiovascular endurance and don’t have the stamina or leg strength to do excessive jogging before the actual HIIT workout begins.

People walking on treamills.

How Do you Start a Beginner Treadmill Workout?

For beginners who are just starting to run, a treadmill warm-up generally involves starting at an easy walking pace and then moving into a brisk walking pace after a minute or two. 

After five minutes of walking, you can move into your run/walk treadmill intervals and then finish with a cool down at an easy walking pace to guide your heart rate back down to resting levels.

As beginners get stronger and build cardiovascular endurance, transition the warm-up routine to light jogging instead of brisk walking.

However, until you can run at least a mile without stopping, I usually suggest using the warm up as a time to focus on brisk walking. 

You will still increase your heart rate and get prepared to run while working your joints through a good range of motion with less impact.

After the running portion of the workout is over, you should always do a cool down. 

Brisk walking and slowing down into an easy walking pace followed by stretches off the treadmill can help reduce soreness and decrease the risk of injury.

Getting into the habit of doing a thorough warm-up and cool-down as you are starting to establish your fitness routine will help promote recovery and establish good wellness habits as you move forward and your fitness level progresses.

A person on a treadmill.

How Do you Warm Up on a Treadmill Before Weights?

When you are doing a treadmill warm-up before strength training, I suggest a combination of brisk walking and jogging.

For example, start with two minutes of brisk walking and then work into jogging for 4 to 5 minutes. If you want to do a longer warm-up, running for a mile after you’ve done a couple of minutes at a comfortable walking pace is a great goal.

Just make sure that for any significant amount of running on the treadmill, you are wearing proper running shoes rather than weightlifting shoes or cross-trainers.

Running shoes have more flexibility for the heel-to-toe transition and will facilitate a more natural stride.

Then, before you start with your strength training workout routine, you should spend some time doing dynamic stretches such as leg swings, push-up workouts, walking lunges, and lateral lunges to increase the range of motion in your joints before heavier exercises like barbell squats and deadlifts.

A class of people doing lunges.

You can even do certain dynamic stretches on the treadmill itself. If you set the speed to a very slow level, you can do walking lunges on the treadmill. This is surprisingly challenging and a great way to improve balance and core strength. 

If you use the incline setting, you can also get a great strengthening workout for the glutes, hamstrings, and calves if you try forward lunges up the incline.

The goal of doing a warm-up on the treadmill or elliptical before lifting weights is to increase your heart rate, “wake up” your neuromuscular system, work through a dynamic range of motion, and add aerobic exercise to your fitness routine.

This is why any strength training workout should include pre-workout cardio exercise, whether you are doing a full body workout, just targeting lower body muscle groups, or even working the upper body muscle groups.

Overall, the treadmill can be one of the best training tools for runners, strength athletes, and everyday individuals looking to lose weight, improve cardiovascular conditioning, and achieve better overall wellness.

People smiling and running on a treadmill.

However, no matter what your fitness level is and how you use the treadmill in your fitness routine, incorporating a thorough warm-up on the treadmill will help reduce the risk of injury, increase your heart rate, warm up the muscles of your lower body, and get your mind and body ready to have a great workout.

If you are looking for some running HIIT intervals to try out on the treadmill after your warm-up routine, check out this next article:

References

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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