Does Walking On An Incline Make Your Legs Bigger?

If you're hoping to build serious leg muscles by walking, there's good news and bad news: You will build muscle, but there's a limit to how much you can build, regardless of the terrain you're walking on. If your incline on the treadmill is maxed out, you may be disappointed if you're looking for bulging quads and calves. But if you're hoping for toned muscles, walking can get you there.

Low intensity exercise like walking — even uphill — won't make your muscles bulky, since it focuses on slow-twitch muscle fibers that will keep you walking for hours at a time without fatiguing. These are different than the fast-twitch muscles that are at work when you're doing a maximum weight back squat (via Verywell Fit)!

You may notice that you're more toned thanks to uphill walking, since it forces you to use your glutes more effectively than walking on a flat. And as you increase the speed, even to a fast-paced walk, you'll see more gains. "Glute development, aka 'booty gains,' comes from building muscular strength, improving body composition, and having great posture," run coach Michael Olzinski told PopSugar. "All of these things can be improved with some very good and strong incline walking sessions."

How can you maximize your walking for muscle gains?

If you're focused on gaining muscle and dropping fat, keep most of your treadmill session easy to moderate with walking or gentle running, and then spike the pace and the incline for hill sprints. You'll boost your heart rate while also working your muscles hard. Do a maximum of 10 sets of 20 second sprints with at least 40 seconds of rest in between (via Men's Health UK). You can also do this on a hill outside.

From a muscular standpoint, getting larger legs is going to mean hopping off the treadmill and hitting the heavy weights, and you'll likely need to make dietary changes as well. If that's your goal, consider consulting with a personal trainer to work out a plan that lets you keep walking, but adds a strength training component as well. And remember, some people will naturally have much bigger legs, while others will naturally tend towards leaner legs but store fat in other areas. You may struggle to put on muscle, or it may pack on easily — pay attention to what your body naturally tends to do, and work with it rather than against it (via Verywell Fit).