Have Researchers Found The Perfect HIIT Formula?

HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is all the rage in the fitness world. Endurance athletes love it because HIIT can create incredible improves in speed and explosive power. Even more those that are more strength-oriented make frequent use of HIIT to burn huge amounts of calories while maintaining their hard-earned muscle mass. And everyone loves the fact that HIIT workouts can be as short as 15 minutes.

But the one problem with HIIT, the one fact that can make an otherwise simple training method difficult, is the wide variety of programs. Crossfit, Tabata and the Little method have emerged as leaders in the field but more and more approaches continue to pop up. To date, though, HIIT has been lacking one, effective, precise formula that can be used by anyone and produce maximum results. That is, at least, until researchers at the University of Copenhagen published their findings in 2012.


What They Found

The scientists set out to develop the missing formula for an easy-to-follow HIIT routine by testing some of the more popular interval models. Initially, 30-second sprints were used since these are a pretty standard interval and do genuinely produce good results. The problem is that sprinting, all out, for 30 seconds is very difficult, even for more experienced runners.

Gradually, then, the researchers decided to try shorter sprint intervals to see what sort of improves were possible at what seemed to be lower difficulties. The formula that was settled on, which is generally called either 10-20-30 or 30-20-10, produced amazing results.

Veteran 5k runners who used the program for just 7 weeks cut a full minute off their time and 1500-meter runners dropped an average of 23 seconds, all while decreasing their weekly mileage by about half. The subjects also saw significant losses in their blood pressure and cholesterol. Despite all it has to offer, in general, the workouts only last between 20 and 30 minutes.


The Details

Now that we’ve covered how fantastic the 10-20-30 training method can be, let’s talk about exactly what it is. The system is, at it’s heart, a structured approach to Fartlek training which involves short bursts performed at relative speeds based on how you’re feeling in the moment.

Basically, a typical workout would look like this:

  1. A 10-minute warmup. The runners in the original study ran just 3/4 of a mile for their warmup.
  2. Jog for 30 seconds, run for 20 and then sprint for 10. Repeat this same pattern four more times, keeping up the routine for five straight minutes.
  3. Perform an active rest by either walking or jogging for 2 minutes.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3. Try to cycle through the intervals two or three time. Runners in the study eventually worked their way up to four of these sets.

While it appears that the original study didn’t use any type of cool-down, it’s always recommended. Walk or job for another 10 minutes to wind yourself down.

The 10-20-30 training method for HIIT can provide a workout that is easily adjusted to your fitness level by tweaking the speed and number of sets while still giving you impressive improvements in your performance.

Have you tried 10-20-30? Tell us about you experience!







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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.