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3 times a week for the last month I've been running for about 30mins on a treadmill, the speeds varies around 9kmph.

I've recently started adding a 3-4% incline for the duration of the exercise.

A dull ache develops on my lower back towards the end of the exercise, this has only started with the added incline and in fact if I remove the incline, the pain very quickly dissipates.

Is this normal / to be expected in any way?

I'm 29, 5ft 8in and 179pounds. I've never had any back pains or injuries before.

  • This isn't a question? – Dave Liepmann May 18 '15 at 12:41
  • @DaveLiepmann I forgot to add in one line towards the end. It's in there now. – Daft May 18 '15 at 12:59
  • The feeling is similar to what you feel after climbing a lots of stairs, right? Yup, it's probably due to weak core. – Kneel-Before-ZOD May 18 '15 at 23:16
  • @Kneel-Before-ZOD not really, but I've never climbed stairs for 30minutes so I couldn't be sure. The accepted answer explains better than I did. – Daft May 19 '15 at 7:37
  • If you wanna reproduce the feeling, walk (or run) the stairs of a building higher than 10 stories. The accepted answer is simply right; it strengthens your core and increases your overall strength. BTW, you burn more calories using an inclined treadmill; so, if you can, do that more often :). – Kneel-Before-ZOD May 19 '15 at 14:03
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This is a common thing, and in most cases, easy to fix.

Incline on the treadmill puts more stress on the lower back

When walking or running uphill, the load on the muscles change. You are forced to lean forward, your back muscles have to compensate a lot more to keep you erect. The hip flexors also have to work more, because you need to lift your knees higher. The psoas consequently exerts a stronger forward pull on your low back. Your stride also gets shorter and quicker, therefore your muscles get tired more quickly. The result is compression of the lower back, which can result in pain.

How to get rid of the pain

  • Give yourself more time to adapt. Reduce the incline. Walk, not run uphill first, so there is less impact. You can even hold onto the treadmill.
  • Get some form of strength training. Weighted squats, bench step-ups are the best candidates, as they target the very same muscles which get more stress running uphill.
  • More flexibility will also help. Tight hamstrings, calves, low back muscles increase the likelihood of pain. In addition, I would also specifically stretch out hip flexors after an incline treadmill session, tightness in that area can easily develop into lower back pain later.
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I am not an exercise expert, but my gut feeling is that the incline has you leaning forward at the waist and/or craning your torso back in an effort to compensate. Obviously, you need some degree of leaning to compensate for the fact that you are no longer aligned heightwise with gravity, but it's usually a more minor thing. I would advise having a friend watch you run normally, and then doing the incline, and check to see if you're bending over at the waist. Alternately, you could set up a video-camera on a tripod or window sill for a side view, and analyze it yourself.

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