Treadmill-Dumbbell Workout

How to Add Weights to Your Treadmill Workout

Dumbbells and Treadmill
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The treadmill is great for a cardio workout, but it doesn't do anything for your upper body. Dumbbells are a good choice for upper body strength exercises, but don't tax the lower body.

So, put them together and you get a challenging treadmill-dumbbell workout. One way to do it: Turn your treadmill time into a circuit workout by adding upper-body exercise intervals with dumbbells.

Treadmill-Dumbbell Workout Basics

A treadmill-dumbbell workout combines cardio and strength training and is a great way to incorporate muscle-building exercises into a cardio session. In a treadmill-dumbbell workout, you begin by walking and/or running on the treadmill. After your first treadmill interval, you pause, step off the machine, and complete an arm-focused dumbbell exercise.

Following this strength circuit, you jump back on the treadmill and complete another interval of walking and/or running. Then, alternate between on-treadmill running and off-treadmill strength training for the remainder of the session.

Benefits of a Treadmill-Dumbbell Workout

Adding dumbbells to your treadmill workout helps to increase the amount of muscle groups you're activating in a single workout. By alternating between the two, you're reaping the benefits of cross-training workouts, which help you target both muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance.

A cross-training workout like a treadmill-dumbbell session helps to mix up your routine, preventing workout boredom and mental fatigue. It also helps you train complementary muscle groups—your upper body and core is crucial in running, so targeting your arms, chest, and abs will help in your lower-body training.

Treadmill-Dumbbell Circuit Workout

This workout was inspired by Lorra Garrick, CPT. You'll need some basic equipment. Select a pair of dumbbells depending on your strength, from 5-pound to 12-pound size. Place them on the floor near the treadmill in a spot where you'll be able to do the upper body exercises. You may want to position yourself in front of a mirror so you can check your form.

Follow the format as outlined below:

  1. Warm up on the treadmill: Warm up on the machine for about five minutes, starting with an easy walk and working up to a brisk walk. Use good walking posture and form, and do not hold onto the handrails. Bend your arms 90 degrees and swing them back and forth in opposition to your stride. This will warm up your arm and shoulder muscles and joints for the upper body exercises.
  2. Increase speed for one minute: At the five-minute mark, bump up the speed to a pace where you can walk very fast for one minute, such as 4.5 to 5 mph.
  3. Pause the treadmill and get off: After the one-minute brisk walk, slow the treadmill and pause (if it has that function) or stop the machine to safely get off the treadmill.
  4. Grab the dumbbells: Position yourself in a good stance for doing upper body exercises with the dumbbells. Do two sets of eight to 12 repetitions each, performing one of the following exercises: bicep curls, front raises, lateral raises, overhead presses, or tricep extensions.
  5. Return to the treadmill: Get back onto the treadmill for one minute or more, at the same speed you were on in step 2. For an extra challenge, you can boost the speed, but refrain from sprinting.
  6. Return to the mat: Now do the next dumbbell exercise you've chosen, without a rest. Pay attention to using good form. If you are too out of breath to do it correctly, back off on the treadmill speed.
  7. Repeat this sequence until you have done all 5 of the dumbbell exercises. If you have enough time, you can repeat the upper body exercises for several sets.

Do the entire workout, alternating between the treadmill and the floor, for 20 minutes. Once you've hit the 20-minute mark, finish your session on the treadmill. Slow your pace and walk at a moderate-to-easy pace for five minutes. You might also want to do a few post-workout stretches.

For variation, your intervals on the treadmill can be longer than a minute. You can also do more than one type of upper body exercise during each interval. But if you choose to double up on arms, your heart rate might not remain as high. It's best to do just one type of dumbbell exercise each interval.

Treadmill-Dumbbell Safely

As a general rule, it's best not to carry weights in your hands when you walk or run. The hands are an unnatural place to have extra weight and it can increase strain on your neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

It's better to use the dumbbells when you are stationary for upper body work. If you want to add weight to your body for cardio exercise, that is best done with a weight vest. That would allow you to use proper walking arm motion, which is more difficult when carrying weights in your hands.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.