We all know how important physical exercise is to excellent living, yet occasionally we don’t have the time to dedicate 50-60 minutes six times a week like many of the experts suggest. For those on a busy schedule, the Tabata protocol might be a good alternative for those days when you don’t have a lot of time for a full blown workout.
Tabata training is 4 minutes of intense intervals utilizing one or more exercises. Using jumping rope as an example, a Tabata drill goes like this: Jump rope as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 Seconds. Repeat 7 more times for a total of 8 sets. The whole Tabata drill only takes 4 minutes.
Tabata training can be done with a number of different exercises including: sprints, push ups, sit ups, squat thrusts, dumbbells, or swimming. The key is to push yourself as hard as you can for the full 20 seconds, and rest for the full 10 seconds. It appears the secret to Tabata’s success lies in the 10 second rest periods, because no rest or more rest had less successful results. While not impossible without one, using a Tabata timer will make timing the intervals much easier. Timers like the Gymboss® can be purchased, but you can also find several Tabata timers available for free download to your Smartphone or computer.
Tabata was developed and named after Japanese physiologist, Dr. Izumi Tabata at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports. Dr. Tabata and his team of researchers did a study comparing the effects of moderate intensity endurance (typical aerobics) and high endurance intermittent training (Tabata drills) on VO2 (1) max and anaerobic activity. Dr. Tabata’s team discovered that a moderate intensity endurance program produced VO2 increases of about 10% with no anaerobic capacity (2) improvement. The Tabata group; however, improved their VO2 max by 28% and their anaerobic capacity by 28%! Both groups worked out 5 days per week for 6 weeks. Additionally, Tabata drills were discovered to be an outstanding way to burn fat. In fact, it was demonstrated that fat burning often continued up to two days after the last Tabata workout.
Make no mistake, Tabata is not for an out of shape beginner. It is a serious exercise program that should only be attempted once you are already conditioned. However, when you are short of exercise space or time, Tabata removes any excuse you might have for not getting in your workout.
(1) VO2 Max is often used as a measurement of an individual’s physical fitness. It is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen.
(2) Anaerobic capacity refers to an individual’s ability to perform at maximum output, usually refers to strength or power rather than endurance (e.g., ability to sprint at the end of a distance race).