I have access to a treadmill that has speed workouts and incline workouts. There are two types of each - intervals and ramps. In an interval, it alternates between a resting speed or resting incline and a working speed or working incline, with each interval being 1-2 minutes. In a ramp, the speed or incline starts low and increases to a maximum about half way through the workout and then starts to decrease. There's also a combination ramp that changes both speed and incline through the duration of the workout.

I'm guessing that there's no one best choice - there are benefits to intervals and benefits to ramps. I typically do two treadmill workouts a week - one focusing on speed and one focusing on inclines. I'll do other easy runs or long runs on a treadmill if the weather is bad (or it's winter) or I'm crunched for time.

I found some information about speed versus incline intervals and the merits of both, but it doesn't discuss speed and incline ramps where the whole workout is a build up followed by a decrease. Another article mentions "hill training" for use if outdoor areas tend to be flat (which is true for me), which sounds like incline ramp, but doesn't compare it to intervals. Another article talks about general benefits of incline training. Finally, there are many articles which suggest that you should have an incline of about 1% on a treadmill if you are training to run outdoors.

How can I decide if I should do an interval or a ramp? My instinct is that I should mix them up, but I'm not sure if I should favor one or the other.

Should I continue to separate speed and incline workouts or should I tend toward the ramp that increases both speed and incline?

  • What are your goals?
    – John
    May 20, 2016 at 9:24
  • 1
    @JJosaur It doesn't matter - a good answer should explain the differences between speed intervals / speed ramps and incline intervals / interval ramps in a way that lets me and future readers make an informed decision on how to fit both options into a training plan. May 20, 2016 at 10:17

1 Answer 1


I'll give this a try since no one has yet. Intervals are more commonly known and used whereas the progression run is not.

An interval run has fixed amount of running medium to hard at a fixed effort or fixed pace broken up by fixed times of rest or easier efforts which can be short enough not to fully recover or long enough to recover but at an easier pace.

A progression run is most similar to a ramp workout except in your case it slowly builds down. This workout is generally considered to be harder since you are continuously controlling both effort and pace while steadily increasing it to some point. A progression run can be run off the cliff effortwise but in the case of a treadmill I think this would be very dangerous. The key for a good ramp workout is picking a hard pace to peak at but slow enough to ensure you always stay in control and remain on the treadmill. Make sure you use the clip that will pull out the key and shut off the treadmill if you do a ramp workout. The good thing about ramp workouts or progression runs is that your running easy to medium efforts for 75% of the workout and med-hard for only 25%. For intervals its usually done at 50% or more with a hard effort, and repeats and/or sprints are about 10% hard or even less.

Generally both methods are meant to change from one type of pace, HR zone, or effort to another in order to spend more time training at the harder, faster pace or incline. I think that is the goal you should focus on to get the most out of a treadmill training. The choice between the two comes down between simply a specific method of achieving your goals and a way to target your strengths. For example, if you lean liking long and easy workouts instead of short and fast then the ramp is better since there is less time spent at the harder effort and the transition between easy and hard is not as clear and easier to begin.

I dont run on a treadmill much but I feel that it is an exercise that demands alot of control already, so I'd recommend ramp workouts for pace based running over intervals as long as your not pushing too hard. For inclines I dont think it matters as much.

For the 1% incline rule there are some studies, at least one, that recommend this for making your running form on a treadmill closer to that off of it.

Mixing it up is good if you can do it. In fact a interval session of slow high incline then fast and flat sounds like a great simulation for hills.

I know of a few people who are pretty fast who use a treadmill to get through winter or to improve climbing ability. There was even an Olympian from Alaska who did most of his(?) training on a treadmill.

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