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Paige Waehner

10-20-30 - The Ideal High Intensity Interval Training?

By December 5, 2012

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Interval training is so much a part of our exercise lives, it's rare that I come across someone who isn't doing it or hasn't at least tried it. It's no wonder it's so popular. You can burn more calories, workout for a shorter period of time, the workout flies by and you only work hard for short, tolerable intervals.

There's no end to the interval workouts these days - Aerobic intervals, anaerobic intervals and the latest craze, Tabata training, all of which have different levels of intensity and different work-to-rest ratios.

Many of these workouts claim to be the best way to exercise, to increase performance and boost endurance, but is there one best interval workout out there? One group of researchers think so, having come up with the 10-20-30 training concept: 10 seconds of high intensity sprinting, 20 seconds of moderate running and 30 seconds of low intensity jogging, repeated 5 times with a rest for 2 minutes. Build in a warm up and a cool down, repeat each segment 2-3 times and you've got a solid HIIT workout.

The study behind this concept produced some interesting results, suggesting that runners may be able to improve their performance in half the time, but is this the answer to best interval training? That's a question I discuss in my latest article, 10-20-30 - The Best High Intensity Interval Training?

What do you think? Do you like interval training and, if so, what's your favorite type of workout? Is this new spin on HIIT something you'd try in your own workouts? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.


Gunnarsson TP, Bangsbo J. The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners. J Appl Physiol. 2012 Jul;113(1):16-24.

December 5, 2012 at 9:14 am
(1) David says:

Each 10-20-30 cycle take 1 minute. Repeating 6 times totals 6 minutes. The two minute rest brings it up to 8 minutes. Six repeats brings it up to 48 minutes. And of course one should warm up and cool down for 10 minutes, so add another 20 minutes for the full workout. The final total is around 68 minutes quite a bit more than the 20-30 mentioned here.

December 5, 2012 at 10:37 am
(2) Judith says:

I think she said each 8 minute cycle should be repeated 2-3 times, not 6 times. That is the 20-30 minutes.

December 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm
(3) Tom Kaiser says:

I’ve been running for more than 25 years, and have found that the fastest way to increase my speed is with “30-30″ workouts. After a warm-up, run as fast as I can for 30 seconds followed by a 30-sec. jog, repeating as many times as possible, up to a maximum of about 30 reps. I prefer to do these on a treadmill because I have more control over speed and timing.

December 6, 2012 at 8:36 am
(4) David says:

Judith is right – careless of me. So three repeats is 24 minutes. The last two minutes (cooldown of the cycle) would also count toward the overall 10-minute cooldown. So the actual total with three repeats is 10+24+8=42 minutes. It would be 34 minutes with only two cycles. One could shorten the warmup and cooldown, but that’s probably not a great idea, particularly if one is getting on in years (based on my own experience).

December 6, 2012 at 10:30 am
(5) Jim says:

It seems as if a better label for this workout would be 30-20-10, as opposed to 10-20-30, since it appears that the order you do the intervals in is 30 seconds easy, followed by 20 seconds moderate, and finally 10 seconds near maximum. Am I interpreting the article correctly?


December 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm
(6) David says:

Response to Jim: Yes, that would seem to be a better description. Here’s the description from the original article: “The 10-20-30 training concept consisted of a standardized 1.2 km warm-up at a low intensity followed by 34  5 min running interspersed by 2 min of rest. Each 5-min running period consisted of five consecutive 1 min intervals divided into 30, 20, and 10 s at an intensity corresponding to 30%, 60%, and 90100% of maximal intensity (determined from 5-Hz GPS data), respectively. During the intervention period 10-20-30 had 3 weekly training sessions with a volume of 14.0  0.6 km/wk (including warm-up). In the first 4 wk, 10-20-30 conducted three 5-min intervals and, in the remaining 3 wk, four 5-min intervals per training session. The total high-speed running amounted to 8.6  0.5 min/wk during the intervention period. In CON the weekly training volume (24.8  3.4 and 24.1  3.6 km) and time spent (132.4  16.6 and 119.2  16.4 min) during the intervention period was the same as before the intervention period.”

December 11, 2012 at 2:21 am
(7) Shirin says:

I do HIIT on this schedule: 10 min warm up, then 1 min sprint, 2 min low intensity, rep 10 times+ 5 min cool down. total 45 min.

December 11, 2012 at 8:38 am
(8) Regina says:

I use(after watching the video from Dr. Mercola) and recommend the program developed by Phil Campbell, which will trigger HGH production as you go “all out” during the exertion phase .Here’s a summery of what a typical interval routine might look like using an elliptical, treadmill or any bike:

Warm up for three minutes.

Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be gasping for breath and feel like you couldn’t possible go on another few seconds. It is better to use lower resistance and higher repititions to increase your heart rate.

Recover for 90 seconds, still moving, but at slower pace and decreased restistance.

Repeat the high-intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times.

When you first starting out, depending on your level of fitness, you may only be able to do two or three repititions of the high-intensity intervals. As you get fitter, just keep adding repititions until you’re doing eight during your 20-minute session. Once you regularly incorporate these 20-minute exercises about twice a week, I noticed a decrease in body fat, firmer skin and reduced wrinkles and an increase in energy.

Try it and you will see results.

December 11, 2012 at 10:05 am
(9) Kevin says:

Or you could just analyze it to death. Just run baby.

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