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If you routinely scroll on TikTok during your lunch break or spend your downtime watching YouTube videos, you might have stumbled across the 12-3-30 workout. Popular YouTuber Lauren Giraldo introduced her 1.17 million subscribers to this treadmill routine in 2019, which blew up on TikTok with #12330workout, netting 344.6M views to date.
So, how does this low-impact cardio protocol work, and is it worthy of 30 minutes of your day or just another passing fitness trend—all hype, no science? At GGR, we pride ourselves on being experts on everything fitness and took a closer look at the 12-3-30 to answer your (leg) burning questions.
Let’s fire up the ol’ treadmill and find out!
What is the 12-3-30 Workout?
The 12-3-30 workout is a 30-minute cardio workout traditionally done on the treadmill. You’ll set the treadmill incline to 12, and walk at three miles-per-hour for a total of 30 minutes. I like this treadmill workout for beginners because it doesn’t require you to constantly switch the settings around.
RELATED: Best Treadmills for a Home Gym
Pretend you’re watching an infomercial for the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Oven. Simply “set it and forget it” as the great Ron Popeil told us to do.
Before getting started with the 12-3-30 workout, I recommend completing a five minute warm-up on the treadmill. Walk at a normal pace without incline to get your body ready to move with more intensity.
It’s worth noting that not every treadmill has the ability to go to a level 12 incline. Depending on whether you do this as a home workout with your own personal treadmill or go to the gym, your options may differ slightly.
Looking for a treadmill that can support the 12-3-30 workout? I recommend the NordicTrack Horizon 7.0 AT, for more information check out my in-depth NordicTrack Horizon 7.0 AT Treadmill review. This powerful cardio machine has incline options up to 15! This means you can even advance the 12-3-30 workout in the future with the help of this treadmill.
Horizon 7.0 AT Treadmill
- Priced under $1,000
- Spacious 60-inch running deck
- Bluetooth connectivity
- QuickDial controls for both the speed and incline
Pros & Cons
- 60” running surface
- 3.0 CHP motor
- Bluetooth connectivity with apps like Zwift, Peloton, and Nike Running Club
- 325 lb weight limit
- Heavy machine at over 250 lbs
- No included touchscreen
- 3-year parts warranty and 1-year labor warranties are less than the Horizon 7.4 AT Treadmill
Who Should Do the 12-3-30 Workout?
Nothing works for absolutely everyone, and the 12-3-30 workout is no exception. Although this is an excellent workout that will likely get your lungs and legs burning, I wouldn’t suggest it for everyone. Here’s who I think should give it a whirl and who should modify or try something different:
- People who don’t enjoy running
- Folks who want to try a walking workout
- Getting your heart rate up
- Beginners without injuries or lower-back problems
Not the best for:
- People with ankle, calf, or back injuries
- Those who only want to run
- Individuals who want to stay away from of-the-moment fitness trends
RELATED: Treadmill Benefits
How to Practice the 12-3-30 Workout Safely
If you have an injury that makes steep incline walking painful (ankle reconstruction, anyone?) you can lower the incline and still get a great workout. If you decrease the incline, you can always speed up your walking pace to around four miles per hour.
Lauren Giraldo originally created this workout because she allegedly didn’t enjoy running on a treadmill for 30 minutes but still wanted a good workout. I say this because I want to encourage you to modify anything that doesn’t work for you due to injury, exercise equipment restraints, or fitness level.
“You can modify the workout based on your current activity levels. Instead of following the 12-3-20 guidelines to a tee, just choose settings that you can carry out for an extended period of time, because that’s the real goal here. When it’s no longer challenging, change the settings,” says GGR Staff Writer Lauren Strong, CPT.
12-3-30 Workout on an Exercise Bike
Best Exercise Bike
- 24 digital resistance levels
- Incline and decline adjustments
- Fully rotating touchscreen
Pros & Cons
- Large 22" smart HD touchscreen
- Incline and decline ability
- Compatible with iFIT
- Adjustable seat
- Adjustable handles
- Dual-sided pedals
- Comes with 2 3-lb dumbbells
- 24 digital resistance levels
- iFIT membership not necessary, but most beneficial
- Difficult to assemble
- Can’t be stored in the garage (brand states doing so will void the bike’s warranty)
- Hard to move and weighs more than 200 pounds
While the average exercise bike doesn’t have incline or decline options, the NordicTrack S22i does. This $1,999 machine goes up to a 20% incline, so you can still set your bike at the prescribed 12% incline.
Since an exercise bike doesn’t have speed options like a treadmill does, you’ll have to get slightly creative. I suggest turning up the resistance to a three to keep in line with the 12-3-30 numbers. Keep the same allotted time of 30 minutes and enjoy your ride!
RELATED: Can you lose weight on an exercise bike?
12-3-30 Workout on an Elliptical
If an elliptical is the only piece of cardio equipment you have access to, you can still likely do a modified version of the 12-3-30. I suggest checking your elliptical to see if it has incline options, as not all models do. If yours does, like the NordicTrack AirGlide 14i, you’ll be able to easily transfer the main components of the 12-3-30 to your machine.
Start by switching the incline to 12 (or the highest level available on your particular elliptical if it doesn’t go up to 12). Next, set your resistance level to three, and stride for 30 minutes. You should feel a similar burn in your lower extremity as you would doing the 12-3-30 on a treadmill.
Lauren adds that using an elliptical (or exercise bike) for the 12-3-30 workout is a great way for those with joint pain or injuries to enjoy this workout with less impact on their joints.
12-3-30 Workout Without a Treadmill
If you can’t get your hands on any cardio equipment, you can still do something similar to the 12-3-30 outside. Find a hill-y area near you and walk at a fast but comfortable pace for 30 minutes. You’ll get a similar effect as the 12-3-30 since you’ll be utilizing incline at around the same pace you’d be going on the treadmill.
A Personal Trainer’s Take on the 12-3-30 Workout
Curious what a certified personal trainer thinks about the 12-3-30? Certified personal trainer (and Garage Gym Reviews performance editor) Anthony O’Reilly has tried the viral workout and is here to give you his thoughts.
“The 12-3-30 workout is a very efficient way to get a great cardio workout, and target your lower-body muscles,” Anthony explains. “The incline will help strengthen your posterior chain and lower leg muscles, which can help with training for real world situations like climbing stairs or hiking. Plus, studies have shown that walking on an incline helps burn more calories than walking on a flat surface.”
Even better? “The average walking speed is about three miles per hour, so this workout should be doable for people of various fitness levels,” Anthony shares.
I’ve done this workout myself, and found it to be a good way to switch up my cardio. I had my ankle reconstructed a few years ago, and demanding inclines aren’t my friend, so I have to limit how frequently I do this workout. Nonetheless, if you don’t have any lingering injuries, I think it is a fun cardio workout for you to try out.
Benefits of the 12-3-30 Workout
Like most activities that get your legs moving and heart pumping, the 12-3-30 workout has a myriad of benefits (provided you are not someone with an existing injury). Check out why you might want to give the 12-3-30 a whirl:
- Better heart health1
- Works different muscles than walking without incline
- Can help you achieve fitness goals
- Lower-impact than running
- Can support weight loss efforts
RELATED: Treadmill Benefits
Risks or Drawbacks of the 12-3-30 Workout
While generally safe, most cardio—especially when performed on an incline—can come with risks depending on your fitness level or preexisting injuries. While the 12-3-30 workout is much more low-impact than your average HIIT workout, you made need an adjustment period if you’re not conditioned or regularly working out.
RELATED: Steady State Cardio vs HIIT
“I find when folks go from no activity to following a program, there is little consideration for a ramp-up period. It’s OK to do a few workouts with slower speeds, less time, and lower incline settings. Additionally, steady-state cardio in general takes up more time than high-impact interval training (HIIT) which means you’re more subject to overuse injury. That’s why a ramp-up period is essential!” says Lauren Strong, CPT.
Simple can be great for some but not all, so training boredom is another potential drawback of the 12-3-30 treadmill workout. Folks who don’t find cardio training stimulating have a hard enough time doing their weekly workout, so 30 minutes of steady-state walking can be a daunting prospect. Adherence is crucial for a program like this to lead to results, so you really have to enjoy what you’re doing.
12-3-30 Workout: FAQs
Does the 12-3-30 workout make you lose weight?
Any fitness routine has the potential to help you lose weight when combined with an appropriate diet. However, always talk to your doctor or a licensed medical professional before attempting any sort of weight loss. And remember that exercise is only part of the equation when it comes to weight loss.
Can I do the 12-3-30 workout everyday?
“There’s no workout that people should do everyday, as doing so can result in extreme fatigue, overuse injuries, body aches, and disruptions to your sleeping schedule,” Anthony clarifies. It’s good to give your body at least one or two rest days each week to help your muscles recover.
Is the 12-3-30 workout just cardiovascular-based or does it have strength training components to it?
The 12-3-30 is mostly cardiovascular-focused since it is traditionally done on a treadmill. However, you will likely challenge your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads since you’re walking uphill. This isn’t a replacement for traditional strength training, but it can be a nice addition to your current workout routine.
Are there any motivating TikTok videos I can watch for people’s 12-3-30 workout results?
Yes! Check out the hashtag #12330 on TikTok to view people of all genders, ages, and body types trying out this workout trend.
Will the 12-3-30 workout be too easy for me if I’m a serious athlete?
While the 12-3-30 isn’t exactly HIIT, you’ll definitely still get a nice tomato-face look going after you’re done––it is physical activity after all. Don’t underestimate the power of walking on an incline for 30 minutes.
- Myers, J. (2003). Exercise and cardiovascular health. Circulation, 107(1). https://doi.org/10.1161/01.cir.0000048890.59383.8d
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