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Some people may see the phrase “treadmill arm workout” and scratch their heads. Yes, the treadmill is designed for walking or running and targeting the muscles in the lower body, but there are always people looking for ways to turn a basic treadmill workout into a full-body workout by incorporating upper body strength movements. One way that this can be done is by using dumbbells.

Adding a variety of arm exercises to your cardio session can be a unique way to make progress, but it is possible. As long as you emphasize safety and don’t train in an extreme way, you can train your arms as well as your legs while you’re on the treadmill. This whole-body, treadmill arm workout can help you do just that because you can perform biceps and triceps exercises either during or in between phases of a treadmill workout.

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for health or medical advice. For medical advice, contact an appropriate healthcare provider.

Best Treadmill Arm Exercises 

We have five treadmill arm workout exercises that you can use to perform reps while you’re taking steps (see what I did there?). You should use one pair of dumbbells that are light enough that you can complete all the sets during a session without reaching failure. Straining to finish a bicep curl would increase the chances of getting injured. 

The heaviest weight you should use for a workout like this is a 15-pound dumbbell. If you’re a beginner to this type of training, 5-pound weights would be your best bet. Once that feels less challenging, then you could increase the resistance.

We suggest doing all five exercises listed on their own first as a warmup before you get on the treadmill to start the workout. If you’re planning on doing this workout in a commercial gym or local health club, you should consult the staff and management first. Some businesses may not allow the use of dumbbells during treadmill walking out of concern for others in the gym as well as the equipment.

Dumbbell Bicep Curls

What It Does: This is as simple of a weight training upper-body exercise as it gets, but it’s also one of the most effective arm movements as well. Each arm works independently, so the left arm can’t receive assistance from the right, and vice versa. You can perform this exercise with both arms simultaneously or alternating arms. You’ll work your biceps muscles performing this curl variation.

person doing bicep curls on a treadmill

How to Do It: 

  1. Hold the dumbbells to your sides at arms’ length with the palms facing up. 
  2. Curl the dumbbells up, and squeeze the biceps until the dumbbell reaches your shoulder.
  3. Lower the weights back to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat for the desired reps. 

If you want to add a twist, start with the palms facing the sides, and twist the hand so the palm goes up while you’re curling. 

This can be done while walking on the treadmill or by stepping off the treadmill and performing the exercise behind the machine.

Overhead Press

What It Does: Many trainers and trainees associate the overhead press with the shoulders, but there is a way that you can do the exercise to place more emphasis on the triceps. Here, we perform the exercise to recruit both.

person doing overhead presses on a treadmill

How to Do It: 

  1. Hold the dumbbells in your hands, one on each shoulder,  with the palms facing each other. 
  2. Keep your elbows tucked in and press the dumbbells straight up until you’ve performed an overhead press. 
  3. Slowly lower the weights to the starting position and repeat for the desired reps. 

This exercise can also be done while walking on the treadmill or by stepping off the treadmill and performing the exercise behind the machine.

Dumbbell Hammer Curls

What It Does: The hammer curl targets the biceps brachialis as well as the forearms. This will help you develop the lower arm as well as the upper arm muscles.

person doing hammer curls on a treadmill

How to Do It: 

  1. Keep your arms to your sides with palms facing each other while holding dumbbells. 
  2. Without turning the dumbbells, bend the elbows and curl the dumbbells up as high as you can. 
  3. The end of the dumbbell closest to you should be near the shoulder.
  4. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position and repeat. 

You can perform this movement with both arms simultaneously or by alternating arms. This exercise can also be done while walking on the treadmill or by stepping off the treadmill and performing the exercise behind the machine.

Close-Grip Push-up

What It Does: The close-grip push-up places more focus on the triceps since the hands are closer to the body than if you were performing traditional push-ups.

person doing close-grip push-ups

How to Do It: 

  1. Get into a high-plank position. You can place either your knees or toes on the floor. 
  2. Position your hands so they are at shoulder width or an inch outside of shoulder width.
  3. While trying to keep your elbows tucked in, lower yourself as close to the floor as you can. 
  4. Use your triceps to push yourself back up to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat for the desired reps.

This movement will have to be performed off of the treadmill.

Dumbbell Zottman Curl

What It Does: This exercise will target the forearms and the biceps thanks to the twisting motion.

person doing zottman curls on the treadmill

How to Do It: 

  1. Hold the dumbbells to your sides at arms’ length with the palms facing up.  
  2. Curl the weights up as you would with a traditional curl, striving to get your hand as close as you can to the shoulder. 
  3. Turn the weights so the palms are facing down.
  4. Lower the weights back to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat for the desired reps. 

This exercise can be done while walking on the treadmill or by stepping off the treadmill and performing the exercise behind the machine.

Sample Dumbbell Treadmill Workout for Arms

This sequence can be performed during a walking workout outside or on a treadmill. Do not attempt any of these exercises during a running session, even if you’re an experienced exerciser with an exceptional fitness level. 

The goal is to perform all five exercises two to three times for one minute at a time.

Alternate one-minute walks with one minute of strength training work. A 10-minute walking session may look like two rounds of this:

Minute Exercise
1Walk on Treadmill
2Dumbbell Curl
3Walk on Treadmill
4Overhead Press
5Walk on Treadmill
6Hammer Curl
7Walk on Treadmill
8Close-Grip Pushup
9Walk on Treadmill
10Dumbbell Zottman Curl

Tips for a Safe, Effective Treadmill Arm Workout

If you’ve never done a dumbbell workout while on a treadmill before, then you should start by doing all exercises off of the machine. This allows you to practice the movement without adding the complication of a moving treadmill belt.

Don’t run on the machine with the dumbbells in your hands. If you plan on walking the entire time, you can keep the weights in your hands (though this is like a farmer’s carry and will greatly tax your grip). 

If you feel comfortable enough to try such a workout while walking, then you can try performing the exercises without stepping off of the treadmill. Keep in mind that the weights you use should be very light so you don’t reach failure at any point. You will also have to step off the treadmill to do the push-ups, or you can simply do the overhead presses a second time.

If you want to place extra emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings or quadriceps, then you can slightly raise the incline on the treadmill, but keep the incline low so you can still focus on your arm workouts. Even a 2.5% grade can make a significant difference. This can help you maximize your cardio workout even more.

RELATED: Dumbbell Leg Workout

FAQs About Treadmill Arm Workouts

Can a treadmill tone arms?

Working a treadmill doesn’t directly tone the biceps or triceps. Using a treadmill as a part of a complete training and nutrition program can play a positive role in weight loss because it will burn calories, which may result in your entire body looking more toned.

You can focus on working your arms with dumbbells or wrist weights as a part of a treadmill arm workout routine like the program above. You can also train arms separately during a different workout, which can develop the muscles as well.

Can you tone your arms while walking?

If you’re holding dumbbells or using wrist weights while you’re walking outside or on a treadmill, then you can strategically train your arms during that aerobic exercise. This can help improve your chances of developing the muscles in the arms. It will take following a sound nutrition plan to help you accomplish this goal as well.

Can I use dumbbells on a treadmill?

If you’re using your own treadmill, then following a plan like the one above is possible, and it could even be beneficial because it can help you burn more calories and perform a full-body workout. If you’re in a commercial gym or health club, you should consult the staff or management because they may not allow dumbbell use while you’re on other fitness equipment. You should also reconsider if others are on treadmills on either side of the one you intend to use.

If you choose to use dumbbells, use light weight so you can train the muscles effectively and are less likely to struggle walking or lifting with them as the workout progresses.

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