EXERCISE PROGRAMS

The 10-20-30 Workout

By Laura High @healthwriter61
 | 
October 08, 2015

Try this interval training routine to torch fat and improve performance.

Are you singing the “no time to exercise” blues? If so, a new interval training protocol may be just the routine you’ve been waiting for. Interval training has been getting a lot of attention lately. Although it’s been around for a long time, it seems to be gaining popularity as people become aware of its benefits — an effective workout in a short amount of time. 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a technique that alternates short bursts of intense effort with moderate-effort recovery periods of the same duration or longer. These bursts of concentrated effort make HIIT workouts effective at burning fat and improving endurance and overall fitness, and can provide a complete workout in a short amount of time.

HIIT workouts have been criticized by some because they can be difficult. In some routines the all-out portion can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 4 minutes — a long time to sustain your maximum effort. When a workout routine is too hard or unpleasant, people tend to abandon their efforts before seeing results. But a new way of structuring an interval workout is creating a buzz in the fitness community because it’s fast and effective, and those who’ve tried it also think it’s fun.

In the 10-20-30 protocol you spend 30 seconds at low effort, 20 seconds at medium effort, and 10 seconds at maximum effort. You can get a complete cardio workout in 20 to 30 minutes.

It is well-established that any physical activity has a health benefit for people who are untrained or sedentary, but a group of researchers in Denmark wanted to find out whether interval training could benefit endurance performance, cardiovascular fitness, and the overall health of people who were already fit and active.

How was the study structured?

For the study, researchers recruited people who regularly ran two to four times per week and an average of 17 miles. Members of the control group were instructed to continue their regular weekly running schedule. Members of the study group were instructed to train according to the 10-20-30 protocol three days a week.

After a low-intensity warmup of approximately three quarters of a mile, the study group completed three to four rounds of five-minute running periods with a two-minute rest after each. Each five-minute period was built with one-minute blocks divided into 30, 20, and 10 second intervals at an intensity of 30, 60, and 90 to 100 percent, respectively. The study was conducted over seven weeks. During the first four weeks the interval runners repeated the five-minute sequence three times. During the last three weeks the sequence was repeated four times. The average weekly distance was 8.5 miles, including the warmup.

What were the results?

After cutting their weekly workout by half, the 10-20-30 runners saw improvements in their endurance and performance, by an average of 21 and 48 seconds for 1 and 3 miles, respectively. They also saw reductions in their resting blood pressure (BP). 

“It is well established that a period of endurance and other types of training . . . lowers systolic BP of untrained subjects, but to our knowledge this is the first study to show that intense training had this effect on systolic BP in trained subjects,” the authors wrote. Another benefit for the 10-20-30 group? A “significant decrease” in total and LDL cholesterol. 

How can you apply it?

The great thing about this training concept is that anyone can use it. The definition of 30, 60, and 90 percent of your effort will be unique to you, but you don’t have to be a seasoned runner, or even in particularly good shape, to benefit from this training technique. In fact, you’ll probably see more dramatic results if you’re new to exercise. If you’ve been inactive, talk to your doctor before starting this or any exercise routine.

If the weather is good and you have a place to walk and run, you can do 10-20-30 anywhere with no equipment except a good pair of shoes. If you have to take your workout inside, treadmills aren’t the best for this workout because the transition from one speed to another is slow. But you could do a 10-20-30 protocol on a stationary bike, a rowing machine, or an elliptical. 

When first trying this technique, consider starting out with just two five-minute rounds, especially if you have been sedentary. You may also want to reduce your all-out effort to about 75 or 80 percent for the first three 10-second sprints, and then go all out for the last two.

Sample beginning 10-20-30 workout

 Activity  Effort Intensity—%   Time—seconds  
  Walking warm up   Easy    2 minutes
  Jog   30   30
  Run   60   20
  Sprint   90–100
  10
  Jog    30    30
  Run   60   20
  Sprint   90–100
  10
  Jog   30   30
  Run   60   20
  Sprint   90–100
  10
  Jog   30    30
  Run   60   20
  Sprint   90–100   10
  Jog   30   30
  Run    60   20
  Sprint   90–100   10
  Rest   0   2 minutes
 Repeat entire sequence 1 to 3 times.

 

Ready to give 10-20-30 a try? Keep in mind the improvements seen during this study were in people who were already fit. Imagine what it could do for you. The best part? The hard part only lasts 10 seconds. Anyone can do anything for 10 seconds.

Updated:

October 08, 2015

Reviewed By:

Janet O’Dell, RN

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