I don’t know about anyone else, but I really like to work out hard, fast and heavy. I used to do hour-long workouts and to be honest I never saw great results. Yet when I started working out for less time, but harder intensity I started to notice faster, better improvements in toning up and losing a little jelly belly.
Tabata is all about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT for short) and if you do it right, it will take you to the absolute limit of your endurance, therefore being a great way to burn fat quickly, increase your fitness and energy levels and help achieve great muscle tone.
Sounds amazing, but tabata ain’t easy and it comes with warnings. Even the already fit have mentioned that Tabata training has them throwing up, seeing stars or blacking out. It’s intense.
What is Tabata?
Tabata is named after the Japanese researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata, who compared the effectiveness of short, very high-intensity training to a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout.
He conducted the tests on 2 groups of athletes; 1 of the groups used the moderate intensity interval training and the other using high intensity interval training.
In group one; the athletes were training in moderate intensity workouts (70% intensity), five days a week, for six weeks with each training session lasting 60 minutes.
Group two trained in the high intensity workouts for 4 days a week, for six weeks with each session lasting four minutes, at 20 seconds of intense training (170% intensity) and 10 seconds of rest.
In the results, Group 1 had a significant increase in the aerobic system (cardiovascular system). However, the anaerobic system (muscles) gained little or no results at all.
Group 2 showed much improvement in all their athletes. Their aerobic systems increased much more than group ones, and their anaerobic systems increased by 28%. That’s pretty impressive.
Who should do Tabata training?
Don’t even think about embarking on a Tabata programme unless you are already fit. Also you want to start off fairly slowly and build up to it, but Tabata is proven to be a great way to ramp your fitness level, burn calories and blast fat. However, the key to a successful Tabata session is having the discipline to work out at extremely high levels of intensity (the participants in the Tabata study worked at 170 percent of their VO2 Max. This is no walk in the park, in fact, it’s killer if you’re working out the way you should be.
How do I do Tabata training?
The beauty of Tabata training is that it can be done in small spaces and is flexible – you can work out with weights, or you can do cardio moves, or blend the two. Consider any of the following: squat jumps, lunges, burpees, skipping rope, mountain climbers, sprints, press ups, side to side jumping lunges. As your fitness and form improves you can try compound moves with weights and kettlebells to really kick your butt. You repeat the exercise rapidly and pushing yourself as hard as you can while maintaining perfect form for 20 seconds, then rest for just 10 seconds. Repeat for eight cycles to achieve the four minute exercises. You can then take a rest for a couple of minutes before doing another round with different exercises if you desire. You’ll also want to do an appropriate gentle warm up, cool down and stretch.
Counting the beat
There are loads of Tabata training phone apps available, which time out your workout so you don’t need to fumble with stopwatches or gaze at the clock. I used Tabata Timer app, which beeps during the interval timing so that I can just get on and workout. Don’t even think about counting in your head – your head will need to be in the game and focused on pushing through.
Try searching for: Tabata Timer, Tabata Trainer, or TABATA
If you find it too hard to discipline yourself, you could try a DVD such as Amy Dixon’s Breathless Body.
My first Tabata workout plan
Tabata Set 1
Tabata Set 2
Tabata Set 3
1) Star Jumps
2) Lunges with kick
Tabata Set 4
Workout time: 16 minutes excluding warm up, cool down and stretch.
The Verdict: I was pleased to note there was no throwing up, seeing stars or passing out. But my breath was very ragged and my heart was pounding that’s for sure. It was a relief to take a one to two minute break between each then get back into it. Maybe I wasn’t working hard enough? That said, my heart rate definitely got right up and I could feel my muscles groaning after a few of the resistance exercises.
This is something I would be keen to add to my routine to spice things up and get some rapid cardio in to break up my love of toning/ballet/pilates/callanetics type programmes.
I also love that you can mix up the exercises. For example, you could do two sets of four different moves per Tabata session and repeat four times for a mixed bag. The only downside I envisaged was that it is hard to keep perfect form for the last few segments of each session as your muscles are fatiguing so quickly. However, breaking it up a bit relieves boredom and gives the muscles a teeny break.
Have you tried Tabata training? What did you think of it?