What’s The Difference Between A Treadmill And A TreadClimber?

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When it comes to cardio machines, treadmills, and treadclimbers are two popular options that offer effective cardiovascular workouts. 

However, many people often confuse these machines or use the terms interchangeably. There are significant differences between treadmills and treadclimbers, including their design, functionality, and impact on the body. 

This article aims to clarify these distinctions, providing a comprehensive understanding of each machine’s unique features, benefits, and drawbacks.

*While BowFlex has discontinued its line of treadclimbers, they are readily available on the second-hand market. If you can’t find one locally, check with our friends over at Freedom Fitness Equipment. They are one of the best preowned fitness equipment stores in the country, and they ship nationwide!

What’s The Difference Between a Treadmill and a TreadClimber?

The primary difference between a treadmill and a treadclimber lies in their movement patterns and the muscle groups they engage. Treadmills primarily focus on walking, jogging, and running, whereas treadclimbers offer a combination of climbing and walking/running motions simultaneously.

Ultimately, the choice between a treadmill and a treadclimber depends on your specific fitness goals, preferences, and the type of workout experience you desire.

Understanding The Difference 

A treadmill and a treadclimber are designed for cardiovascular exercise, but their mechanics and how they provide the workout experience differ.

Treadmill: A treadmill is a stationary exercise machine with a moving platform (the “belt”) on which you walk, jog, or run. You adjust the speed and incline of the platform to simulate different terrains and intensities. 

Treadmills typically have a motor that powers the belt, and you can adjust the speed and incline manually or through pre-programmed workout options. Treadmills primarily focus on walking, jogging, and running exercises, providing a straightforward and efficient way to perform these activities indoors.

Tread climber: A treadclimber, on the other hand, combines elements of a treadmill, a stair climber, and an elliptical machine. It features two separate, independently moving tread belts or platforms. 

As you step, the tread belts rise to meet your feet, simulating a climbing motion. This unique design aims to provide a low-impact workout while engaging multiple muscle groups. 

TreadClimbers typically allow you to control the speed and resistance levels, and some models even offer adjustable inclines. Combining climbing and walking/running movements on the treadclimber can create a challenging workout experience.

Treadmill: The Classic Cardio Companion

Treadmills have long been a staple in home gyms worldwide, known for their versatility and ability to simulate walking, jogging, or running indoors. 

Bowflex treadmill

These machines consist of a moving belt that users walk or run on, powered by an electric motor. Treadmills offer several advantages that have contributed to their enduring popularity:

Flexibility: Treadmills come with adjustable speed and incline settings, allowing users to customize their workout intensity based on their fitness level and goals. The ability to simulate different terrains and control the pace makes treadmills suitable for a wide range of users.

Joint Impact: Running or walking on a treadmill provides a moderate-to-high-impact workout that can improve bone density and cardiovascular endurance. However, this impact may concern individuals with joint issues or injuries, as repetitive treadmill exercise can strain ankles, knees, and hips.

Training Features: Many treadmills offer additional features like heart rate monitoring, pre-programmed workouts, virtual training simulations, and compatibility with fitness apps. These features enhance the overall workout experience, engaging and motivating treadmill sessions.

If you are in the market for a treadmill, make sure to check out our treadmill buying guide here!

TreadClimber: Stepping Up the Workout

TreadClimbers, on the other hand, are a relatively new addition to the fitness equipment market, designed to combine the benefits of a treadmill, stepper, and elliptical machine. 

Bowflex treadclimber

These machines feature two independent treadles that rise and fall as users step, creating a motion that is kind of like climbing stairs. The unique design of treadclimbers presents several distinctive advantages:

Low-Impact Workout: Treadclimbers provide a low-impact exercise experience, as the user’s feet never entirely leave the treads. This significantly reduces joint stress. This makes them an excellent option for recovering from injuries or those seeking a gentler cardio workout.

Muscle Engagement: The stair-climbing motion of treadclimbers engages various muscle groups, including the legs, glutes, and core. Combining a stepping and elliptical-like movement offers a more comprehensive lower-body workout than traditional treadmills.

Calorie Burn: Due to increased muscle engagement, treadclimbers can burn more calories than regular walking or running on a treadmill. The climbing motion also elevates the heart rate, providing an effective cardiovascular workout.

Which One Is Right For You?

Deciding between a treadmill and a treadclimber ultimately depends on personal preferences, fitness goals, and existing health conditions. Here are the factors you need to follow when making a choice:

Impact on Joints: Treadmills provide a higher-impact workout, which may suit individuals looking to build bone density or improve running performance. Treadclimbers, on the other hand, offer a low-impact option for those with joint issues or a preference for gentler exercise.

Workout Variety: Treadmills allow for a wide range of workouts, including walking, jogging, and running, with adjustable speed and incline settings. Treadclimbers primarily focus on the climbing motion, offering fewer variations.

Space and Budget: Treadmills typically require more space due to their larger footprint, while treadclimbers are generally more compact. Consider the available room in your gym when deciding which machine is more suitable. 

Additionally, treadmills often come with a broader price range, offering options for different budgets, while treadclimbers may be more limited in price options.

You can see all of our recommended treadmills here.

The Verdict

While both treadmills and treadclimbers provide effective cardiovascular workouts, their differences in design, functionality, and impact on the body make each machine unique. Treadmills offer versatility, adjustable settings, and a higher-impact workout, making them suitable for many users. 

On the other hand, treadclimbers provide a low-impact exercise experience, engage multiple muscle groups, and offer a more focused climbing motion. Understanding these distinctions and considering personal preferences, fitness goals, and existing health conditions will help individuals decide between a treadmill and a treadclimber. 

Ultimately, both machines can contribute to a healthy and active lifestyle.

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Shayla Whitters is an experienced fitness writer with degrees in exercise science and health and wellness. She is certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a sports nutritionist (CISSN). Her passion is writing about fitness so as to inspire others to change their lives for the better.

2 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between A Treadmill And A TreadClimber?”

    • They did in early 2023. Not sure if they’ll come back, but there are hundreds for sale on the used market and I get questions, so I figured let’s write this article!


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