6 differences between curved and flat treadmills

Thinking about training on treadmills? We show you the differences between curved and flat models so that you can learn which one suits you best.

Last update: September 30, 2021

Treadmills are a great alternative to do aerobic exercise without traveling long distances. In general, for these types of activities you need to move in space (be it cycling, running or jogging). The ribbons allow you to boost your aerobic capacity in a single space. If you want to use it in your routine, here are 6 differences between curved and flat treadmills.

In general, these are the two options that you have on hand when buying or using one. It may seem at first that its difference is only aesthetic or functional, but from now on we anticipate that the benefits and the muscles you work also differ. Let's see what differences exist between curved and flat treadmills and which of the two is better for you.

Differences between curved and flat treadmills

Using a treadmill has many advantages. Many times we do not have the necessary spaces to run or we do not want to expose ourselves to all the negative variables that come together when we go out to train outdoors (high / low temperatures, sunburn, changes in the terrain that can cause falls). In these cases, they are the best alternative we can use.

However, when we consider a couple of models, we realize that there are two that dominate the market today: curved and flat design. So that you can take advantage of them, here are 6 differences between curved and flat treadmills.

1. The momentum is obtained in different ways

One of the main differences between curved and flat treadmills is in the way momentum is achieved. In the traditional model it is done through a motor. In this way, you can adjust the speed at which you want to run and you only have to adapt to it by running at a lower or higher speed.

On the contrary, on curved treadmills, it is you who generates the momentum. There is no motor with commands that allows you to adjust the speed to certain kilometers per hour. It is you, through the momentum of your legs, who spins the tape.

Motorized treadmills need us to adjust the speed according to your commands.

2. The technique is not the same

Due to the detail just explained, the technique for using a curved treadmill is different from a flat one. If you are used to traditional tapes, using a curve seems like a challenge. Balance, coordination and effort is much greater.

This is due to both its design and the method of propulsion. The inclination of its surface allows you to better imitate the technique you use in a real race. The fact that you must be the one doing the impulse also implies an optimal cadence to prevent the march from stopping. In addition, some include handlebars adjustable to different angles and heights to promote propulsion.

3. You burn more calories with curved treadmills than with flat ones.

According to a study published in 2016 in Acta Kinesiologiae, running on non-motorized curved treadmills involves an increase in heart rate of up to 22% in contrast to doing it on the track or on a flat treadmill. This translates, in turn, in an increase in caloric load for the same training time.

Research on the metabolic intensity of athletes who use one or the other treadmill accounts for this. On average, it is thought that calorie burn can increase up to 30% over flat treadmill. This, of course, as long as the intensity is maintained.

4. You work less on your resistance on flat belts

Endurance is defined as your ability to maintain a certain activity, pace, or effort for as long as possible. When training on a flat treadmill, this quality is enhanced, as you must be the one who maintains the operation and the speed of locomotion.

This does not happen on a conventional treadmill, since you only limit yourself to following the rhythm imposed by the motor. Naturally, curved treadmills have a screen where you can see your running speed. You must do everything you can not to reduce this speed, just as you would in an outdoor race. Of course, this has a direct impact on your stamina.

5. The rhythm differs

Despite what we have just pointed out, keep in mind that curved treadmills let you control your pace at will. You can maintain it throughout the training session, of course, but also regulate it to include HIIT routines in a more functional way.

Although nothing prevents you from training in this way on a flat treadmill, the truth is that regulating your speed or pace with your gait is much easier than doing it based on a control panel. You avoid being uncoordinated, stopping, or simply losing focus.

6. Different muscles are involved

Researchers agree that the activation of a greater number of muscle groups is a characteristic of running on curved treadmills. In general, all groups are activated with greater effort, although especially those that are part of the posterior chain.

In this way, your calves, glutes and hamstrings will be more actively involved during the session. If you are looking to work these areas with greater emphasis, then curved ribbons can be an interesting alternative.

More muscle groups are activated on curved belts than on flat ones, especially in the posterior chain.

Should I train on flat or curved treadmills?

Given the criteria we've just outlined, you might think that running on a curved treadmill is best for you. Nevertheless, it all depends on your goals, experience, endurance and physical conditions. In short, if it is the first time you run in one of them, it will seem that its mechanism of action is very demanding.

Also keep in mind that the larger its surface, the more difficult it will be for you to push it. If you like to do sessions of more than half an hour, the effort may be well above your expectations. Therefore, it is always better that you learn to run on a flat treadmill.

Doing so is very different from running outdoors.. Keeping up, adjusting to space, and learning arm and leg coordination takes a couple of weeks. It is much easier, then, to run on a curved model when you have already assimilated all these values.

Regarding the differences between flat and curved treadmills, remember that, although they are really significant, they manifest almost exclusively when you train at high intensity. If you want to maintain your weight, do physical activity, de-stress or simply have a healthy life, either of the two will work for you.