10-20-30 High Intensity Interval Training

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Interval training is now a part of our exercise lexicon, becoming one of the most popular ways to work out. Not only can you burn more calories in a shorter period, but you can also increase your endurance more quickly with interval training than you can with other types of cardio.

We've seen all kinds of interval workouts. These include aerobic intervals, which may be more appropriate for beginners; anaerobic intervals, which take you to your limit; and tabata training, which involves 4 minutes of killer intervals.

With all these interval workouts available, all with different work-to-rest ratios, the question is—Is there one best interval workout out there? One group of researchers think they have found just such a workout, what they call the 10-20-30 training concept. Read on to find out more about this workout and how to do it.

The Basics of 10-20-30

The 10-20-30 training concept came about from researchers who wanted to see if they could find one precise high-intensity interval training (HIIT) formula that anyone could use to increase performance.

In the study, researchers took one group of "moderately trained" runners who were jogging about 14 miles a week and put them on a high-intensity interval workout consisting of low-speed running for 30 seconds (30% of maximal intensity), moderate-speed running for 20 seconds (60% of maximal intensity) and high-speed running for 10 seconds (90% of maximal intensity).

They repeated this 10-20-30 sequence for 5 minutes, recovering for 2 minutes between intervals. This process resulted in a 20- to 30-minute workout, effectively cutting their normal training by about 50%.

At the end of the 7-week study, they compared results with the control group, which continued jogging about 14 miles each week. They found that the interval group improved their 5K times by up to 1 minute while also reducing their blood pressure and cholesterol.

Pros and Cons of 10-20-30

  • Effective

  • Straightforward

  • Adaptable to any fitness level

  • May improve performance

  • Saves time

  • May only apply to running

  • May not be suitable for cardio machines

  • May not provide superior results to other training modalities

Experts like this new spin on HIIT because it's efficient. It's an effective, simple technique that can work for people at any fitness level, whether beginners or more experienced exercisers. Plus, the workout is continuous, meaning there's no actual rest phase. Exercisers go from high intensity to low intensity but still keep moving, which may be one reason for that performance improvement.

These researchers only studied runners, so it's unclear if this method would apply to other exercises like strength training or cardio activities. It would be tough to do this kind of training on a cardio machine, for example, because the intervals are so short, you wouldn't have time to get your speed or resistance up fast enough.

There's also no actual proof that this type of HIIT training is better than any other type of training. The natural appeal of this kind of study is that it suggests we can get more results in what appears to be half the time and half the workload. Maybe runners can benefit from this, particularly competitive runners, but that may not be true for the average exerciser.

How to Use 10-20-30

This kind of training is just one more tool in your exercise toolbox to keep your workouts fresh and challenge yourself in new ways. To create your own 10-20-30 workout, take an activity or exercise and break it down into 3 different moves—easy, moderate, and high-intensity versions.

For the high-intensity version, you want to go all out, as fast and as hard as possible. You can use your target heart rate zones, perceived exertion, a heart rate monitor, or a combination to monitor your intensity.

Examples of 10-20-30

  • Fast-paced squat (30 seconds), squat jump (20 seconds), and froggy jump (10 seconds)
  • Low-impact jumping jack (30 seconds), regular jumping jack (20 seconds), and plyo jack (10 seconds)
  • Alternating front lunge (30 seconds), side-to-side lunge with med ball (20 seconds), plyo lunge (10 seconds)

Choose your exercises or activity, and repeat each low, moderate, and high-intensity segment for a total of 5 minutes, either doing the same exercises or different exercises each time. Rest for 2 minutes and then repeat for a total of 20 to 30 minutes. Don't forget to warm up, cool down, and stretch to make it a safe, complete workout.

A Word From Verywell

High-intensity exercise is fantastic for boosting your cardiovascular performance and health. It is also a time-efficient and effective way of training. However, it's wise to limit this type of training to a few times per week—not every day, as it is taxing on the body.

The 10-20-30 style of training offers variety and challenge to high-intensity exercise and can be a fun, novel way of changing your routine. Give 10-20-30 training a try to see if it's a fit for you. And, if you are new to exercise be sure to contact a healthcare provider to determine what type of exercise fits your individual needs.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gunnarsson TP, Bangsbo J. The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners. J Appl Physiol. 2012;113(1):16-24. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00334.2012

Additional Reading

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."