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Five 20-minute treadmill workouts

Standard treadmill workouts are so dull: You get on, start the machine and go until it’s time to stop. You might as well be a gerbil on a wheel. Don’t fall into the dreadmill trap! Try a quick 20-minute routine that will keep you active, interested and in tip-top shape.

By adding intervals, inclines and strengthening exercises into your treadmill workout, you’ll fly through your 20-minute routine and still be ready for more!


During the walking or running segments, you’ll be using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale to gauge your intensity level. Remember that an RPE of one is equivalent to sitting still, while an RPE of 10 is a full-out sprint.


Hill intervals

Running on an incline

There’s no better way to get a toned lower half than to consistently run on an incline. This workout will make your legs and lungs burn as you increase your total fitness.

You’ll need:

  • Treadmill


  1. 0:00-5:00: Start walking or jogging at an RPE 5, gradually increasing the incline (without increasing your speed), so that by the end of the first five minutes, you’re at an RPE 6.
  2. 5:01-7:00: Increase your speed while maintaining the incline, working at an RPE 7.
  3. 7:01-9:00: Increase the incline and maintain your speed, working at an RPE 8.
  4. 9:01-12:00: Reduce your speed, but maintain the incline, working at an RPE 7.
  5. 12:01-15:00: Increase your speed and, if you can, increase the incline. These are your last three minutes of hard work, so push it! Try to work up to an RPE 9.
  6. 15:01-20:00: Gradually reduce your speed, then gradually reduce your incline. By the last minute of your routine you should be back to an RPE 4 or 5.

Treadmill Tabata

Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training that only lasts four minutes. True Tabata routines incorporate eight rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, all done at the highest intensity possible. The beauty of incorporating Tabata into a 20-minute treadmill routine is that you get a killer workout buffered by the perfect warm-up and cooldown.

You’ll need:

  • Treadmill
  • Jump rope
  • Set of dumbbells


  1. 0:00-8:00: Walk or jog on the treadmill, gradually increasing your speed so that you start at an RPE 4 and finish at an RPE 6.
  2. 8:01-8:20: Jump rope as fast as you can.
  3. 8:21-8:30: Rest.
  4. 8:31-8:50: Perform as many squat jumps as you can, as fast as you can (while maintaining good form).
  5. 8:51-9:00: Rest.
  6. 9:01-9:20: Perform as many push-ups as you can, as fast as you can.
  7. 9:21-9:30: Rest.
  8. 9:31-9:50: Perform as many plank rows as you can, as fast as you can, alternating from side to side.
  9. 9:51-10:00: Rest.
  10. 10:01-12:00: Repeat steps 2 through 9.
  11. 12:01-20:00: Walk or jog on the treadmill, working at an RPE 6.

Tabata exercise tutorial:

  • Jump rope (image not shown): Use a 9- or 10-foot jump rope to perform as many 2-foot hops as you can.

Squat jump 1

Squat jump: Lower yourself into a full squat, and then explode upward as you swing your arms up over your head. Land with your knees slightly bent, moving right into another squat jump.


Push-up: Use the treadmill side rails and perform an angled wide-grip push-up. Reminder: The treadmill should be off!

plank row 1

Plank row: Balance in a plank position while gripping a dumbbell in each hand. Shift your weight slightly to one side and pull one dumbbell up toward your torso. Return it to the floor and repeat on the opposite side.


Agility training

You can do more than just walk or jog on a treadmill. By slowing the belt down and performing track drills on the machine, you can actually increase your agility and speed. Just be sure to hang onto the rails the first few times you try these moves.

You’ll need:

  • Treadmill


  1. 0:00-5:00: Walk or jog on the treadmill, gradually increasing your speed so that you start at a 4 RPE and end at a 6.
  2. 5:01-5:30: Slow the treadmill down to its lowest speed and perform high knees as fast as you can.
  3. 5:31-6:00: Perform butt kicks as fast as you can, keeping the treadmill’s speed at its lowest pace.
  4. 6:01-6:30: Perform lunges as you walk on the treadmill at its slowest, or near slowest, speed. Hold onto the railings to maintain your balance.
  5. 6:31-7:00: Perform walking side squats on the treadmill at its slowest speed, making sure to keep your knees and toes in alignment.
  6. 7:01-7:30: Walk or jog backward on the treadmill at its slowest, or near slowest, speed.
  7. 7:31-12:30: Walk or run on the treadmill, pushing yourself to an 8 RPE.
  8. 12:31-15:00: Repeat steps 2 through 6, turning to the opposite side when performing the walking side squats.
  9. 15:01-20:00: Jog on the treadmill at a comfortable pace, aiming for a 6 RPE.

Agility exercise tutorial:

High knees

High knees: Pull your knees as high up as you can, moving as quickly as you can as you jog in place.

Butt kicks

Butt kicks: Lift your knees in front of your body and pull your foot to your butt, rather than extending your knee under your hips as you kick your foot upward to your butt. It’s almost more of a high-knee exercise with an added butt kick.

treadmill lunge

Treadmill lunge: Perform a walking lunge as the treadmill moves at a slow pace. Be sure to keep your torso upright, helping to maintain balance by using the railings to steady yourself.

Side squat

Walking side squat: The walking side squat will open up your hips and force you to use your inner and outer thighs as you work in a new plane of motion. Be careful to keep your knees and toes in alignment as you perform each squat, gripping the railings for balance. Be aware that your body’s angles will move as the treadmill belt rotates, so always be thinking about the position of your joints.

Backward jogging

Backward walking or jogging: Keeping the treadmill at its slowest pace, turn around and walk or jog backward on the belt. This will force you to engage your hamstrings more and can even help alleviate back and knee pain over time. Just be careful, and don’t be afraid to grip the side rails for balance.


Upper-body strength training

Your lower body gets all the love while working out on a treadmill, so it just makes sense to add a few upper-body strengthening exercises to a 20-minute routine.

You’ll need:

  • Treadmill
  • Set of dumbbells


  1. 0:00-4:00: Walk or jog at a comfortable pace, gradually increasing your intensity from an RPE 4 to an RPE 6.
  2. 4:01-5:00: Dumbbell chest press.
  3. 5:01-6:00: Bent-over dumbbell row.
  4. 6:01-7:00: Triceps kickback.
  5. 7:01-8:00: Run on the treadmill at an RPE 8.
  6. 8:01-16:00: Repeat steps 2 through 5 two more times.
  7. 16:01-20:00: Walk or jog on the treadmill, gradually decreasing your RPE from 6 to 4.

Exercise tutorial:

Dumbbell press

Dumbbell chest press: With the treadmill turned off, use the deck as a bench and perform a dumbbell chest press. Start with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, and then press the dumbbells up and toward one another so that your arms are extended directly above your chest.

Bent over dumbbell row

Plank row: Start in a pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand. Shift your weight slightly to one side and use your back muscles to pull one arm up, drawing the dumbbell in to your side. Lower the dumbbell to the floor and repeat on the opposite side. Keep your back flat and straight throughout the exercise.

Triceps kickback 1

Triceps kickback: With the treadmill off, use the belt as a bench, balancing your right palm and knee on the treadmill, extending your left foot behind you for balance. Start by holding a dumbbell in your left hand with your upper arm flush to your side and your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Keep your upper arm steady and extend your elbow, pressing the dumbbell backward toward your hips. Repeat for 30 seconds on one side before switching to the opposite side.


Full-body fitness

One-legged lunge

For a workout that will blast calories and leave you feeling spent, try a full-body fitness routine that incorporates high-intensity intervals and full-body strengthening exercises. You’ll use the treadmill for everything from sprints to split squats as you speed through this routine.

You’ll need:

  • Treadmill
  • Resistance band
  • Medicine ball or dumbbell


  1. 0:00-3:00: Treadmill walk or run — gradually increase your intensity level from a 4 to 6 RPE.
  2. 3:01-3:30: Split squat with right foot on treadmill, holding a medicine ball or dumbbell.
  3. 3:31-4:30: Resistance band row.
  4. 4:31-5:00: Split squat with left foot on treadmill, holding a medicine ball or dumbbell.
  5. 5:01-6:00: Treadmill walk or run at RPE 7.
  6. 6:01-7:00: Treadmill walk or run at RPE 8.
  7. 7:01-7:30: One-legged lunge, right foot on treadmill.
  8. 7:31-8:00: One-legged lunge, left foot on treadmill.
  9. 8:01-9:00: V-sit bicycle on treadmill.
  10. 9:01-10:00: Treadmill walk or run at RPE 8.
  11. 10:01-11:00: Treadmill walk or run at RPE 7.
  12. 11:01-12:00: Treadmill push-up.
  13. 12:01-12:30: Resistance band shoulder press.
  14. 12:31-13:00: Resistance band overhead triceps extension.
  15. 13:01-14:00:Treadmill walk or run at RPE 9.
  16. 14:01-15:00: Treadmill walk or run at RPE 5.
  17. 15:01-15:30: One-legged bridge, left foot on treadmill.
  18. 15:31-16:00: One-legged bridge, right foot on treadmill.
  19. 16:01-17:00: Resistance band row.
  20. 17:01-20:00: Treadmill walk or run — start at RPE 7 and gradually decrease intensity to RPE 4.


You can access the full tutorial for this routine here and download a PDF here.

More fitness routines

Slim without the gym: The 10-move home workout
Workout moves with baby in tow
How to: Simple playground workouts

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