What is a Curved Treadmill and Why Should You Use One?
by Coach John Aquino
Have you ever lived or traveled to some place too cold or too hot to run outside? Have you ever felt like going on a run, but the conditions were just awful and would put you at risk of injury such as running in the rain? You probably already know where I’m going with this…
Treadmills have always been used as a reliable alternative to running outside. With new research on cardiovascular training and biomechanics, we now know that it is more than just a mechanical device with a rotating belt in which you run or walk on. Treadmills have the potential to do more!
Why did it get so popular?
Today, we see treadmills evolving to best fit various individuals with an array of health and fitness goals. In the past few years, we have noticed curved non-motorized treadmills trending in gyms and homes across the world. Sports teams and athletes not only use this running modality, but rehab patients and fitness enthusiasts of all levels are using curved treadmills.
What is a Curved Treadmill
Non-motorized curved treadmills like, the Renegade Runner R1, don't look like your average flat treadmill with a bright monitor to control speed and inclination. With no electricity required, the curved treadmill is powered by your legs. The distinct difference of a curved treadmill is its shape. Because of the concave shape of the rotating belt, striking your foot down while you walk or run will propel the machine. The horizontal contours on the treadmill create friction. This extra friction on the belt causes more resistance as opposed to running on the ground or on a motorized treadmill. If used correctly, curved treadmills can complement any running or fitness program.
What exactly does it do for you?
Curved treadmills like, the Renegade Runner R1, are being applied to various fitness goals:
- Aerobic Training
- Anaerobic Training
- Interval Training
According to a study by Sanders in 2004, on the factors affecting running economy in trained distance runners, he defined running economy as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running, which is determined by measuring the steady-state consumption of oxygen (VO2) and the respiratory exchange ratio. In general terms, the running economy determines how efficient you are at consuming oxygen while running at specific velocities and distances. If done properly, running on a curved treadmill not only improves the running economy, but has many other benefits as well.
Why you should start using one:
Saves you money!
To get more bang for your buck, a curved treadmill is the way to go. By going green, your curved treadmill won’t be running up your electricity bill since it’s people powered. If you’ve ever worked in a gym, you know that maintaining and repairing a treadmill can take hours, and costs can put a dent in your pocket, let alone complaints from gym goers on the lack of treadmills. Compared to your traditional motorized treadmills, curved treadmills have less parts, making it low maintenance and easy to repair, if necessary. With a long service life, curved treadmills can save you more money in the long run. To get things started, you can hop on the treadmill, shift your weight forward, and start running or walking. No buttons needed!
Helps burn more calories
A study in 2017 showed that non-motorized treadmill running had higher cardiometabolic demands compared with overground and motorized treadmill running (Edwards, 2017). In other words, running on the treadmill belt of a curved treadmill has more resistance than a flat treadmill. The horizontal contours on a curved treadmill creates friction which forces you to engage the hamstrings and glutes during a stride. More muscles are then activated using more calories with every step.
Improves running or walking biomechanics
The curved treadmill has been said to also reduce vertical oscillation, or how much we bounce when we run. Because the treadmill induces a natural stride pattern while walking or running, it encourages us to run on the balls of our feet, lessening the impact on our joints.
According to a study by Hatchett, running on a curved treadmill can influence stride length, step length, and stride angle (Hatchett, 2018). This research indicated that a stride length increases impact! I longer stride length means that the heel is located farther from the center of mass of the runner, which increases knee and hip flexion. Because the distance of the heel is far farther away from the center of mass during a regular stride, the impact greater. The curved treadmill shortens running strides, which may be advantageous for runners who want a long and healthy career. Shorter strides can keep their joints healthy and can induce an efficient gait pattern.
Running performance in team sports such as football and basketball have been shown to influence teams’ success. In certain sports, high intensity running such as sprinting is followed by low intensity running or sometimes rest. The curved treadmill can provide an alternative to traditional endurance tests. With this versatile piece of equipment, high intensity intermittent performance tests can now be developed to assess running economy specific to various team sports. The great thing about the curved treadmill as an assessment tool, is that it allows self-pacing. This is important because it simulates self paced running variations in team sports.
Proper use of this versatile machine has significant benefits for health and performance. Knowing what the curved treadmill is used for is only half of the reason why we should use it. Being self-aware and understanding the concepts and methodologies behind why and how we train, can add more value on this evolutionary running modality. Every coach or fitness enthusiast that uses a curved treadmill needs to see the big picture and ask themselves what they expect to happen differently in contrast to running on a flat surface or the ground, specifically traditional treadmills and the track or grass. Self research and experience is very important before investing in something like a curved treadmill, so go out and give it a try!
About the writer:
Coach John Aquino of Segovia Strength is a strength and conditioning coach and a resident coach of Chris Sports. a former track & field athlete from the University of the Philippines and a graduate of their Sports Science Program. He's also the powerlifting coach for the country's Special Olympics athletes. To reach out to Coach John, you may visit Segovia Strength's official site: https://segoviastrength.com/