What is Tabata Training?
In short, it’s one of the best ways to lose weight, gain muscle and increase your athletic performance. It is very simple but very intense. Tabata is named after a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan, named Izumi Tabata.
How Does Tabata Work?
After about a 5 minute warm-up (or more if you feel it’s necessary), you will do one exercise at your maximum effort for 20 seconds. You actually should be working at 170% of your VO2 max. In layman’s terms, you should be working harder than you ever have before, basically working until muscle failure. After those 20 seconds, you will rest for 10 seconds. After your 10 second rest, you will move onto the second round of the Tabata (same exercise, for 20 seconds again). You will do 8 20-second sets, with 10 seconds of rest in between, for a total of 4 minutes. Four minutes may sound easy, but when you are working as hard as you possibly can, you will find those are the longest 20 seconds of your life! I’m not trying to scare you, just want to impose on you how important it is to work as hard as you can. That is the only way you will get the maximum benefits of Tabata Training. Also, you don’t want to spend the first few seconds “ramping up” to your full potential. With Tabata, you need to be at your MAX from the beginning, and you basically have to claw your way through the remaining 20 seconds.
You can use a regular stopwatch, or if you have an iPod Touch, iPhone, etc., you can download the Tabata Pro App from the iTunes store, it is the best app out there for keeping track of your timed intervals. (Shown to the right).
What Are The Benefits of Tabata Training?
There are a myriad of benefits to Tabata Training. For one, it is better for fat loss than steady-state training. When you do a cardio session at the same pace the whle time, your body will adjust itself to the speed you are going and tries to conserve energy (calories). By training in high-intensity intervals, you will be able to avoid this and burn more calories and fat. Another benefit is the afterburn you receive after interval training, also known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This type of training results in a higher EPOC, which means your body is burning more calories after your workout is over. You will increase your VO2 max (the maximum capacity of your body to transport and use oxygen during exercise, which reflects your physical fitness level). I also love being able to get a killer workout in a short amount of time. We’ll all tight on time these days, so if I can get a quality workout in, in half the time I would have spent in the gym, that sounds good to me! Also, the harder the workout is, the better you feel when it’s over. I feel so much more accomplished after a tough Tabata training than I do after doing comparable time on the elliptical machine at the gym. Boring!
How Often Should I Do Tabata?
It is important to note that you need to have a solid baseline of strength and endurance to attempt Tabata. If you are just starting an exercise program, make sure you give yourself enough time to gain the muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance to get through several rounds of these exercises before diving into a full Tabata workout. If you don’t feel you’re ready to take on some of the tougher Tabata exercises, you can apply the Tabata Training Method to other forms of exercise. So if you are on the elliptical machine, go hard for 20 seconds, then slow it down for 10. You can also apply High Intensity Interval Training methods to your workout (HIIT). This is similar to Tabata in the sense that you are working hard for a set amount of time, then recovering for a set amount of time. If you are a beginner in terms of fitness level, you can adjust the exercises and the amount of training time.
- HIIT for beginners: I would try a 1 minute walk/1 minute jog. Do this for as long as you can, this time will vary by participant, 2-4 times/week.
- Intermediate level HIIT: 1 min walk/1 min jog for at least 20 minutes, 3-5 times/week.
- Advanced HIIT: All out sprints for as long as you can go followed by a 1 min jog, 5-20 minutes, 3-5 times/week.
Both Tabata and High Intensity Interval Training require rest, and should not be attempted on subsequent days.
What is an Example of a Tabata Workout?
For an example, please read my post No Gym? No Equipment? No Problem! There I give you an example of a recent Tabata Training my husband and I completed while out of town, without any access to a gym or training equipment. You can also visit Mindy Mylrea’s You Tube page, where she provides the public with a new Tabata exercise every week! I recently had the pleasure of taking a few of Mindy’s classes, they were phenomenal!
Can I Create My Own Tabata Workout?
Absolutely! There are a few things to keep in mind when developing your Tabata Workout. First, you’ll want to take your fitness level into consideration, please note the HIIT variations above. For a Tabata workout, the exercise needs to be something that you will fail at by the end of a 20 second bout. Any exercise that is intense and can ramp up extremely quickly will work just fine. You’ll want to make sure you’ve hit all major muscle groups with these exercises (arms, legs, core, etc.) and be sure to alternate strength and cardio exercises. Examples of good Tabata exercises are: sprints, jump roping and plyometric jumps. More specifically: Mountain Climbers, Plank with Push Ups, Squat Jumps, Burpees, Lunge variations, etc.
Happy Tabata Training!