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A decline setting will point you downwards, placing more emphasis on your quads.
Chris Clinton/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Having a firm, shapely set of quadriceps - that grouping of four muscles in your thighs - can give you some major "cred," whether you're wearing a skirt or sporting a pair of shorts at the gym. Without some targeted exercises for that area, however, you're not likely to get the shape and size you're hoping for. Adjusting the incline on the treadmill can help, but your angle and position may be different than you imagined.
Take it Down
While it's true that increasing the incline setting on your treadmill will give you a more vigorous workout, it's not the best way to work your quadriceps. Adjusting the incline will work your butt and hamstrings - muscles at the backs of your legs. The "best" setting for working the front of your legs is actually a decline setting, in which the treadmill's track is pointed downward.
Some treadmills have a decline setting; others don't. If yours doesn't, you have another option for targeting the quads - namely, walking backwards. You'll need to approach this option with extreme care though, as the movement may take some getting used to. Set the treadmill at an incline of 2 or 3 and start out at a very slow speed, holding onto the hand rails for stability at first. As you get more confident, you can increase the incline as much as you'd like; more incline will work your quads harder - though it may also cause pain in your knees.
Let it Go
Whatever the incline or speed, you may be engaging in one big no-no that is likely to affect your calorie burn and overall progress. Yes, you should hold onto the rails when you're just getting started with the backwards thing, but whether you're moving backwards or forwards or are using incline or none at all, holding onto the hand rails is going to affect your workout. Let go if you're stable enough to walk or run without hand rails. This can give you better posture and allow you to get your arms into the action, which will help you burn more calories.
Add Some Weights
When you're running or walking on the treadmill, you're doing a form of cardiovascular exercise that helps you burn calories. Treadmills are among some of the best pieces of cardio equipment out there, reminds the American Council on Exercise. Treadmills will also strengthen your muscles. If you're really concerned about building muscle in your legs, you need to do more weight-bearing exercises that target the quadriceps. Fortunately, some of the best options don't require a big investment. Try holding a set of dumbbells and doing one or two sets of lunges and squats, three times a week. For even faster results, hold a barbell and do the same exercises holding heavier weights.