30 – 20 – 10: The new (easier) interval training!

Much has been written on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and our previous thoughts on losing weight through working out have been turned upside down. Frankly, it works. Results from this mode of exercise, consisting of short bursts of very intense exercise interspersed with rest, can be astounding. But for some of us, this can be just that bit too hard. Enter: 30-20-10!

This new form of interval training is a little softer, simpler and frankly, a lot more fun. It goes something like this: jump on a bike or rowing machine and cruise along gently for 30 seconds. Then, up your efforts to a moderate pace for 20 seconds, then go all out for a total of 10 seconds! Congratulations. You’ve done it. Almost.

Oh – and if you’re smart, you’ll notice that that was counting backwards 30-20-10, (not 10-20-30). You can see how appealing this method is. How hard can it be? 30 seconds of this, 20 seconds of that, and just 10 seconds of something more uncomfortable. It’s certainly a regime that can be easily carried out at the gym with so many cardio options around you. But you don’t need fancy machines or software; you don’t even need to go to the gym. You can physically count the seconds yourself to get the job done, and doing so makes the intervals seem to go quickly too.


Many research studies have shown that any attempt at interval training substantially improves your health and cardiovascular fitness. The problem is, people don’t always stick to the regime necessary to get themselves there, especially those who are very unfit or overweight.

Here’s where it gets interesting. A recent study, published last year, divided overweight participants into three groups: two groups doing different types of HIIT and an active control group undertaking walking based exercise, over a three-month period.

The researchers were hoping that the experiment would result in the participants undertaking the HIIT showing improved fitness and weight loss compared to the walking control group. The problem was, in the end, the results weren’t actually that significant. Why was this so? The participants either didn’t want to, or couldn’t, perform the HIIT. Despite being fairly brief, the HIIT sessions were just too uncomfortable for the participants to complete.

Researchers needed to come up with a better way – a way that worked in the ‘real world’. This is where 30-20-10 has proved to be successful and is now being welcomed by people of all levels of fitness.

For those of us that don’t want to go so hard, 30-20-10 is a way that we can get the most out our training time without so much sweating and grunting. Jens Bangsbo, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, studies high-intensity interval training and offered the following tips.

Start by replacing one or two of your weekly exercise sessions with a 30-20-10 session. First you can warm up easily however you choose, be it walking, on the bike or on the step machine, before easing into your interval training. The interval training can be done by running, riding, swimming or rowing, or undertaking any other exercise of your choice.

  1. Start with a 30-second phase which is the easiest. You should feel relaxed and not out of breath.
  2. Ease into the 20-second phase which is of moderate intensity.
  3. The final 10-second phase consists of going all out – go as hard as you can.

Crossfit Techniques - Sage Institute of FitnessAim for five repetitions of the above series without a break, then rest or walk slowly for 2 minutes. Repeat the five intervals one more time, cool down and you are finished. Bonus: this is quick! Not including the warm-up and cool-down time, this series takes just 12 minutes.

Already in good shape? Try adding another five uninterrupted intervals to the above.

Make the next day a rest day. Alternatively, if you’re keen, you can do some light activities such as walking or stretching. Dr Bangsbo does not recommend two HIIT training sessions in a row. According to his studies, only small percentages of participants sustain injuries. However they can happen, so slow progress is recommended.

Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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