Tabata Training: The 4-Minute Workout

August 23, 2016 — fitness, health, tips, workout, workouts

Myles Apparel | Journal | Tabata

 

By Malcolm Pascotti

 

What is Tabata?

A Tabata workout is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) comprised of 20-second intervals of full-effort exercises followed by a 10-second period of rest. Sounds easy, right? Just hustle for 20 seconds and you already get to take break? But this workout packs a sneaky amount of work into a little bit of time. Think about it this way: You can sip a beer or take a shot—either way you’re getting the same amount of booze. Once you are a few rounds into a Tabata, that 20 seconds wrecks you like that fourth shot of tequila and the rest period is your lime.

A Tabata workout is quick but effective way to build a healthy sweat. It isn’t a casual day in the gym where any notification on your phone becomes an excuse to take a break. It is a direct flight (where they don’t even have time to serve you peanuts) to making your fitness goals seem a little less distant.

 

Where did Tabata come from?

In 1968, Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese professor specializing in sport and health science, conducted studies with the Japanese Olympic speed skating steam to test the effectiveness of specific short intervals of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest. With the team as his test subjects, Dr. Tabata ran two experiments. In the first experiment, athletes rode a stationary bike at 170% of their VO2 max (the measure of the maximum volume of oxygen the body can use) for 20 seconds, pushing them out of their aerobic zone and into the anaerobic zone. They were then allowed to to rest for 10 seconds before repeating the cycle seven more times bringing the total workout to eight complete rounds of effort and rest.

In the second experiment, the athletes exercised for 30 seconds at 200% of their VO2 max. This was followed by a longer two minute rest period and then repeated four-five more times until the athletes reached complete exhaustion. An additional control group worked out at moderate intensity for one hour. All groups performed their designated routine five times per week for six weeks.

 

How is Tabata effective?

When analyzing the results, Dr. Tabata discovered that at the end of the study the two groups performing the high intensity exercises with periods of rest improved their anaerobic capacity while the control group did not. The group exercising at the higher VO2 max but with longer periods of rest improved their capacity marginally, but the group training for at a slightly lower intensity with shorter rest periods averaged a staggering 28% increase in their anaerobic fitness level. The results showed that the key to improvement is intense effort with shorter breaks, rather than completely exhaustive effort with longer breaks. The study also proved that working out for longer periods did not necessarily correlate with better results. Over the course of the study, the control group exercised for 1,800 total minutes while the group using the 20/10 intervals only worked out for 120 minutes and improved considerably more.

Beyond improving your anaerobic capacity (your body’s maximum energy output for short-term physical effort) short high-intensity exercise forces your heart to pump at a faster rate and release hormones that increase your metabolism. This metabolism spike continues hours after you are done working out, allowing your body to burn even more fat while you’re back at the office reading emails. Utilizing the Tabata protocol can be a major win-win, allowing you to spend less time at the gym and see better results than with a conventional workout routine.

 

Where do I start?

Myles Apparel | Journal | Tabata Pushups

 

A Tabata workout is broken up like this and can be done with just about any exercise:

:10 – Get Ready.

:20 – Work

:10 – Rest

:20 – Work

:10 – Rest

:20 – Work

:10 – Rest

:20 – Work

:10 – Rest

:20 – Work

:10 – Rest

:20 – Work

:10 – Rest

:20 – Work

:10 – Rest

:20 – Work

Total: 8 rounds, 4 minutes 

There are no set guidelines or rules for how you can utilize Tabata workouts. Tabata circuits are often utilized in CrossFit workouts ranging from Olympic lifts to basic calisthenics. If you are new to Tabata workouts or just getting back into exercising, it may be best to keep the exercises basic and familiar. Such exercises can include push-ups, sit-ups, air squats, or even running in place. Depending on the exercise, these workouts can even be done at home, in a hotel gym when travelling, or anywhere you can find a small open space. Tabata workouts can function as a stand alone workout regimen or a fun way broaden your existing workout, especially when time is limited.

Try one of the full-body workouts below to get started:

Burpee

Lunge in place

Crunches

Perform one round of Burpees for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest, then 20 seconds of Lunges with 10 seconds of rest, then 20 seconds of Crunches with 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this circuit for 8 rounds for a total of 24 rounds completed in 12 minutes.

 

Air Squats

Jumping Jacks

Pushups

Perform one round of Air Squats for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest, then 20 seconds of Jumping Jacks with 10 seconds of rest, then 20 seconds of Pushups with 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this 7 more times for a total of 24 rounds completed in 12 minutes.

 

Need help keeping track of time?

Tabata Stopwatch Pro is an excellent free app for iOS and Android.

Myles Apparel | Journal | Tabata 


Malcolm Pascotti is a writer and photographer. Follow him on Instagram: @sweetteapapi.