What is Tabata?
Tabata quite simply is one of the most effective ways to improve your
cardiovascular fitness with the least amount of time spent exercising. Tabata was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata of the National Institute of Fitness
and Sports in Tokyo, Japan by studying the training methods of the Japanese
Olympic speed skating team. In 1996 he published his results in the
& Science in Sports & Exercise" showing the fitness benefits of
high-intensity intermittent training. He did a 6-week test with two groups: The
interval (Tabata) group did 8 reps of 20 seconds of high intensity exercise (170% of VO2max)
followed by 10 seconds low intensity performed five times a week. The aerobic group
did one hour of moderate intensity (70% of VO2max). Both groups
worked out five times a week.
At the end of the study, the interval (Tabata)group increased their VO2max by
7 ml/kg/min and increased their anaerobic capacity by
28%. The aerobic group increased their VO2max by 4.8 ml/kg/min
with no increase in their anaerobic capacity. And these were already physically fit
athletes, not just random couch potatoes.
(5 x week)
Due to EPOC
Ask not what you can do for your cardio, but what your cardio can do for
The above chart shows how little traditional cardio does to improve your
In fact, the Interval group got
better results with just four minutes of Tabata-style interval training than did
the test group doing an hour of steady cardio. That's so remarkable that
it's worth repeating: Four minutes a day of intense interval training
improved cardio fitness more than an hour a day of steady cardio! How's that
for time efficiency?
But what if your not trying to get fit, just lose weight?
When most people say they want to lose weight, what they really mean is they
want to look fit. And, believe it or not, the best way to look fit is to
actually be fit!
The best way to look fit, is
to BE FIT
And of course, the fitter you are the more calories you are able to burn per hour
when doing exercise. Getting fitter should be part of your overall weight
loss/health plan. And if that's not enough, the TOTAL calories burned during a Tabata workout will
generally be greater than the total calories burned jogging for an hour. This is
due to the EPOC effect. EPOC stands for "Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen
Consumption." After doing extremely intense exercise, your body will continue to
use more oxygen than normal during the next 24 hours, i.e. your metabolism is
higher, therefore, you to continue to burn extra calories. For example,
if you jog five miles in an hour workout, you will burn about 500 calories
during the workout and maybe another 75 due to EPOC over the next day for
a total of about 575 calories. During a Tabata workout, the same person would
probably burn about 130 calories during the actual workout, but may burn and
additional 650 calories due to EPOC for a total of 780 calories.
A University of New South Wales study of women taking part in
anaerobic high intensity interval training found that the women burned fat at a rate three times
higher than those doing aerobic exercises! The interval training group did
only 20 minutes of exercise on a stationery bike, while the aerobic group
exercised at a consistent pace in standard target heart rate zones for 40
minutes. After 15 weeks, the women's interval group lost
3 x more body fat than those who did standard cardio for
twice as long.
If you want to lose fat, use intense interval training.
study by the Physical Activities Sciences Laboratory, Laval University,
Quebec, Canada, compared interval training to standard endurance cardio and
found while endurance training burned twice as many calories as interval
training during the actual exercise, skinfold measurements showed the
interval group lost 4½ times more subcutaneous fat!
If you want to lose fat, forget long boring cardio sessions and stick with
short very intense interval training.
What does a Tabata Workout Consist of?
A Tabata workout has eight 30-second cycles. Each 30-second cycle consists of 20 seconds of all out effort
followed by 10 seconds of complete rest. The eight cycles take a total time of four minutes. You can use
the free Tabata Clock to time
your sessions. And
while Dr. Tabata used a cycling ergometer for his study, any exercise that can be done
safely and works the legs hard will work. If you are trying to improve your
cycling, then use a bicycle trainer. I don't recommend actual cycling, as the
intensity is so high it would be nearly impossible to do it safely. Likewise,
going back and forth from all out to rest on a treadmill would be a recipe for
disaster. If you are a runner, try using sprints on a track. If you are just
striving for overall fitness, then simply doing parallel squats or a full body
exercise like burpees will work just fine. The main point is you must work as
much of your muscle mass as possible. This means the legs have to be the primary
muscles used. You don't need any special equipment,
but if doing squats, you may want to add some weight after you've been doing
Tabata for a while. You don't need anything special, just a standard weight
plate and hold it in front of your chest. The exact amount of weight is not that critical. For
most people, this workout will work just fine without any weight. The most
important thing is that you are going all out on each and every one of the eight
20 second sets. If you are doing sprints, then you must be running as fast
as you can during the 20 seconds. If you are doing squats, then do as many as
you can do during the 20 seconds. When you can do more than 12 full squats in
EVERY set, then consider adding some more weight. Remember, this is a cardio workout, not a
weight training session. It is better to do more reps with a lighter weight.
Don't let the fact that the Tabata workout is very short fool you. It is a
very difficult workout. It must be for it to be effective. It's four minutes of
all out effort. No matter what exercise you choose for your workout, you must
exert yourself so that your lungs feel like you are sprinting. By the fourth cycle,
you should feel like your lungs are going to burst. By the eighth, you
should just barely be able to keep going. Anything less and you are just doing four minutes of standard
cardio - and that's not going to do much for you. Obviously, you must be
healthy to do a workout this hard. People with heart problems or other risk
factors should consult a physician before attempting anything this strenuous.
If you CAN do more than four minutes,
then you are NOT doing Tabata.
People often ask, "Will it
work if I do eight minutes of Tabata instead of four?" The answer is: If you
CAN do more than four minutes of Tabata, then you are NOT doing Tabata. The
workout should be so intense that at the end of four minutes you are done and
couldn't do another 20 second work cycle even if you wanted to. That's what it requires in order
to be effective.
Of course, the first few times you do the Tabata workout, you should take it
easy. Even some well-trained athletes end up very sore the day after doing a
single workout. You may want to rest during the even numbered cycles. Work
moderately on cycles 1, 3, 5, 7 and rest during all the rest periods and also
rest during cycles 2, 4, 6, 8 and work your way up to the full exercise. Just as with any exercise, you should ease into it
at the beginning to help prevent injury and soreness.
How often should I do a Tabata workout?
Dr. Tabata had his subjects do it five times a week. You should start out
slow and do it once or twice a week at first and then work up to five times a week.
If you want to do a regular cardio workout in addition to the Tabata, then you
should do the Tabata FIRST - Your lungs need to be fresh to do this workout. I personally like doing
lifting weights or right before a bike ride.
Warming up and Cooling Down
As stated, a Tabata workout is very short. The actual work portion is only
four minutes long. However, you should warm up properly before beginning. Five
minutes of easy to moderate cardio should do the trick. You want to do just
enough to raise your body temperature slightly and get your blood flowing. The
warm-up is not a workout and should be moderately easy. Personally, I like to do
Tabata after my regular weightlifting session, in which case I'm already warmed
up. And the Tabata workout should be followed by a short cool down, such as five
minutes of walking or easy cardio - or just do a regular cardio session after
your Tabata session so that you feel you're spending enough time in the gym to get
your money's worth from your gym membership.
Tabata is excellent addition to an overall fitness plan and a great way to
improve your cardiovascular health. The benefits of adding Tabata to cardio
program are tremendous.
So fire up the
and give it a go…