THERE’S NO SHORTAGE of fitness advice online. Pull up Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok and you can have an influencer yelling at you to get your butt to the gym in a few taps and swipes of your finger. If you’ve navigated the depths of the internet searching for workout plans, you’ve probably come across the 12-3-30 protocol.
The 12-3-30 workout is more than just a fleeting trend however—#12330workout has more than 325.3 million views on TikTok, as of press time. It’s a treadmill-based workout that only takes 30 minutes to complete, and it’s being touted as the “best way” to shed fat and build up your lower body. If you see a line of people at the treadmill section of your gym walking on a steep incline, they just might be taking part in this TikTok trend.
We don’t need to tell you that not everything you read on the internet is true. So, we asked the experts if this trend is just social media hype, or if it’s actually worth 30 minutes of your time and effort.
What Is the 12-3-30 Workout?
The 12-3-30 workout was made popular by Lauren Giraldo, a lifestyle social media influencer. The idea is to walk on a treadmill that is set to an incline of 12.0, at a speed of 3.0 mile per hour, for 30 minutes. She credits her 30 pound weight loss to doing this workout five times per week.
Is the 12-3-30 Workout Effective?
The answer to this question depends largely on what your fitness goals look like. If you’re looking to get off your couch and get some steps in, then 12-3-30 just might be the thing to get you started.
Beginning a fitness journey can be complicated and confusing, says Bobby Maximus, former UFC fighter and fitness personality. Many feel like finding the perfect fitness routine is an impossible task, but you don’t need to be perfect to start. The 12-3-30 method provides a simple way to get moving. “The secret is just in front of you,” he says. “Put the treadmill on an incline and just walk.”
If you want to burn fat, this workout just might be the extra cardio you’ve been aiming to do. Walking—particularly at an incline, which is more difficult than on a level surface—will ramp up your heart rate to burn off calories, depending on your fitness level. At the very least, it will get you moving, which can be valuable no matter your experience and conditioning.
If you’re looking to build muscle mass and strength, however, a treadmill alone won’t get you there. You can (and should) feature cardio like 12-3-30 into your routine to help with heart health and recovery, says Eric Sung, C.S.C.S. But you won’t build strength if you’re spending most of your time in the cardio section of the gym. You’ll need to add in resistance training to accomplish those goals.
What Are Benefits of 12-3-30 Workout?
While it might not be for everyone, the 12-3-30 workout does offer some undeniable health benefits. First and foremost, any form of cardio can be good for your heart. Incorporating cardio into your routine betters “heart health, lower risks of heart disease, and helps aid with fat loss,” Sung says.
Another great characteristic of 12-3-30 is that it’s low impact, meaning you’re not exerting major force on your joints by running or jumping. That’s good news if you’re healing an injury, or if you have joint pain already.
This workout is also generally accessible to most anyone who can walk. All you need is a treadmill, which you can often find at your local gym or community center. Even if you don’t have access to one of those things, you can walk outside for the same amount of time. “The thing that I like about this is everyone can do it. It’s completely 100 percent inclusive,” says Maximus. “Fitness should be for everybody.”
Not everyone is ready and willing to hop into disciplines like strength training, CrossFit, or MMA immediately. Walking is something most people do every day. Add an incline to up the intensity, and you have a killer workout that almost everyone can do.
How Often Should You Do the 12-3-30 Workout?
Let’s take this conversation back to goals. If your goal is to maintain basic fitness and improve heart health, doing the 12-3-30 three to five times a week can be an adequate routine, says Percell Duggar, Nike Run coach and fitness trainer.
If you’re trying to build muscle mass, then you don’t need to do this every single day. Sung suggests programming cardio like the 12-3-30 workout into your routine twice a week, and then maybe vary it up by adding a third cardio session that incorporates some sprints or higher intensity work. Incorporating a different intensity changes up the muscle fibers and energy systems you’re using, which provides valuable variety into your training.
What Are Some Good Alternatives to the 12-3-30 Workout?
Speaking of variety, switching up your cardio routine has some major benefits. Consistently repeating high-effort cardio sessions can limit the frequency of training, says Dugger. High-intensity workouts take longer to recover from, so you may subsequently need more days off after completing a tough session. Plus, overdoing more rigorous cardio training styles can increase your likelihood of injury, he says. Mixing up levels of effort in your cardio helps you stay consistent and safe.
The 12-3-30 workout will feel incredibly difficult to some, and a walk in the (admittedly steep) park for others. There’s no “one size fits all” for fitness, and the 12-3-30 is no exception. Don’t knock it if you think it’s going to be too difficult, though—the good thing about this workout is it is easily tailored to change up intensity.
You can toggle any of the criteria up or down, depending on your fitness level. If the incline feels too high, try setting the treadmill at 10 to start. If you’re really struggling to get through the full half hour, cut the timer to 15 minutes. Adjust as you needed, advises Dugger.
If the thought of mounting the treadmill is really what’s getting to you—the old “dreadmill” moniker isn’t for nothing—there’s other cardio equipment out there that can help you achieve a similar goal to your 12-3-30 workout. Duggar suggests trying a stair-climbing machine for a similar effect. Or, if you want to incorporate more full body work, both the rowing machine and the assault bike bring your upper body into play. Just keep the intensity down for the same type of session.
The Bottom Line About 12-3-30
If 12-3-30 protocol is the only thing getting you into the gym, by all means, give it a try and make it part of your fitness program. At the end of the day, it’s a way of getting up and getting moving.
That said, 12-3-30 may or may not be the most efficient way to achieve to your goals, depending on what those are. The treadmill won’t help you gain muscle mass or strength, but it can help you shed some fat. The protocol can be a good place to start to build up your cardio, but you’ll find greater benefits from mixing up the intensity from time to time to train different heart rate zones and muscle fibers.
Overall, if you’re just looking to get moving to keep yourself healthy, and 12-3-30 keeps you consistent, have at it. Use it to start—then keep walking as you progress up the fitness ladder.
Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.
Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.