What is TABATA?

TABATA is timed high-intensity interval training.

Tabata watch

Each exercise – whether it be body-weight, with weights, props, or a combination – is done in 20-second intervals, with 10-second breaks, and a 30-second break between each sequence.  Typically the exercises are done on average of 8 sets; and the 20/10/30 is the most common combination, however, variations do include altered lengths of sets and breaks.  That’s about 4 minutes of each.

  • As a Tabata teacher, I only teach body-weight exercises.  I find that many do not know proper technique and get injured or discouraged, so even though the class is a “boot camp” style, I take my time to monitor form, breathing, and modifications, and adjust accordingly.
  • It is very important to understand and be mindful of the body, all the major muscle groups, posture and alignment, proper breathing, stability, core strength, and be able to pick up oneself off the ground (and that is not just for the older generation).  
  • Essentially, I format my class so that it can be taken by everyone and anyone.  I usually have in class a wide-range of ages, people with different precautions, people with different strengths, and they all get a great workout. (see below: “Should You Try Tabata Training?”)
  • I enjoy mixing up the sequences into split-sets (alternating between 2 exercises), developing on one particular exercise (like different types of squats), and making the class interesting and challenging.
  • The Tabata-style can actually be combined with a wide-range of exercises involving aerobic and anaerobic, or body-weight, free-weights, and machines, ie: 8 sets of sprints followed by 8 sets of pushups, to leg presses….
  • I always end my class with about 5 minutes of stretching.  This important aspect of fitness tends to get left behind with the usual aside, “yeah, I need to do more of that.”

    Prof. Izumi Tabata

Professor Izumi Tabata, well known for his research into high-intensity intermittent training, is a former researcher at the National Institute for Health and Nutrition and currently a professor and researcher at Ritsumeikan University’s newly established Faculty of Sport and Health Science. He created Tabata training originally for speed skaters.  Please visit the Faculty of Sport and Health Science’s English Website for more details.

“The current regime consists of repetitions of 20 seconds of intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This means that, excluding warming up and cooling down, the exercise can be completed in only 4 minutes if repeated 8 times, more than enough to make even a fit person exhausted. The idea has become bigger than I imagined and now if you search this on Google, you will get about 200,000 hits.”

(ref: Izumi Tabata | Featured Researchers | Ritsumeikan University)

While a number of research studies have explored Dr. Tabata’s 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off interval training format for cycling and running activities, fitness professionals, athletes and casual exercisers are now applying the Tabata training concept to all kinds of different exercises, including weight lifting, swimming, athletic drills and more.  Unlike other intervals where you just want to “work harder,” by definition, Tabata training is working at an intensity level that is as hard and as fast as you can physically go—generally an anaerobic effort.

Does It Really Work?
A number of studies have suggested that Tabata training does, in fact, work. Further studies have also made a case for Tabata training and other variations of high intensity interval training. A 2007 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that seven sessions of high intensity interval training over two weeks resulted in marked increases in whole body and skeletal muscle capacity for fatty acid oxidation during exercise in moderately active women. A 2009 study from the same journal found that young men cycling to maximum effort for four bouts of 30 seconds with four minutes of rest doubled their metabolic rate for three full hours after training. Also, a 2008 study in the Journal of Physiology found that these short, yet intense types of interval workouts can be a time-efficient way to get in shape and may help participants achieve fitness improvements comparable to longer, less-intense workouts. 

Should You Try Tabata Training?
Tabata training promises big results in little time, but true Tabata training requires participants to push themselves to the max—and that level of intensity is definitely not for everyone. Working out at such a high intensity is only appropriate for healthy, intermediate to advanced exercisers who have experience and knowledge in the type of exercise(s) they’re doing. Tabata training takes your body to the extreme, so it’s best if you’ve been working out regularly and are very comfortable with the exercises you’ll be doing (more on that later). This ensures that you have better awareness of how hard to push your body (or when to back off) and that you have the know-how to maintain form (or modify your weight or exercise) when your body tires as you go through the intervals.

With that said, beginners can try Tabata-inspired intervals at a lower intensity that’s more appropriate for their fitness level. However, anything less than maximum effort won’t get the true Tabata training results. As always, if you’re trying Tabata—or any new exercise—for the first time, it’s a good idea to get it approved by your doctor and work with a fitness professional until you feel comfortable doing it on your own.

(ref: Tabata Training 101: Does This 4-Minute Fitness Technique Deliver? — By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor)

Try it!

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3 responses to “What is TABATA?

  1. Pingback: Working out using the Tabata Method « Diary of a Personal Trainer

  2. Pingback: CLASSES IN THE PARK! | magic sandbox fitness

  3. Pingback: CLASSES IN THE PARK! | magic sandbox fitness

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