Heard of Tabata? (If you haven’t, you should!)

December 3, 2017

There are countless workout styles you've probably heard about over the years and all of them are meant to help you reach your fitness goals. But no matter whether you want to build muscle, lose weight, improve flexibility, increase speed, etc, the key to success (like with most things) is to be consistent with your exercise (but that’s probably a whole other blog.)

So all that being said, if you're looking to shake up your routine for any reason (especially if you’re short on time or simply bored) you may want to give Tabata training a try. Tabata training is a type of high-intensity interval training (otherwise known as HIIT) but takes only four minutes.

Tabata training is named after a Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata who, along with a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, tested his theories on two groups of high level athletes (in other words hardcore exercisers who were already in really great shape by all standards.) The first group worked out for an hour a day five days a week for six weeks while the second group worked out only four days a week for six weeks but here’s the real kicker: each of the 2nd group's workouts lasted only four minutes (I’ll explain the details in a minute).

The results of Dr Tabata’s research were downright AMAZING: after six weeks, Group 1 displayed aerobic (cardiovascular) system increases but little or no increases in their anaerobic (muscular) system. But Group 2, on the other hand, not only showed even greater increases in their aerobic system than Group 1, they even increased their anaerobic capacity by a whopping 28%!

So what’s the bottom line? Tabata workouts are simply a HUGE bang for the buck (and I promise you they are NEVER EVER BORING!!!)

And you can do pretty much any exercise you like when "doing a Tabata." Here are a few examples of lower body exercises that work well in Tabata format

· Bodyweight squats

· Jump squats

· Box jumps

· Dumbell or kettlebell goblet squats

And here are a few examples of upper body exercises that work well

· Push-ups

· Triceps dips

· Pull-ups

· Plank rows

And here are a few examples of total body exercises that work well

· Burpees

· Dumbbell or kettlebell thrusters

· Mountain climbers

· Kettlebell swings

And here are a few examples of cardiovascular exercises that work well

· Jumping rope

· Sprinting on a rowing machine

· Sprinting on a spin bike

· Sprinting on track or treadmill

But let the buyer beware: even though Tabata workouts last only four minutes it’s likely to be the longest four minutes of your life!

And here’s how Tabata basically works: get yourself a timer (even a kitchen timer will do but most smartphones enable you to download at least one or two free Tabata apps these days.) Then pick an exercise, hit the start button, push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, then repeat the entire cycle 7 more times…if you do math you'll see all that only adds up to 4 minutes.

FYI I often recommend my clients do a Tabata at the end of a complete strength & conditioning workout 2-3 times a week OR at the end of a 30-60 minute cardio workout 2-3 days a week…doing Tabata at the end of a traditional workout is kind of like a putting a traditional workout on steroids: for MOST people this format is more effective than adding another 1-2 hours to their workout and helps move them towards almost any fitness or health-improving goal quicker, easier, and with significantly less risk of overtraining (and make sure to tune back in next week for more info on that particularly health-destructive subject!!!)

If you’re REALLY looking to kick your own butt, however, you can gang up 4 or 5 Tabatas with 1 minute rests in between and still be finished with your entire routine in about 30 minutes. These routines can be so intense, though, that your risk of over-training goes up precipitously if you exercise more often than 3 times a week. Also for most of my clients (who lead relatively sedentary lives when they’re not working out) following my more typical recommendation might be a better choice because it helps reinforce the concept of a more active lifestyle in general.

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