I have a love hate relationship with it but there is no getting away from the fact that this training style WORKS…. One of my clients recently explained Tabata as “where shit gets nasty really fast.” But don't let this put you off...
As a population everyone is looking to save time and maximise results, so what is it, why do we do it, isn't this just another hiit workout ???
What Are Tabata Workouts?
Tabata is a four-minute form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) that follows a cadence of 20 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest or low-intensity recovery. This cycle is repeated eight times.
Named for Japanese researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata in 1996, Tabata training allows you to swap in a myriad of different exercises that target large muscle groups — push-ups, burpees, jump squats, kettlebell swings, etc. — not only increasing cardiovascular capacity (VO2 maxthe maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person's individual aerobic capacity ), but also stimulating muscle growth.
During his work with the Japanese speed skating team, Tabata was tasked with analyzing the effectiveness of its training regimen. The routine was actually originally developed by the team’s coach, Irisawa Koichi. Tabata and his group of researchers concluded that the 20 seconds on/10 seconds off protocol struck the best balance between the endurance advantages of low-intensity exercise and the muscle-building benefits of high-intensity training.
Benefits of Tabata Training
To test the theory, Tabata conducted training experiments on two groups of speed skaters riding ergonomic cycles. The first trained at moderate intensity for one hour, five days a week for six weeks. The second group trained at high intensity for four minutes, 20 seconds, four days a week for six weeks.
Tabata’s team found that, while the moderate-intensity training improved aerobic (cardiovascular) fitness, it had virtually no impact on anaerobic (muscle growth) capacity. Meanwhile, the high-intensity group saw increases in both, and actually enjoyed greater aerobic gains.
What’s the Difference Between Tabata and HIIT?
The same as the difference between a square and a rhombus; the former is the latter, but the latter isn’t necessarily the former. The broader category “high-intensity interval training” (into which Tabata falls) allows greater flexibility in structuring routines. Some HIIT workouts offer ratios of 1:2 that involve one minute of exercise at 90 percent or more of VO2 max to two minutes of rest, while others invert the ratio for two minutes of exercise to one minute of rest. The duration and intensity of the intervals are what define the workout.
Tabata training, on the other hand, strictly follows the 20-second:10-second ratio for four minutes, reaching—in the case of the original study—up to 170 percent of VO2 max. If you’re wondering how it’s even possible to reach 170 percent of maximal oxygen consumption, “the heart cannot pump enough blood to satisfy all the muscles” during high-intensity exercise. The resulting oxygen deficit triggers a “cascade of molecular responses in most organs of the body” that yield greater performance improvements than steady state or moderate-intensity endurance training.
The best exercises to use for the Tabata method are multi-joint exercises that will drive your heart rate up by using several large muscle groups all at the same time; burpees and kettlebell swings are in - biceps curls are out!
Some of my favorite exercises:
- Jump rope – especially high-knee sprints and double unders
- Sprinting – on a bike, rower, cross, Airdyne etc.
- Burpees/ suicides
- Punching a heavy bag
- Box jumps
- Medicine ball slams
- Squat jumps
So if you haven't already tried it, give it a go- as your condensing your workout into such a small time frame the intensity is going to be high - but that's where the magic happens..