WARNING: Tabata protocol, or Tabata intervals training, is not fun – especially if you’re doing it at the proper intensity. However, there is a bright side. It can offer you dramatic benefits with just 4 minutes of working out, and just a few times a week – said benefits include both increases in cardiovascular and anaerobic capacities, along with fat loss through increased resting metabolic rate in the hours after working out. It sounds too easy, right? But it’s actually been scientifically proven.(Though you may be questioning the ‘easy’ part half way through the workout),
Tabata intervals refer to a workout derived from a study performed by Dr. Izumi Tabata (and colleagues) at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. His study was of 20sec, full intensity interval training, with short 10sec breaks in between intervals. An fairly complicated abstract of Dr. Izumi Tabata’s study can be found at the end of this article. But don’t worry, I’ll give you the essence in the next section.
Tabata Protocol Explained: Intense Intervals Training
Without getting into depth about sports medicine, the gist of the study is that Dr. Tabata was able to achieve similar cardiovascular endurance improvements with his short interval training workouts versus a standard, steady-state cardio session of one-hour, five days a week. Interestingly enough, while the training group following the Tabata protocol didn’t measure up exactly to the steady-state exercising group in terms of aerobic performance gains, the Tabata group also made anaerobic fitness gains which were not seen by the steady-state group.
The ‘Tabata intervals’, as they’re now called, last for four minutes. You basically run, bike, or row as fast and hard as you can for twenty seconds straight, then you rest for ten seconds, and then back to sprinting for another twenty seconds. The workout spans the entire four minutes.
When I say as hard and fast as you can, I mean to the point where you are panting – you have to be going as hard as you can to get the benefits. Be aware, though, that Dr. Tabata was conducting his survey with world-class athletes, so don’t be surprised if it takes you a couple of weeks to be able to do this workout routine in its entirety.
How to Integrate Tabata Intervals in Your Workout
Start out slowly! Again, Dr. Tabata was using world-class athletes – speed skaters to be precise – and the majority of his test subjects could not perform the interval training at maximum output for eight sets. After just a couple of the twenty-second intervals you’ll notice your ability to go full-out will be diminished significantly. Check with your doctor if you are unsure of your fitness.
Also, do a warm-up prior to your Tabata training. About five minutes should be sufficient to get blood moving to your muscles. When you’re done spend a couple minutes actively cooling down – walk around or peddle slowly on your stationary bike.
Tabata Protocol Training Benefits
Tabata intervals are a great addition to your current cardiovascular workout schedule. While difficult, they are certainly time efficient. I think they work great if you want a quick cardio workout when you don’t have much time.
What’s more, they are great for fat-loss. When you do high intensity interval training (HIIT) like Tabatas, you burn off the glycogen (think carbs/sugar) in your blood stream quite quickly. The next fuel in line is fat. Intense interval training has also been shown to raise a person’s resting metabolic rate (RMR) for up to 24hrs after a workout, meaning a greater caloric burn and increased fat loss. These benefits mentioned apply if you truly go 100% during your intervals.
Another great benefit is that the Tabata protocol can be used with virtually any cardio activity. Running, cyling, jumping rope, punching a heavy bag, rowing etc. can all be used in a Tabata workout.