Short on time? Jump straight to our top choice, the ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill.
What’s the first thing you think of when somebody says ‘cardio’? For most people, it’s running. Whatever your goals for aerobic fitness, running will do the job. Whether that be burning fat, increasing stamina or generally feeling fitter and happier. You can get all this from a morning jog along the beach. Bathed in glorious sunshine, Baywatch-style. Sounds good doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this isn’t reality for most of us. Busy work lives result in running when it’s dark outside. If, like me, you live in rainy southern England, running outdoors often means getting very, very wet. Even if you are lucky enough to live in a Californian beach house, sometimes you just want to workout without leaving home. This is where treadmills come in. But what’s different about a manual one? That’s what we’ll go over here, along with how to pick the best manual treadmill for your home gym.
Quick Comparison: Best Manual Treadmills
Manual vs. Motorized Treadmills
We’ve all heard of treadmills, but what’s the difference between manual and motorized?
The traditional treadmill you see in your local gym is a motorized one. They run on a motor (surprise!) which means the belt is powered by electricity. The belt can be set to run at different speeds, and moved to different inclines. The main control panel also includes a screen with built-in workouts, and statistics for tracking progress. Some even include fans to keep you cool and speakers for listening to music. All sounds pretty good right? Before you get too excited, there are a couple of downsides. Firstly, they can be very expensive (with some in the thousands). The internal motor also results in them being quite bulky, which isn’t ideal for a home gym with limited space. As they run on electricity, you will also need a power source, which a garage gym may not have. The motor itself can be noisy, and the moving belt is potentially dangerous if you’re not used to running on one. There are certainly lots of positives to a traditional treadmill, but there is another option. Read on.
Manual treadmills are non-electric, meaning they are self-powered. The belt on a manual treadmill is moved by your feet. When you start to walk, the belt will move. If you start to jog, the belt will move a little faster. As mentioned, this gives the added advantage of not needing any electricity. They can be moved around, to any room in the house (or the garden shed), and you don’t need to worry about power. This also means they are more ‘green’ and planet-friendly. The lack of technology involved means they are smaller in size, so are more lightweight and maneuverable. However, there are a few things to be aware of. Due to the lack of a motor, your speed depends on how hard you push. This means your knees and ankles can be taking quite a lot of impact. This should be avoided if you’re somebody with joint problems. The manual belt also doesn’t work so well for sprinting or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is a disadvantage. Having said this, they are still worth considering. Whilst not as sophisticated as motorized versions, manual treadmills are usually much (much) cheaper. This makes them ideal for beginners or first-time buyers. They are also a great solution for walkers, and those of you doing light jogging.
There is a third type of treadmill which we haven’t mentioned yet. This is the curved manual treadmill. These are a relatively new piece of gym equipment, and are very effective at mimicking outdoor running. They can also be used for sprinting, and are often the choice for professional sports teams and athletes. However, as gym-grade equipment, they tend to be very expensive. This puts them out of range for the average person building a home gym. In this case, we are going to focus on the classic flatter treadmills, and save the curved ones for another article.
Regardless of how you decide to do your running, the very first thing you want to do is a proper warm up. There’s nothing worse than picking up an injury 5 minutes in to a run, just because you didn’t stretch. Who better to show us how it’s done than the Olympic gold medalist, and Mobot-man himself, Mo Farah.
How to Choose the Best Manual Treadmill for Your Home Gym
If you decide that a manual treadmill is for you, the next step is choosing which one to buy. These are the main features that can set them apart.
Some manual treadmills have adjustable resistance, meaning that you can change how hard you have to push to move the belt. This is a good feature which allows you to adapt the belt to your own style. Needless to say, more levels of adjustment are better.
The incline of a treadmill can change your workout dramatically, and give you some variation. A treadmill that can have several different levels of incline is desirable. In fact, without any incline, it can be difficult to do much more than walk on a manual treadmill. This is because the manual belt needs that extra little push from gravity to get it going. We recommend avoiding versions that can only be used flat, unless you are particularly averse to going uphill, or are only in it for the walking.
The size is one of the first things you’ll want to check, particularly to ensure it fits in to your current home gym. You also want to ensure the belt itself is wide enough, as some treadmills can be particularly narrow. Depending on your preference, this may or may not bother you.
I think we mention this for almost every piece of gym equipment, but it’s an important point! You don’t want to be buying something that is going to fall apart in 6 months. Solid materials and good construction will help with this.
Manual treadmills often have the unique feature of being foldable. Their lightweight design is well suited to being adjustable, and the arms or frame can be tucked away on certain models. This is great if space is an issue.
Manual treadmills don’t have the complex consoles of motorized models. However, they sometimes have a simpler alternative. Many include a display screen, with the ability to show heart rate and other tracking. As there is no mains power connected, these are usually battery powered.
Manual Treadmill Reviews
Our Top Choice: ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill
The ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill runs on twin cast iron flywheels, which provides a smooth and consistent belt movement. There is a battery powered LCD display, allowing you to keep track of your time, distance and speed. The steel frame includes wide side rails for grip, which is particularly handy when starting out. The weight capacity of 230lbs, and belt width of 13 inches, are slightly lower than other models out there. However, these specs will be more than enough for the average home-gymmer, and its low price range makes it incredible value. The incline is adjustable to 2 different levels, but there is no adjustable resistance, which a small negative. For those of you with smaller home gyms, this treadmill is fully foldable, and even includes transportation wheels. While this treadmill isn’t perfect, it comes with a great range of features for the price. If this is your first manual treadmill, we think this one is worth your attention.
- Adjustable to 2 incline levels
- LCD display
- Transportation wheels
- Lower end of price range
- No adjustable resistance
With a 300lb weight capacity, and belt width of 16 inches, this treadmill has some impressive stats. The sweat-resistant rails give added support, and many users have mentioned the high durability of its sturdy frame. The stable and smooth belt movement is provided by dual structure flywheels. A big positive here is the 16 different levels of adjustable magnetic resistance, which really allow you to tailor it to your workout. This particular model has a fixed incline of 13.5 degrees, however, there is also an adjustable version available. This treadmill is already at the higher end of the price range though, so it’s a shame this feature isn’t standard. Foldable and portable, this choice ticks a lot of boxes.
- 16in belt width
- 300lb weight capacity
- 16 levels of magnetic resistance
- Transportation wheels
- Fixed incline (adjustable version available)
The Pheonix 98510 Easy-Up is another option for those of you looking towards the lower end of the price range. The display screen gives you all of your key workout stats, which is again battery powered. The frame has a bottle holder, which is a nice addition, and one which many other models seem to miss. This one also comes with a water bottle included (who doesn’t like a free gift?!). Not only is this treadmill foldable, but it can be locked firmly in place. This makes it very compact, and possible to store in the corner of a home gym. The belt width is 13 inches, and the weight capacity is at 250lbs. These are at the lower end, but are still reasonable numbers. The big disadvantages here are no adjustable incline or resistance. If these are important features for you, look elsewhere. However, if you are a beginner and not desperate for these things, this could be the one for you.
- Display screen
- Water bottle holder
- Transportation wheels
- Fixed incline
- No adjustable resistance
This mid-range treadmill has an incline adjustable to 3 different levels. The belt is 13.5 inches wide, with a 220lb weight capacity, and there is a console showing the usual key stats. Foldable, and with an adjustable resistance, this has every feature to look for in a non-electric treadmill. So far, so good. However, some users have reported difficulty in assembling the product at home. It’s usually possible to pay a little extra for assembly, but this can be pricey. If you really hate assembling new products, bear this is mind, but for most people it shouldn’t be an issue. This treadmill is unique as it has the addition of adjustable tension bars for arm exercises. These provide a similar movement to using a cross trainer, for a more full-body workout. These are optional, so you can pay a little less if this feature doesn’t interest you. Last but not least, there are extra sensors included which can keep track of your heart rate.
- LCD console
- Incline adjustable to 3 levels
- Heart rate sensors
- Adjustable resistance
- Some users have reported difficulty in assembling
As you would expect, self-powered treadmills are often cheaper when compared to their motorized counterparts. This is a big part of their appeal. If you are on a budget, skip ahead, as the ASUNA Hi-Performance is certainly towards the higher price range. The result, however, is high quality. The dual flywheel design gives a controlled belt performance. There are sweat resistant grip bars and a foldable frame. Included is a tablet holder, for those of you who like to catch up on Netflix mid-workout (not my bag personally). It has a huge weight capacity of 440lb, and a very spacious 18-inch-wide belt. The incline can be adjusted to 5 different levels, and there are also 8 levels of resistance to work your way through. Most importantly, users have reported good performance when running, particularly at higher speeds. This is a key point, and is something more affordable models can’t provide. Whilst we think this is pricey for a manual treadmill, it packs a good punch. If you’re looking for the very best in quality, then this is a strong contender.
- 18in belt width
- 440lb weight capacity
- Tablet holder
- Adjustable to 5 levels of incline
- Adjustable to 8 levels of resistance
- High end of price range
Having looked at the treadmills above, we think there is no doubt that the highest quality choice is the ASUNA Hi-Performance. If you’re planning on using it for running, this model is worth serious consideration. However, when looking at manual treadmills, you cannot ignore the price. After all, their main benefit over motorized treadmills is their affordability. For that reason, our top choice is the ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill. With adjustable incline, an LCD display and a portable folding frame, this will meet all of your treadmill needs. At an incredible price, we think this manual treadmill would be a great addition to any home gym.