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The 12-3-30 'hot girl workout' is a waste of your time — these 3 routines are better for building muscle and burning fat

A woman in a sports bra and shorts looking tired on a treadmill.
You can break up with your treadmill if you get bored. Exercises like rucking, rowing, and lifting weights can be more fun and beneficial.skynesher/Getty Images
  • The viral 12-3-30 workout is fine, but there are better ways to spend your exercise time.

  • Rowing and rucking are easy ways to combine cardio with resistance training to build muscle.

  • Don't shy away from strength training — it's less intimidating and healthier than you may think.

Step away from the treadmill — seriously, the latest TikTok trend is not going to give you abs, grow your butt, or help you get the toned bod of your dreams no matter what influencers say or show you.

The "12-3-30" workout, otherwise known as the "hot girl workout" is the zombie exercise trend that's trying to suck the life out of your gym sessions. The so-called "viral" routine seems to be resurrected every few months on various social media platforms since around 2019. The gist of it is that you spend 30 minutes on a treadmill set to three miles per hour at a 12% incline.

What you need to know right now is that the 12-3-30 trend is yet another version of the endless cardio machine trends with misleading promises, all banking on the myth that exercise is a chore you need to do to lose weight or look good. These types of workouts tend to target women, often playing on pressure to look a certain way: skinny, but not sickly, toned without looking bulky, with a magazine-worthy thigh gap but inexplicably, also a dumptruck booty.

Don't get me wrong: walking is great for you, and you should do it. A brisk pace is nice for health. Walking on an incline is fine for raising your heart rate, and can get you into a sweet spot of healthy low-intensity cardio called Zone 2.

And if you really, truly love being on the treadmill at exactly three miles an hour at exactly 12% incline for exactly 30 minutes, and that gets you excited to go to the gym, follow your bliss. Put on your favorite podcast or playlist, and go to town. No judgment — the best exercise is the one you'll actually enjoy and keep doing. This just probably isn't it for most people.

I'm not interested in arguing that this workout is egregiously bad (it's fine) or debating whether holding the handles negates the benefits of the incline (an expert says … meh?).

I'm just tired of talking about it. The 12-3-30 workout is like a date that you could mayyybe ask out again because they didn't have serious red flags, but there's not any real chemistry either. Why settle for less?

Your time and energy are valuable, and you deserve a workout that loves you back, whether you have specific fitness goals or just want to be healthier.

For your consideration, here are three alternative workouts, approved by personal trainers and fitness pros, that you can do in the same amount of time and effort. I'm not your mom, but you might find they're more fun, and have a much bigger payoff for your health and fitness. I just want you to make good choices, sweetie.

Rucking can get your heart rate up and help you build muscle without a gym

A person in a backpack and hiking clothes on a high hilltop looking over a sunny landscape
Rucking is a fancy word for carrying a backpack as exercise, whether your in a beautiful landscape or just walking around your neighborhood.Olga Pankova/Getty Images

Don't be fooled by the tech bro hype or Navy SEAL connotations: rucking is just walking with weight, and you're already kind of doing it every time you've taken a trip to the library or tried to stuff an ambitious Trader Joe's haul into one tiny backpack.

The major benefit of rucking is that it incorporates resistance training into your cardio, which is great for your health and also for building muscle. Regardless of how muscular you think you want to look, having lean muscle mass is important for longevity, and for a healthy metabolism.

As a bonus, you're more likely to do rucking compared to other workouts because you don't have to trek out to a treadmill or duke it out with your fellow gym-goers for cardio equipment.

To start rucking, try loading up a backpack with 15 to 30 pounds (you can use books, water bottles, etc.) fitness writer Michael Easter previously told Business Insider. You may not even need a full 30 minutes, since 15 minutes of rucking can be a great entry-level workout.

Rowing is an underrated exercise for cardio, core, and full-body strength

Two athletes in a gym performing a workout on the rower
Rowing is an upgrade to your typical cardio session because it adds resistance to strengthen your legs, back, arms, and core.RichLegg/Getty Images

With everyone in a hurry to hop on the treadmill or stair stepper, the real VIP for a 30-minute-or-less cardio session is the often-overlooked rower.

Rowing is an aerobic workout that also helps builds muscle by working your core, legs, back, and arms, making it one of the most efficient total body exercises you can do, personal trainer Noam Tamir of TS Fitness is New York City previously told BI.

You can keep it fun by trying different workout splits or trying to beat your previous stats, he said.

As with any exercise program, it's ideal to have a trainer or coach as you're starting out so you can make your workouts efficient and avoid unnecessary injury risks.

However, you can try rowing on your own without much risk, if you remember it's a leg exercise first, avoid pulling too early with your arms, and keep your elbows close to your body.

Lifting weights is easier than you think

A woman lifting a dumbbell overhead in a fitness class.
Lifting weights doesn't have be intimidating, and you might be pleasantly surprised to discover how strong you are.Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Ok, hear me out. I know the weight room can be intimidating, the thought of throwing around massive barbells might not be your jam, and you're afraid of doing something wrong and tweaking your back.

But weightlifting is the absolute best bang for your buck in the gym. It can help you live longer. It can help you lose weight, if you feel like it. And if you want to build muscle, get stronger, or cultivate a more athletic physique, there is truly no better path than picking up heavy stuff.

Lifting weights is for everyone, and it's much easier than you think to learn how to do it effectively and correctly. Feeling strong is also a great boost for your mood and confidence.

The very best way to start, if possible, is to work with a coach or personal trainer, even if it's only for a few sessions to get the basic movements down. Good form (which means performing the correct movement pattern and engaging the right muscle groups) is crucial to get the most out of an exercise and prevent injury.

However, if you absolutely can't get a trainer for whatever reason (again, no judgment), there are plenty of exercises that require minimal technique and have a relatively low risk of messing up that you can start with.

  • Goblet squats strengthen your legs and core: Do them by holding a weight like a dumbbell at chest level while squatting, keeping your torso upright.

  • A farmer carry is done by hoisting a weight (like a dumbbell or kettlebell) in each hand and walking, working your whole body at once.

  • The overhead press is a classic compound movement that brings a weight from shoulder level up overhead to strengthen the upper body. Avoid arching your back.

Don't overcomplicate your exercise, start light, and work your way up over time.

If you have no idea how to begin, a good goal is two to three workouts per week, three sets per exercise, somewhere between eight to 12 reps per set depending on how heavy you want to go. You'll be in and out of the gym in no more time than you would have spent on the treadmill, and you may even be excited for your next workout.

Read the original article on Business Insider