TreadmillReviews

Best Incline Trainers

Incline trainers let you take it to the limits in terms of training. Photo by: Oleksandr Kosheliev / TreadmilReviews.net

Top by Category

Best Overall – NordicTrack Commercial X32i
Best Runner-Up – NordicTrack Elite Treadmill
Best For a Private Studio – Freemotion i22.9 Incline Trainer
Best on a Budget – Freemotion i10.9b
Best Overall Deal – NordicTrack Commercial X22i

Ideal for power walking, incline trainers are popular fitness machines which can support cardio training, rapid calorie burn, and targeted muscle toning all at once. They’re low impact and less damaging on the joints relative to traditional treadmills, and can be a great alternative to ellipticals or steppers.

A steep maximum incline is the key feature of an incline trainer, and that’s something I really like. As a bodybuilder and powerlifter, I spend a lot of time on barbell squats and deadlifts. Using my treadmill to hike and power walk has been a big benefit to me. This is particularly true when you couple the machine with an interactive workout app like iFit, which allows trainers to adjust the resistance while you exercise. If you’re unfamiliar with iFit, read my review here of a truly unique fitness program. Most treadmills top out at 15-20% incline, while these incline trainers stretch between 30-40%. Just to visualize, consider that a 90-degree angle is like walking up a wall, and 45% is halfway between that and the ground. This range of slope settings allows these machines to serve as a treadmill, elliptical, and stair stepper, and if you have the heart to feel that burn in your quads while marching 40% at 5-7 miles per hour, then of these might be for you.

These are a select breed of machines and few manufacturers produce them. You’ll also notice their pricier than normal treadmills. If you find the price to be a barrier but still want the burning quads, read my review of Best Treadmill Alternatives here and you might find your match. Meanwhile, to make your search easier, you’ll find below our top picks for incline trainers for home gyms and private training studios. If you’re an average cardio fan, you might find these are a bit much. But if you’re a personal trainer or competitive athlete you might see value in this investment. Ready to dig a little deeaper? Read below to check out our reviews of each model.

1. Best Overall – NordicTrack Commercial X32i

Where to buy NordicTrack Commercial X32i
Where to buy NordicTrack Commercial X32i

The NordicTrack Commercial X32i comes in as an all around winner in the world of incline trainers. Priced around $4,499, the unit actually represents one of the better deals in its category. Beloved among those who use it, this incline trainer isn’t for the faint of heart obviously. You’ll first notice the giant 32″ HD touchscreen. The first time I ever stepped onto one of these I felt like I was at a movie theatre. Part of the NordicTrack family, this machine comes iFit-enabled with 30 days of the program free. In addition to automatic trainer control, iFit features Google Maps workout technology. And with a 32″ screen you really can get the feel of walking through the Scottish Highlands, along the Amazonian trails, or wherever your passions might lead.

You’ll also notice the giant, horn-like handlebars that double as a push-sled. You’ll need these when you ramp up the incline to the full 40%, or down to a 6% decline. When the machine goes up that high you might end up hanging on a bit more than normal, whether sprinting hills or mountain climbs. This unit can reach speeds of up to 12 miles per hour, and of course you can run, walk, or job at any level of incline, or none at all.

The X32i comes with AutoAdjust technology, Quiet Drive Incline technology, optimized HD graphics performance, and dual 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi connectivity. This is so the machine, or live trainers, can adjust the resistance to match your workout. You can manually override that, or use the machine in a regular manual mode if you want. The treadmill operates off a 4.25 CHP motor. Yes, you can use the machine without iFit, but the screen really only works with that program except in a manual mode.

The system utilizes an Android 9 OS and sports Bluetooth headphone connectivity, two 3″ digitally amplified speakers, and one touch controls. Another big point, literally, for the X32i is the 22″x 65″ commercial tread belt, which is five inches longer than average, great for distance runners or those with long strides. The machine rides on 2.5″ precision and balanced non-flex rollers and has a 300lb user capacity. The other end of the deal is the 462lb in-box weight. You’ll definitely want to let the delivery team install and assemble this unit per their free offer. While watching, you’ll see it’s not particularly complicated, but the treadmill measures 76.5″ in length by 40″ wide, with a height of 73″ and that’s too big to assemble yourself. Dual workout fans help keep you cool on hard runs.

In terms of warranty, the X32i offers 10 years for the frame, two years for parts, and one year for labor. See our in-depth review of the NordicTrack Commercial X32i.

ProsCons
  • Premium 32″ HD touchscreen
  • 40% incline and 6% decline
  • 22″ x 65″ tread belt
  • Without iFit the screen loses value
  • Not easily moved once installed
  • Pricey

Key Specs

Motor4.25 CHP
Incline-6 — 40%
Running Area22″ x 65″
FoldingNo
Top Speed12 MPH
Weight Capacity300 LBS
Dimensions76.5″ L x 40″ W x 73″ H
Screen32″ Smart HD Touchscreen
Warranty10-Year Frame, 2-Year Parts, 1-Year Labor

2. Best Runner-Up – NordicTrack Elite Treadmill (22-inch)

Where to buy NordicTrack Elite Treadmill
See Price

If you’re looking for a great incline trainer but not quite as big, then the NordicTrack Elite Treadmill’s 22-inch model is worth a look. This model comes with the option of either the 32- or 22-inch HD touchscreen, and we’d recommend the latter as a runner-up. Priced at $3,599, this unit brings a lot of bang for the buck. The version with the 32-inch screen is priced about $4,499, and that seems a bit much for just the difference in screen size. Equipped with a 22-inch tilt and pivot HD touchscreen, this unit comes iFit-enabled with a 30-day trial. One advantage to this unit over the X32i is that this screen can tilt and pivot so there are more options for off-the-treadmill work. The screen features HD graphics and processor cooling with dual 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fit connectivity, as well as premium 30-watt audio speakers.

The Elite has Bluetooth connectivity for both headphones and heart rate monitoring, and the machine operates off an Android 9 OS. Like all iFit-enabled machines, the Elite offers automatic trainer control and adjustments with a Smart Response Drive system. Built with a 3.6 CHP DurX Commercial Plus Motor, the machine can incline up to 40% and decline to -5% with speeds maxing out at 12 miles per hour. The 22″ x 60″ tread belt rolls atop 2.5″ precision and balanced non-flex rollers. Measuring 81″ x 39″ x 76″ and weighing 505 pounds in-box, this is a big unit and that has to be taken into consideration when shopping.

In terms of warranty, the Elite offers a 10-year frame, two-year parts, and one-year labor guarantee.

ProsCons
  • 22″ tilt-and-pivot HD Touchscreen
  • 3.6 HP motor
  • 40% to -5% incline/decline
  • Bluetooth-enabled
  • Help with assembly is required
  • Without iFit the screen loses value
  • Not easily moved

Key Specs

Motor3.6 HP
Incline-5 — 40%
Running Area22″ x 60″
FoldingNo
Top Speed12 MPH
Weight Capacity300 LBS
Dimensions81″ L x 39″ W x 76″ H
Screen22″ HD
Warranty10 Years Frame, 2 Years Parts, 1 Year Labor

3. Best for Private Studio – Freemotion i22.9 Incline Trainer

Freemotion i22.9 Incline Trainer Best for Incline Training
Where to buy Freemotion i22.9 Incline Trainer
Freemotion Logo See Price

Priced around $12,999, the Freemotion i22.9 Incline Trainer is luxury machine built for serious training and mileage. Equipped with a 5.0 AC motor, as opposed to DC, it brings serious horsepower and durability. That kind of motor is sufficient to generate 1,500 pounds of lift force. If you’re a personal trainer with a small studio then this might be an option for you.

The i22.9 brings a 22-inch HD capacitive touchscreen and built-in television tuner. This is augmented by HDMI, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and Bluetooth technology. Users are encouraged to have an Ethernet connection. Measuring 82″ x 34.8″ x 75.3″ the unit has a step-up height of 15.5″ and weighs a whopping 750 pounds. That’s right, 750 pounds. What this tells you is you’ll never feel shaky on this unit and it’s built for the long haul. The maximum user weight is likewise high at 400 pounds. The elevation system spans -3% to 30% decline to incline, and speeds go up to 15 miles per hour.

And price does bring quality, the 22″ x 60″ tread belt features a 1-inch double sided deck which rides atop 3.5-inch spin balanced rollers. Heart rate sensors are built into the handlebars and the unit is also Bluetooth-enabled. Freemotion is part of the iFit family and comes with a 30-day trial of the program. The machine can work without it, but yes, the screen loses a lot of value and the automatic trainer control goes with.

The i22.9 brings a warranty of seven years for the frame and motor, with parts and console covered for two years, and labor just six months. Read our full review of it here.

ProsCons
  • 5.0 AC motor
  • 22″ screen and built-in television tuner
  • Very sturdy design
  • 400-pound weight max
  • 15mph speed max
  • Very large unit not easily moved
  • Without iFit the screen loses value
  • Warranty a bit short for the price

Key Specs

Motor5.0 AC
Incline-3% — 30%
Running Area22″ x 60″
FoldingNo
Top Speed15 MPH
Weight Capacity400 LBS
Dimensions82” L x 34.8” W X 75.3” H
Screen220″ HD touchscreen
Warranty7 Year Frame/Motor, 2 Year Parts/Console, and 6 months Labor

4. Best for Personal Training – Freemotion i10.9b

Where to buy Freemotion i10.9b

The Freemotion i10.9b is a high-speed incline trainer built for long-term performance. Priced around $10,399, the unit sports an AC 5.0 motor for hard work. Capable of generating 1,500 pounds of lift force, the i10.9b can easily transition between -3% and 30% decline/incline with no problem. A top tier model, this is the kind of machine a serious athlete would want in their home gym for maximum mileage and pounding.

Frankly, the biggest difference between the i10.9b and big sibling i22.9 is the screen size and number of built-in programs. Instead of a high-definiton screen for watching iFit programming, this unit has a simple display screen for metrics. Users can bring their own tablet for iFit, which comes with purchase a full one-year bonus, or they can utilize any one of the 44 built-in workout programs. For me, that’s a huge bonus. The iFit package typically costs $39 per month in addition to the machine, and if you don’t want to keep it, the big interactive screens lose value. The other machines have gone away from built-in workout routines, and that’s where the i10.9b really shines in terms of savings.

You still get built-in heart rate sensors and Bluetooth connectivity, a 22″ x 60″ deck with doubly ply belt and 3.5-inch rollers, as opposed to other units’ 2.5-inchers. It’s a big machine at 700 pounds, measuring 80″ x 34.8″ x 76″ and supporting up to 400 pounds in user weight. Maximum speed is 12 miles per hour, and with this kind of set-up, you won’t wobble about at all while sprinting at a 30% incline.

The i10.9b brings a warranty of seven years for the frame and motor, with parts and console covered for two years, and labor just six months. Read our full review here.

ProsCons
  • 5.0 AC motor
  • Very sturdy design
  • 44 built-in program
  • Quitting iFit not as big an issue
  • Bluetooth-enabling
  • Negligible screen
  • Pricey
  • Very heavy machine

Key Specs

Motor5.0 AC
Incline-3 — 30%
Running Area20″ x 60″
FoldingNo
Top Speed12 MPH
Weight Capacity400 LBS
Dimensions80” L x 34.8” W X 76” H
ScreenConsole screen
Warranty7 Year Frame/Motor, 2 Years Parts/Console, and 6 Months Labor

5. Best for Budget – NordicTrack Commercial X22i

NordicTrack Commercial X22i Treadmill
Where to buy NordicTrack Commercial X22i
Where to buy NordicTrack Commercial X22i

The smaller sibling in the NordicTrack lineup of incline trainers, the Commercial X22i is priced about $3,499 and comes with 30 days of the iFit workout app included. On this model, the 22-inch smart HD touchscreen doesn’t pivot and tilt, but it does bring optimized graphics with added processor cooling. Dual 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi connectivity come along with the Android 9 OS and Bluetooth connectivity. This unit also features two 3-inch digitally-amplified speakers. Measuring 70″ x 39″ x 72.5″ with an in-box product weight of 417 pounds, the X22i sports a maximum user weight of 300 pounds.

Built with a 4.0 CHP DurX Commercial Plus Motor, the X22i offers a -6% decline up to 40% incline on a 22″ x 60″ tread belt. Maximum speed goes up to 12 miles per hour and as an iFit-enabled machine it offers auto adjust technology and a smart-response drive system. The unit has 2.5″ precision and balanced non-flex rollers and one-touch controls. Like it’s bigger sibling, the X321, this model offers large horn-like handle bars which can double as a push-sled. Bluetooth-enabled, it’s compatible with heart rate monitors including the SmartBeat system which works in sync with the iFit ActivePulse technology. This allows the machine to adjust the resistance in step with your heart rate as well as the workout itself.

In terms of warranty, the X22i offers 10 years for the frame, two years for parts, and one year for labor. Read our full review of the X22i here.

ProsCons
  • 22″ HD screen
  • Decline/Incline of -6% – 40%
  • Bluetooth-enabled
  • Automatic trainer control
  • Without iFit the screen loses value
  • Large unit which isn’t easily moved

Key Specs

Motor4.0 CHP
Incline-6% – 40%
Running Area22″ x 60″
FoldingNo
Top Speed12 MPH
Weight Capacity300 LBS
Dimensions70″ L x 39″ W x 72.5″ H
Screen22″ Smart HD Touchscreen
Warranty10-Year Frame, 2-Year Parts, 1-Year Labor

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Incline Trainers

Feeling overwhelmed or want to know more about incline trainers before making a purchase? Here’s a quick look at the benefits and drawbaks of incline trainers, as well as some handy tips.

The six key benefits of using an incline trainer include:

  1. Joint-friendly motion
  2. Multifunctional (treadmill/elliptical/stair climber)
  3. Targeted muscle toning
  4. Faster calorie burn
  5. Improved cardiovascular training
  6. Hard hiking is easier for heavier people than running

The hit TV show, “The Biggest Loser,” showcased just how successful incline trainers can be for weight management. Viewers got a chance to see in real time how possible it is to walk into a fit body quickly. Walking on a 25% grade burns calories about 3X faster than a 0% grade, and the benefits just go up from there. Numerous peer-reviewed academic studies have documented this. A recent one even tested trail runners at inclines of 0%, 15%, 25%, and 40% and was published in 2022 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. My own experience as a bodybuilder cutting weight for competitions also comes to mind, and I was able to shave down from 212 to 165 between January and June of 2022 using incline running between -3% and 15% on a treadmill.

But what about the drawbacks? Here are three right off the bat.

  1. Much pricier than normal treadmills due to larger frame and motor size
  2. Significantly heavier than regular treadmills
  3. The average person might lack the discipline to use consistently

As you look through the specs you’ll see these units are perhaps double the cost of regular treadmills and even heavier yet. The frame and motor required to go up 30-40% incline with a user running atop means bigger and heavier, thus costlier. If you’re not that into training and you’re just looking for a solid cardio experience, the cost might not be worth it. But, if you’re a personal trainer or an advanced athlete, or perhaps the parent of athletes, then there could be a return on this investment.

NordicTrack Commercial X22i at 40% Incline

NordicTrack’s Commercial X22i features the broadest incline/decline range. Here, TreadmillReview editor climbs a steep hill using iFit programming at max incline of 40%. The 22-inch smart HD touchscreen on NordicTrack’s Commercial X22i model makes it easy to interact with iFit. The screen is easy to see even when working out off the treadmill. Photo by: Oleksandr Kosheliev / TreadmilReviews.net

Choosing the Best Incline Trainer

Freemotion Fitness and NordicTrack produce some of the top incline trainers around. There are some factors here you should keep in mind when shoppin models.

  • Maximum Incline: Maximum inclines for these cardio trainers range form 30-40%. You can change the incline to target different muscles, and alter the resistance level for lean muscle toning or building bulk.
  • Maximum Decline: Entry-level incline trainers support uphill training, but not downhill training. More advanced models also have modest decline, the most common being 3%; the maximum decline noted in our incline trainer review is 6%.
  • Machine Size: It’s always a good idea to measure your available floor space before choosing a fitness machine, whatever the machine may be. Some incline trainers demand less room than treadmills, but they’re almost always heavier. So flooring becomes a big issue here. These aren’t going to be good for second- or third-floor rooms and need as solid a foundation as possible.
  • Track Length: Sometimes the workout surface length on an incline trainer is longer than a regular treadmill because you’ll need the extra inches as your galloping up a 40% incline.
  • Workout Programs: All of the incline trainers we reviewed here come iFit-ready, and one has 44 built-in programs. If you’re vary of a monthly app fee, the built-in programs really come in handy. You’ll definitely want some kind of distraction when sprinting up inclines this steep and then dropping to the decline.
NordicTrack Commercial X22i iFit Programming

The 22-inch smart HD touchscreen on NordicTrack’s Commercial X22i model makes it easy to interact with iFit. The screen is easy to see even when working out off the treadmill. Photo by: Oleksandr Kosheliev / TreadmilReviews.net

The iFit Experience

It just so happens that this review’s picks were all iFit-strong. Incline trainers are a bit of a niche so I won’t be surprised if other brands get back in the game next year, but right now that’s just not where it’s at. Whether the Bowflex JRNY Fitness App, Echelon Fit, or Peloton’s treadmill program, keep in mind most machines these days come with a brand-specific program designed for it. The downside is these apps are not always interchangeable as they’re typically designed to work with one family of machines. The iFit Family Membership is running $39 per month right now and is pretty much the norm for these programs. If you’re not into that kind of experience, you can always park the machine near a smart television set or bring your own tablet, but some machines lose a lot of value if the screen only works in a manual mode.

But what really sets the iFit program apart is the automatic trainer control and live coaching. Whereas most apps have on-demand videos and real-time artificial intelligence coaching, iFit offers live programs where the trainers can interact with the users in real time. These trainers can also adjust the resistance of the machine from remote locations. On-demand programs also feature this option of automatic control, which takes a lot of guesswork out of the experience.

Home fitness shoppers might recognize the name ICON Health & Fitness, parent company of NordicTrack, ProForm, and FreeMotion, among others. This company renamed itself iFIT Health & Fitness in June, 2021.  The Interactive Fitness & Workout App known as “iFit” now comes as part of the package for most machines offered by these brands.

I’ve used iFit on a NordicTrack Commercial 1750 for the last year and tested it against other apps and really like it. Like most apps, iFit comes with a virtual library of programs in categories spanning cardio to free weights. I really enjoyed the Google Maps workout program which allows you to jog this globe we call Earth. Another great tool is the iFit SmartBeat heart monitor and ActivePulse technology which displayed my heart rate throughout the workout. This lets the machine adjust the resistance to keep me in check both the mountain hikes and the cardio target.

If you’re going to invest the money in an incline trainer with a 22″ to 32″ screen, I’d say you might as well get the iFit package. Yes, you can always work the machine in a manual mode, but frankly it’d be pretty boring while hiking 30-40% incline trails.

Warranties

We watch this like hawks here and I’ve seen some pretty big changes over the years. Ideally you’d like to see a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor, with perhaps 5-10 years for the labor and parts. That’s still out there but becoming less common. At minimum you’d want 10 years for the frame and a 30-day money-back guarantee. We’ve found the iFit treadmills tend to meet or exceed this and we haven’t seen too many complaints on that end.

NordicTrack Commercial X32i OneTouch Controls

The NordicTrack Commercial X32i brings a number of great features including easy to use controls. Photo by: Oleksandr Kosheliev / TreadmilReviews.net

PROS
  • Incline trainers offer a superior range of training options
  • Incline trainers come ready for interactive training
CONS
  • Incline trainers are significantly more expensive than regular treadmills
  • These machines are much larger and heavier than typical treadmills

Trainer Tips

Incline training is great for weight loss and strength training alike. There’s a totally different sensation in terms of quad burn when tromping up and incline like this. If you’re like me and enjoy barbell squats and deadlifts, incline training is a great cardio choice. You won’t sacrifice the muscle fiber like long distance runners, and will wind up with more of a sprinter’s build. This is a big plus for folks with heavy, muscular legs. You’ll also benefit from the larger, heavier frame and won’t have to worry about the wobble.

Conclusion

The lineup of incline trainers here are certainly not cheap, but as with all things, you get what you pay for. I’d vouch for any of these models depending on your goals. If you’re an individual looking for an intense workout, I’d recommend the lower priced models like the NordicTrack Commercial X22i. Professional trainers would be more inclined to invest in a Freemotion with the 5.0 AC motor and heavier frame. Not for the faint of heart or wallet, the best of the incline trainers are for those who truly want to earn the burn.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are incline trainers hard to assemble?

Given the size of these machines, we'd strongly recommend letting the professionals install them. Most of these manufacturers offer this service for free. Because they require larger motors and frames to handle the incline capacity it would be most risky to try alone.

Do these incline trainers work without their app?

They can work without it in manual mode but the screens lose significant value. The big exception is the Freemotion i10.9b which comes with 44 built-in programs.

Give the cost of these units, can I finance a purchase?

Yes. Each of these machines is being offered with company financing.

Can incline training make my legs stronger?

Definitely! If you're looking to build muscle while torching fat, then these steep inclines will certainly do that. What you'll want to do is focus on High Intensity Interval Training instead of Long Slow Distance running and you should see your leg press numbers skyrocket.

Do NordicTrack and Freemotion have good reputations?

Both brands are manufactured by the same company and yes, they're well reviewed across the board.