The One-Minute Workout

Researcher Martin Gibala, PhD, who along with Izumi Tabata, PhD, et al., have helped bring high-intensity interval training back to the forefront of training for both athlete and novice alike. I have had the pleasure of reading all of Dr. Gibala’s papers on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), so when I saw that his book, The One-Minute Workout, was going to be published this year (Avery Publishers, 2017, 263 pages), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. The first half of the book he goes into the importance and research history (his and other researchers) of interval-based training. The second half of the book has the actual HIIT workout protocols and “hits” on nutrition as well. As expected it was a great read. One of the training workouts featured in the book (pages 146-148), called the 10-20-30 protocol, is excellent, I have tried it myself and have previously written about it, see here.


This particular protocol was published from 2012 research out of the University of Copenhagen and then written about, multiple times, by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times Well Blog.

The original research was completed on 16 male/female runners who ran 2-4x/week. Eight of the runners kept running as usual (covering about 17 miles in those 2-4 training sessions). The other group of eight runners reduced their training volume by 54 percent and worked out using the 10-20-30 sprint protocol. After a warm-up, the group ran for a minute that included an easy run for 30-seconds, followed by a faster run for 20-seconds and finally a sprint for 10-seconds. They completed this 1-minute run for 3 to 4 intervals with rest between each interval run. Both groups trained for seven weeks. Among other things, the sprint group experienced a 4 percent increase in their VO2 max. The sprint interval group also saw significant changes in performance despite cutting their volume by more than 50 percent.

Try adding this type of interval training into your training program if you’re a runner or maybe if you’re looking to get back into running like I was. After a period of time away from running, I started doing interval training indoors on a treadmill over the course of a month. My goal was to develop a good base with just 10-15 minutes of total running time/session during that first month (total workout time: 20-30 minute training sessions, every other day). As my aerobic capacity improved, I got more into the 10-20-30 jog to sprint protocol during the following month (as my body got use to the stress of running).  As the research demonstrated, and I too experienced, the protocol worked beyond expectation, experiencing great results with less time spent working out.

How Science Based Interval Training Can Help You

9780073523637_p0_v1_s260x420There has been an abundance of research over the past few decades that has consistently demonstrated the benefits of interval-based training. Interval training (aka HIT or HIIT) involves intense bouts of work followed by brief recovery periods that are repeated for a desired amount of time. Most of the research has focused on the effects of workloads using ratios of 1:1 or 2:1 or greater. The interval durations typically range from 15 seconds of work to 2.5 minutes and the intensity (workload) used has been in most cases extremely high (upwards of 170% of VO2 Max). A study (published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25(4):1104-1112, 2011) that caught my attention, because of the manageable workload (80% of VO2 max), looked at trying to improve aerobic capacity using a group of college students. This particular study involved college-aged men using a cycle that included six 90-second bouts of work followed by 180-second recovery periods (a 1:2 work/rest ratio). The protocol was performed 3x/week (M-W-F) for a total of 27 minutes of actual work using, as mentioned, 80% of subjects VO2 max.

How can this benefit you?

A similar protocol can be used by you for your cardio routine that you are currently doing in the gym or at home. You might venture to try a similar protocol on a treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, bike or even take it to the pool.

Following an efficient 5-8 minute warm-up, try power walking, running, rowing, swimming or pedaling on a bike for 90 seconds at about 80% of your max heart rate and then recover for 180 seconds going at a slower pace. Repeat this sequence 6 times for a total of 9 minutes and then cool down for the same amount of time that you warmed-up. Try this 1-2 times a week on the same piece of equipment or mix it up using different equipment.

You could also use a Polar heart rate device to monitor your heart rate and look at the delta between peak HR and recovery.

Study Results

If you were wondering how well the test subjects did in this particular study utilizing just 27 minutes a week of interval-based exercise…well their VO2 Max increased by 11% and work output increased by 4.3% in just 6 weeks!