Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.– Lou Holtz
It’s early in the morning, stimulant of choice has been guzzled, and the David Goggins videos have been watched. Today, violence was chosen. Violence to push oneself to the limit with Tabata intervals. Three syllables, four minutes and maximum training efficiency: that’s Tabata. This fitness trend from Japan is a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) program that, thanks to its structure and brevity, is perfect for so many people who have a limited amount of time to workout. Go hard for 20, rest for 10 - run it back 7 more times. There isn’t a better and more concise way to end a workout.
The basic principle applicable to all the body regions one wishes to train: 20 seconds of highly intense exercise alternate eight times with 10 seconds of rest. The rest intervals are shorter than the active phases, meaning the exercises will become increasingly tougher, but this will result in maximum benefit in the end. Stochastic violence leading to beneficial hormesis. It’s the time to choose violence, violence on oneself to push to the next level of intensity.
Another advantage of the Tabata training principle is its variety: one can use many exercises and combine them as one chooses, depending on which muscle groups one wants to work on. Like the rower? Row. Enjoy sprinting, sprint. Fancy yourself a boxer? Skip rope. Get creative.
The Tabata training method involves exercising at full effort for 20 seconds, recovering for 10 seconds, then repeating the cycle for eight times for four minutes. The high-intensity burst is performed at or near maximal effort while the recovery period is usually at 50 percent of maximum capacity.
Study Behind the Tabata Protocol
The Tabata method was developed by Izumi Tabata Ph.D., a former scientist, and researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan
The protocol was developed to train the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating Team more efficiently. The brief phases of extreme intensity and short breaks really activate fat burning. Furthermore, this kind of training strengthens muscles as well as the cardiovascular system. In Dr. Tabata’s study, Tabata training resulted in a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity and a 14% increase in the body’s ability to consume more oxygen.
The initial study goes back to 1996 when Dr. Tabata and his team of researchers examined two groups of amateur athletes in their mid-twenties for six weeks.
Dr. Tabata took a group of young athletes from different background and skills, then split them into two groups: one performing moderate intensity training (the control group), the other high-intensity training.
Group, I followed protocol One where they exercised for an hour of stationary cycling at 70 percent of VO2 max, five days a week. This is similar to a long-running session at a steady moderate pace.
Group I exercised for five days a week for a total of six weeks. Each session lasted one hour. That’s roughly 1,800 minutes of moderate intensity training for the control group over the six weeks.
Group II followed protocol Two in which they exercised four times per week, opting for a workout that consists of eight 20-second bursts of highly intense biking — at 170 percent effort — and 10-second of rest, totaling 4 minutes a workout. Think tabata sprints.
Group II exercised for four days a week for six weeks. Each session lasted four minutes and 20 seconds — with ten seconds of recovery between each set. That’s about 120 minutes of high-intensity training over the six weeks.
His goal was simple: to see if the subjects would benefit from a 20/10 session repeated eight times. He wanted to assess how intense and how short the interval session could be to result in measurable gains and growth. And he got a sobering answer: Four Minutes.
I don’t count my situps. I only start counting once it starts hurting. -Muhammad Ali
The first group improved their maximum aerobic capacity (cardiovascular) by 9.5 percent but showed little or no improvements in their anaerobic system (muscle).
Nonetheless, the Interval training group excelled. Not only did they increase their aerobic capacity by 14% but they also improved their anaerobic power (how long can one exercise at maximum effort) by 28% That’s huge.
To conclude, high-intensity interval training has a major effect on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. The group that worked out less, and thanks to high-intensity intervals, ended up fitter at the end of the six weeks.
The results were published in 1996 in the journal “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.” Under the title “Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on Anaerobic Capacity and VO2max.”
One can adapt your Tabata training to ones fitness level and start with easy exercises. Later, one can add more challenging exercises to increase the level of difficulty. Just get creative. There are no mandatory exercises or a specified order for Tabata training, but one should make sure to perform an active warm up before workouts to prevent injuries.
Benefits of Tabata Protocol Training
Here is a list of the benefits to expect if one does Tabata training on a regular basis:
Improved anaerobic capacity. Anaerobic power can be defined as the amount of extra work a runner can eke out beyond their aerobic capacity. According to research, an improved anaerobic capacity can help one run faster and longer by improving fatigue resistance and muscle’s ability to flush out lactic acid.
Burns calories. The typical Tabata workout routine can burn up to 12 to 15 calories per minute. Therefore, the Tabata workout method is a 4-minute fat-burning miracle workout.
Endless combinations. There are endless training combinations one can do. One can perform any exercise one likes. One can do push-ups, squats, tabata sprints, burpees or any other exercise that hits large muscle groups.
Saves times. Tabata can help one squeeze a workout in and stay consistent with a fitness routine — especially when pressed for time.
There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do. – Derek Jeter
Be A Well Rounded Athlete
Hopefully, by now, one is excited about incorporating Tabata-style workouts into ones routine, nonetheless, keep in mind that these shouldn’t be an alternative to current cardio sessions.
Instead, to reach ones best performance, make sure to follow a well-rounded exercise program that includes weight training, recovery, tempo, and interval sessions.
To keep track of ones training time and cycles, one can simply use a stopwatch.
A timer is key for doing Tabata right and efficiently, especially if one is running and are unable to look at a screen to check the time remaining for each round or bout.
If one is pushing oneself to the max, then it’s going to be virtually impossible to keep it together while checking a watch, a smartphone, or a wall clock.
The 30-Minute Tabata Workout
The below routine involves doing five rounds of intense work Tabata style. Each round lasts for four minutes
Here’s the truth. If one goes maximum effort during the high-intensity intervals, the four-minute cycle will feel like the hardest and most challenging four minutes of ones life. Tabatas on an assault bike is not for the weak.
Again, here’s how to proceed :
Work out at your maximum effort 20 seconds
Recover for 10 seconds
Complete eight rounds.
Push hard for 20 seconds, either pushing out as many reps as one can of an exercise or moving as fast as possible when doing sprints or any other form of cardio exercise.
Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat the process for a total of eight times.
Before one performs any Tabata sprints, warm up by doing dynamic exercises to increase ones core temperature and loosen up muscles and joints.
Round One: Tabata Sprints
Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then sprint for another 20 seconds, shooting for eight sprints at an all-out effort.
One can also perform the sprints on a steep hill, but make sure to pick a hill that’s not too technical since one will be running at maximum speed for at least the first set of reps.
Round Two: Tabata High Knees
Stand feet hip-width apart. Keep back flat, and core engaged the entire time.
Perform high knees by jumping from one foot to the other, lifting ones knees as high as one can. Focus on lifting ones knees up and down as fast as one can, landing on the balls of ones feet as one runs in place.
Do this for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then repast the cycle for eight times to complete the round.
Round Three: Tabata Jumping Lunges
Take a lunge position with right foot forward, knees bent, and left knee nearly touching the floor.
Next, while extending through both legs, explode up and jump as high as one can, swinging ones arms to gain momentum. Then switch the position of ones legs mid-air, moving ones left leg to the front and right leg to the back, and immediately lower yourself into a lunge on the opposite side.
Keep jumping back and forth for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, repeating the cycle for eight times.
If one can’t keep doing jump lunges with good form, then perform walking lunges instead.
Round Four: Tabata Squats
Assume an athletic position with feet hip-width apart. For more challenge, hold a set of dumbbells or plates at shoulder-height.
Next, to perform the squat, bend knees and sit back, lowering oneself down until ones thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep ones back flat, head facing forward and toes tracking over the knees the entire time.
Last up, return to standing by pushing through ones heels.
Continue squatting for the full 20-second interval, moving as fast as one can, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat the cycle eight times.
Round Five: Burpees
Stand feet hip-width apart, back straight and core engaged.
Next, squat down and place palms on the floor, then jump both of ones feet into a full plank position, then quickly hop ones feet back into a squat and, explosively leap into the air, reaching ones arms straight overhead.
In case one is looking for more challenge, then one can either add a standard push up from the plank or drop ones chest to the floor before jumping back up.
Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion. – Michael Jordan
So, this seems like something everyone should incorporate, right? For most people, this is in fact true. However, one should remember that this protocol is just another tool to add to ones tool box, it should not serve as the only form of exercise that one does. Tabata’s are an addition, not a replacement, to a favored sport or training method.
Most people will benefit by doing three strength sessions and three Tabatas a week. And for true beginners, they can build up session by session, week by week, all the time knowing that it will never get easier because every session calls for maximum effort. That's the dastardly genius of the protocol: it is unrelenting – and effective.
With the elevation in baseline metabolic rate as far out as 48 hours post exercise, the implications for fat loss are astounding. Interestingly, the calories burned during exercise become increasingly less important. Why? Because at higher intensity, more of the energy for exercise comes from carbohydrate. But at rest, the majority of the energy needs come from fat. If one kicks up ones metabolism for 48 hours after exercise, and after exercise ones body’s energy use comes more from fat than from carbohydrate, one is not only elevating metabolism for a significant duration of time, but a higher percentage of fuel is being burned from fat. 20 on 10 off 20 on 10 off - run it back…