The Main Components of a Treadmill
Before you can start looking a treadmills, you should understand what each part does and which parts you should focus your attention on.
It will also come in handy when it's time to clean or do treadmill maintenance.
Although many new treadmills have tons of features, there may be some that you feel your really need and others may be nice to have but may not be worth the cost to you.
For example: you may not need to purchase a treadmill with a heart monitor if you already have one or you may find that the heart monitor that the treadmill has may be more useful to you.
As you look at the different parts on a treadmill make a checklist with three columns
One for "Important features to look for", one called "I'd really like to have this" and one "not a necessity". Then as you look at a treadmill model check off the appropriate column. After you have evaluated a treadmill you should have more check marks in column 1, less in column 2 and possibly none in column 3.
Here is a generic list of treadmill parts and as we progress through this evaluation we will get more in-depth with each component.
A treadmill is made up of the following main components:
- a moving belt that you walk or run on
- flywheel and rollers that make the belt move smoothly
- the motor that powers the flywheel
- the deck that holds the belt
- the frame and handrails
- your treadmill might also have a console with a display unit.
The Treadmill's Frame and Rails
There are mainly two different types of frame materials with standard treadmills having steel frames and newer and premium treadmills having aluminum frames.
Aluminum frames will hold up better if you are planning on keeping your treadmill for several years or if you are close to the weight capacity of the treadmill.
The treadmill rails (also called bars or grips) should be used for stability when you are starting or stopping the treadmill or if your treadmill is equipped with a grip heart monitor, this is where you will take your heart rate measurements.
Rails are not meant to be held the entire time that you are using the treadmill, so be sure that they are in a convenient, yet out of the way location. You also want the grips to be comfortable and easy to reach for when you do need them.
The Treadmill Motor
If you are planning on purchasing a motorized treadmill, then the motor will be one of the most important features to compare.
While many people just compare the horsepower of the motor, you should actually be looking at the type of motor in addition to the horsepower.
When a treadmill lists 2.5 hp (horsepower), that is the top horsepower that the treadmill will reach, but will not usually be sustained at. This comes into play when you vary the speed of the treadmill for short bursts of power.
If a treadmill lists a 2.5 chp (continuous horse power), continuous duty, ultra-high torque, commercial motor or heavy duty motor then it is more powerful than a standard 2.5 hp motor and can sustain higher speeds for the duration of your workout.
Often a 2.25 chp can be as powerful as a 2.75 standard hp motor.
Always take the type of motor into consideration when checking horsepower.
The Treadmill Belt and Deck
The treadmill belt size is an important feature in your treadmill if you are planning on running or jogging on your treadmill. If you are planning on walking, the belt size is not as important.
Standard belts run 19" wide by 50" long. Although this sounds like a good width and length, you must remember that the belt goes on to a deck, which includes part of the frame and your console.
So even though your belt is 19 x 50, your running space may only be 16 by 45.
Again, if you are planning on only walking on your treadmill, this size is fine.
However, if you plan on running you will want a wider and longer belt, since we have a tendency to sway a bit while we run.
The extra width will allow for this swaying without you hitting into the frame and the longer length will allow you to run with your normal stride without any fear of falling off of your treadmill.
Note that some treadmills will not list the belt size, just the belt material, but will list the deck and running sizes. It's the running size that is the most important.
For example: a 30 X 80 deck size will usually have a running surface that is 20 X 60, which is a very nice and comfortable running space.
Many decks on newer treadmills are cushioned or allow you to set your own cushion level. This is an important feature as it will help to make impact less jarring to your joints. Many treadmills can cushion up to 24% of the impact, with 12-14% being the average.
The deck is also the part of the treadmill that offers an incline to help your workout be more intense. By inclining your deck you'll find yourself buring more calories and blasting more fat, while working different muscles than if you were on a level surface. You will also find that having a variable incline your workouts will be more exciting.
Inclines can range from 1% to 16%, with 8% to 10% the average for newer models.
Some treadmills have manual incline adjustments and others are automatic, but we will discuss this later.
The Treadmill Console
I like to think of the treadmill console as the fun part of the treadmill.
The console, depending on your treadmill model, is where you can see how many calories you have burned, the distance that you have traveled, your heart rate, the incline and speed that you are walkng or running, how far into your workout you have progressed, how much longer your workout is and often even more information.
There are also treadmill models that have a built in television, iPod deck to plug in your Mp3 player, water bottle holder and cooling fans.
The minimum readouts that you want your console to have really depends on how you are going to use your treadmill. If you are using it mainly for fat burning you will want to see your heart rate and calories burned .
If you are short on time (like we all are now-a-days) the television is a wonderful feature so that you can watch the news or your favorite TV show while you are getting in shape.
Unless you are in a room that can be kept cool, having cooling fans are also a nice feature as it makes your workout more comfortable. If your more comfortable, your more apt to have to workout go on longer.
Now that you know what you want your console to track, you are also going to want to have one that is easy to read. Most of the newer models have a very nicely lit console, with easy to read color and designs. However, if you are looking at a used treadmill be sure to take a good look at the console, because you want to be able to read it quickly and not have to slow down your workout just to check your stats.
Does The Treadmill Come With Personal Trainer Workouts?
Having a treadmill that has built-in workouts can be a major advantage over one that does not.
The workouts are created by personal trainers to give you the most benefit in the shortest amount of time and also varies your workouts so you don't get bored.
Some workouts automatically adjust your speed and incline with specific goals, such as burning fat, getting cardio benefits and one.
Those with iFit compatibility will often allow you to purchase additional personal trainer workouts through iFit allowing you to expand your workouts as your fitness increases.
You will also want to take note of whether your personal trainer programs keep track of stats for multiple users. This way each person can keep their information at their fingertips, each time they start or finish their workout.
Many of the newest models of treadmills have iFit live technology or other types of internet interactivity that allows you to browse the internet, check your mail, keep track of your programs, download new workout programs and so much more.
What may surprise you is that although these newer models as so much high-tech than treadmills just a few years ago prices have stayed about the same and in many cases, have actually dropped.
Additional Choices To Consider
Most treadmills come with a 90 day standard warranty. However, premium models often with come with a 10 or 20 year motor warranty and lifetime frame warranty. In this case the model which costs $300 or $400 more but has a much longer warranty may actually help you save money over the years. as many warranties will average $149 a year for standard parts.
Read the warranty well to see what you are covered for and for how long. Then look at what is included with an optional warranty on another model and match up costs and covered protection.
If you are short on space, then you will want to look for a space saving footprint or a model that folds up for storage. Most folding treamills now have a one-handed closure with a safety lock.
Automatic Incline and Speed Adjustments
If you don't want to have to get off of your treadmill each time you want to adjust the speed or incline, look for a treadmill with 1 button adjustments. Most 2007 and 2008 models have this feature, but be sure that it does.
As you can see there are many different features to look at on a treadmill, but if you are looking to purchase a new model you will find that most of them have the full range of important features and you only need to decide on whether you want a stationary model or folding one and would you like your treadmill to come with or without a TV.
Want To Learn More?
raj on January 09, 2015:
Treadmill Traci on February 22, 2011:
Wow, a really comprehensive guide to understanding how a treadmill works. Really great resource. I never actually saw that music video but it is really cool and clever. I didn't see you mention this so thought I would add to what you've said here, and that is if you are going to get a treadmill online, go to Google first and search for treadmill coupons because there are some good savings to be had. Or if you know the brand you want you can search nordictrack coupons or sole coupons or something like that. Either way, never, ever buy a treadmill online without looking for some kind of discount code first because there are a lot out there to help you save some money.
Party Girl on June 13, 2008:
A great hub which helps you choose the treadmill that is right for you
jackmrk on February 16, 2008:
This information is amazing !
Before reading this I did not only know so much on how to choose a Treadmill,
I also did not think of getting one.
This article did get me really wanting to get one !
I use Treadmills in my jim, but now I will know how to choose the better
ones and how to use them more safely and affectively.
The flick is also great !
Thank you for this !
Jana Murray from Waves, NC on February 14, 2008:
I highly recommend buying a warranty for your treadmill, especially if you have children. I nice to replace that motor which can burn out much quicker than you may realize...Got to keep moving:)
Treadmills101 (author) from Utah on February 13, 2008:
I do have a favorite treadmill. It's the ProForm Perspective ES. Although ProForm in my opinion and those who rate treadmills is considered the top maker of treadmills, and have the most requested and beneficial features I got hung up on the ES's built in TV. I know that the other features are more important but I have my treadmill in a room that doesn't have a tv,so this way I can work out while watching my favorite tv shows - I don't that it's a dumb reason, but with my time being so short I'm sure to get a workout. To me that was most important.
SendaCowChip on February 12, 2008:
I feel like I just took a graduate course on treadmills. You tips on the most important features are a real eye opener and I now feel as though I know what to look for as well as what tostay away from. The tip on horse power ratings is really good to know when selecting a treadmill for home use. Just one question, do you have a favorite brand and model that you can share?
zangworld on February 12, 2008:
Good site but I am not so sure if i want to understand the parts of a treadmill!
I am more of a swimmer and all I need for that is the water. Tend to walk in the countryside but I am sure it would be good for me to got on one of your machines...