Over the years, high intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, has become extremely popular in all kinds of different fitness circles, all over the globe. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that it saves time, and above all else, because it really works. As HIIT workouts have proven to be so effective however, they have undergone a number of changes, and there are now many different variations to choose from. One high intensity form of exercise that has been popular for many years however, is Tabata, and it is Tabata training that we’ll be taking a closer look at in this article. Contained within, you will find out what Tabata is, where it originated, what it entails, and why it is considered so beneficial and effective. So, without any further time-wasting, let’s learn more about what Tabata actually is.
What is Tabata? – Tabata training is basically a method of training that is designed to save time, whilst maximizing fat loss and increasing fitness and stamina levels. None of us seem to have much time to ourselves nowadays, and when we do, we generally don’t want to spend it sweating our butts off, staring at the same four walls in the gym like some mindless drone. Tabata is great because is considered to be a hybrid of Crossfit and regular circuit training, with cardio principles thrown in for good measure.
The name Tabata, is actually derived from the creator of this training principle – Dr. Izumi Tabata, who, at the time, was working as head coach for the speed skating team of Japan. Basically, Tabata workouts consist of the user alternating between periods of slow and steady exercise, and fast-paced high intensity exercise, with very little rest between sets. Izumi would regularly conduct tests designed to determine whether individuals would benefit from training sessions which consisted of a 20/10 split of 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, which would then be repeated a further 8 times. In total, this worked out to just 4 minutes of exercise, which many believed would simply not be enough. It turned out to be more than enough as Dr Tabata discovered that the aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels of the users both increased over the course of six weeks, with anaerobic fitness levels increasing by close to 29%.
In short, you can all thank Dr. Izumi Tabata for being such a freaking genius and for creating a kick-ass training regime that is not only hugely effective, but that is also fun, and that actually saves you time as well.
Which exercises are performed? – The great thing about Tabata training protocols is the fact that so many different exercises, and forms of exercise, are compatible with this method of training, so you can have your metaphorical cake and eat it too. You can perform cardio-based aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, cycling, etc, you can perform resistance-based exercises like weight lifting or bodyweight training, or you can even combine the two and create your own mini circuit. So, as an example, a typical tabata workout could consist of:
- Push ups
- Jump rope
In this instance, you would simply:
- Perform 20 seconds of squats and rest for 10 seconds
- Perform 20 seconds of push ups and rest for 10 seconds
- Perform 20 seconds of jump rope and rest for 10 seconds
- And perform 20 seconds of burpees and rest for 10 seconds.
After performing all four exercises, you would have completed round 1. You would then repeat everything all over again one more time, meaning you have performed 2 rounds in total.
Alternatively, some tabata runners will simply:
- Sprint as fast as they can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat for 8 rounds in total.
For those of you who want to work on your gains so that you’re ready to strut your stuff on the beaches in the summer, a weight-based resistance tabata workout example could be:
- 20 seconds of push ups and 10 seconds of rest
- 20 seconds of standing military presses with 10 seconds of rest
- 20 seconds of barbell curls with 10 seconds of rest
- 20 seconds of bodyweight squats with 10 seconds of rest
As before, once you have completed 1 round, repeat this circuit for 2 rounds total. Remember to use manageable weights, as the last thing you want is to crush yourself with a heavy barbell while trying to show off to other gym-goers. When it comes to tabata and weight-training, you must leave your ego at the door. When it comes to weight-based workouts, try to choose compound exercises so that more than one muscle group benefits at once.
In truth, there are many different tabata combinations to choose from, which is very beneficial as it allows you to create your own workouts and to simply mix and match, as it were.
What are the benefits of tabata training? – Before we wrap things up and let you bust your butts in the gym when you try your very own tabata workouts (because why wouldn’t you?), we’ll finish up by looking at the main benefits associated with tabata training.
Saves time – First and foremost, the main benefit is the fact that it saves time. You can perform a tabata workout in about 4 minutes (it's probably best to add a few minutes for warmup and cooldown), leaving you with plenty of time to do boring adult stuff like go to work, earn a living, pay the bills, and do your taxes etc.
No excuses – One of the most common excuses people make for not going to the gym, is claiming that they’re “too busy” and that they don’t have the time. It’s funny how they claim to be too busy to exercise and to prolong their lives, yet they aren’t too busy to park themselves in front of the TV for hours on end each night, watching mindless drivel. With tabata, there are no excuses because you can get yourself a kick-ass workout completed, in less than 4 minutes, and who honestly does not have 4 minutes?
Increased metabolism – Tabata is the gift that just keeps on giving, as it has been proven that HIIT protocols increase the metabolism for several hours after the workout has been completed, thanks to the ‘afterburn effect’. This means that you burn more fat, and you have more energy, even whilst you sit on your butts doing about as much activity as a comatose snail. You can literally burn fat and generate energy when doing nothing, following a tabata workout.
Build muscle – Most forms of exercise designed to burn fat will result in muscle catabolism, but this is not the case with Tabata. With Tabata, as you place your muscle fibres under so much stress, they actually respond favourably by growing and becoming stronger, whilst your body fat percentages plummet. If you want to build yourself a physique that would make a Greek God envious of you, tabata is most certainly the training principle for you.