Budget treadmill/incline trainer for elevation gain

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  • #45409

    Hi there,
    Im looking for a budget treadmill or incline trainer for use at home, mostly for accumulating those elevation gains. With budget I mean not much more than 1000 bucks.

    Is there any particular models with at least 15-20% inclination that are considered as good bang for the buck? I started browsing the treadmill world on the web and I feel I drowned with no conclusions 🙂 Ive learned that the treadmill should have at least 3 CHP (Countinuos Horse Power) to avoid slippage. Id prioritize good build quality rather than paying for all bells and whistles.

    Thanks in advance guys.


  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #45422


    I have a Nordic Trac incline trainer that I bought used for about $1000. It was the cheapest model that NT made at the time. All the NT incline trainers are pretty much the same. The higher the price, the bigger the screens and fancier electronics but the function is really the same It is fine for home use but is not particularly robust construction like a Woodway which is a professional lab grade incline trainer costing several thousand dollars.

    The NT goes to 40% grade where the Woodway only goes to 30% I think. These are the only two brands I am familiar with and I am not even sure there are other brands. If I had it to do over again I would have stepped up for the Woodway. The NT is kind of a flimsy POS. It will get the job done but has some problems.

    The speed of the belt is not constant. This means that somedays 5mph is not the same as other days at 5mph. That’t not huge deal unless you want to compare workout to workout. The angle of incline is grossly inaccurate so I have to measure with an inclinometer and adjust so that if I want to be at 30% I am actually at 30%.

    All that said It is still a very effective training tool for bad weather or smoke. And you can vary the grade so that it has some running and some hiking. even downhill because the NT will go to -10% grade. For longer workout i watch movies or listen to podcasts.

    If you do not live close to steep trails this thing will really help you. Just don’t expect high quality from the NT.


    Anonymous on #45522

    My experience is the same. I have a NT x11i, and the screen under-reports the actual speed at inclines by 10-20%… However, if you’re training by HR, then you can ignore the display and just go by your watch.

    trygve.veslum on #45721

    Scott and Scott,
    thanks for your responses. Im surprised that the NTs cant even tell the pace right given their price point starting at at least 2K dollars new. I guess we are into a niche segment here as I cant find any 2nd hand incline trainers here in Norway at all…barely anyone selling those brand new.

    I think it boils down to getting a treadmill with 15% incline which at least is better than nothing when at home. Perhaps shimming under the front of the treadmill to achieve more like 20% and cross my fingers it wont break down on long term.

    Cheers, much appreciated.


    frnkr on #46856

    Scott: I’ve been looking NT incline trainers and at least in Europe the more expensive the machine the bigger the motor (and screen of course ?). I assume this is due to the fact that in Europe we have decent electricity (240v) vs US (110v) which is a big difference!

    No idea though if the overall quality is better too as my partner is not (yet) approved the idea of having a trainer in our living room…

    I’m also wondering now that how big difference there is between incline trainer and stair machine when thinking about aerobic base training? If I just need to log mileage and vertical does it matter which one I use? Any thoughts on that?

    Anonymous on #46875

    A stair machine can work as well or better that an incline trainer. They are usually more expensive though. The good treadmills or incline trainers are very expensive. NT are functional but you need to have a way to calibrate yours for both speed and grade.


    bbarlin10 on #47074

    So I have both a used NT and a used Stairmaster. NordicTrack X22I was $600 (precovid) and the stairmaster was about $1000. The NT works fine and for $600 if it goes belly up no big deal. It only had 20 hours use, like most machines you would buy from a non commercial source. I usually use it at about 20% grade, that is pretty good with a pack with 20% body weight for a AeT workout. Plus I’m doing the walk to Everest Basecamp series of workouts (their Ifit workouts), which is pretty cool. As to the calibration I did this article to address the issues you discussed https://uphillathlete.com/forums/topic/nordictrack-incline-treadmill-accuracy-issue/

    I usually use the StairMaster for ME type workouts. I got it from one of the places that buys gyms that are closing and resells the equipment. Great deal for a gym level pice of equipment.
    It really burns the legs. Still trying to figure out how to connect the workouts to Training Peaks though. When I figure it out I’ll post another article.

    Bottom line is if you are in a vertically challenged part of the country you have to make do. Buying used equipment is the only way to go. With covid closing so many gyms, I would expect a lot of high end equipment to be on the market in the next few months.

    frnkr on #47234

    Thanks Scott! How about using 15% treadmill (my gym has only stepper machines and standard treadmills) for one workout and Stairmaster for second (two gym workout per week) vs two times Stairmaster per week?

    Just wondering if I should add some variation for the sake of biomechanics or just go for the maximum incline. The boredom factor is non-existent here as I can always enjoy Uphill Athlete materials while in the gym 😉

    Anonymous on #47769


    It really burns the legs.

    You should slow down or drop the weight if you’re trying to train AeT. With extra weight, heart rate won’t reflect the actual load in your legs. Search this site for articles on muscular endurance. It’s helpful training when done intentionally at the right time, but not when it’s not.

    : I don’t see a disadvantage in mixing it up. The Stairmaster is probably more specific if the max treadmill grade is only 15%.

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