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Scientists: 10-20-30 series of intervals is the most effective training

Copenhagen sports science proves that ultra-fast running, and the 10-20-30 system, is best

A workout programme of ultra-fast sprints, the so-called 10-20-30 system, appears to improve runners’ times better than a programme with normal race-pace intervals.

This is according to Professor in Sports Science Jens Bangsbo of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues who have just released preliminary results of a study that goes against conventional training wisdom — and gives valuable hints to those that need to sharpen up before a big running event.

Times improved by one minute on 5k

A control group of eight runners that followed a conventional training programme, was bettered by a group of 10 runners that did high-intensity sprint workouts with fewer training hours a week. The group that did their high intensity ‘10-20-30’ system of drills improved their five kilometre times by one minute on average.

The 10-20-30 system consists of a 30 second walk or jog, followed by a moderately paced 20 seconds run, and then a 10 second sprint. This is done five times. After a break, the process starts again for a total of two to five times for each training session. The workout is repeated two to three times a week.

»What makes the training exceptional is the amount of training done at maximum speed,« explains Jens Bangsbo to the University Post. The key part of the workout is the 10 second sprint, where the running speed is much faster than the runners’ competition pace.

Activates muscle fibres

The success with the training system goes against conventional wisdom, which says that key workouts for, say, 5 km specialised runners should also be done at a 5 km race pace.

The scientists don’t know for sure why the high intensity sprints are effective, but they have a few hypotheses:

»One of the theories is that the higher intensity workouts activate muscle fibres that would not be activated under slower workouts,« says Jens Bangsbo.

Not higher injury risk

The research has shown that the workout is highly effective for beginners, but the system is also effective for trained runners, and could ultimately improve training regimens even for the elite.

»We can see in earlier tests that runners have improved from 37 to 36 minutes on a 10 kilometre race. These racers were not exactly elite, but they were well-trained to say the least,« says Jens Bangsbo.

The big question for runners is injury risk. Surely sprinting at maximal speed increases the risk of hurt? Not so, according to the scientists first results.

»There are no more injuries in the 10-20-30 group than in the control group,« says Jens Bangsbo.

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