Staying in top physical condition often means looking out for and trying out new exercise programs. In fact, this is just common sense as our daily habits, fitness goals and overall fitness levels change over time. And, well, sometimes we all could use a change of pace and a new challenge, right? So, if you’re in the market for a new fitness routine, meet Tabata training.
The Origin Story
As its name suggests, Tabata training was born in Japan. It’s the brainchild of Izumi Tabata and his colleagues at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports and Tokyo. Tabata and his team conducted a study on two group of speed-skating athletes. The first group trained at a moderate intensity level using ergonomic cycles for one hour a day, five days a week, for a total of six weeks. The second group did four-minute high-intensity workout sessions, four days a week for six weeks. These high-intensity workout sessions alternated between 20 seconds of exercise done at maximum effort and 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times.
After the six weeks were up, Tabata discovered that the first group experienced an increase in the performance of their aerobic or cardiovascular system, but saw no development in their anaerobic system. The second group, meanwhile, showed a larger increase in their aerobic performance and saw gains in their anaerobic system by as much as 28 percent.
So, essentially, Tabata training is extremely straightforward—and quite short as well. The structure of a Tabata workout is just this:
1. Workout for 20 seconds
2. Rest for 10 seconds
3. Repeat 8 times
The secret to a good Tabata program, and also what makes it so hard, is that it requires all-out intensity—you absolutely need to push yourself to your limit for those four minutes. In other words, if you’re not totally drop-dead tired at the end of the workout, you didn’t go hard enough.
Now, on a more technical note, Tabata training was originally conceptualized with one motion per session in mind. So, if you pick squat thrusts, for example, you would do those at full intensity for 20 second bursts interspersed with 10 seconds of rest until you’ve done eight batches of squat thrusts.
Nowadays, a lot of people will vary the exercises they do during a session. Adding extra rounds and varying the intensity of movements is also a popular option, basically using the Tabata method to create your very own high-intensity workout. For instance, four minutes of scissor kicks (following the 20 seconds of exercise and 10 of rest formula, of course) followed by four minutes of squats and then four minutes of dead lifts for the finale. This also allows you to customize your work routine to, say, target specific muscle groups, while still gaining the benefits of the Tabata system.
Of course, if done right, following the original recipe for the Tabata training program—four minutes a day, four days a week—is more than sufficient. As long as, once again, you make a point to go all out during each four minute session. Remember, Tabata training is short, but it definitely should not be sweet.
Tabata training can be punishing, but it’s also popular for a reason. So, to wrap up our look into this fitness trend, let’s recap the benefits you stand to gain.
First of all, Tabata training is shown to burn more calories per minute compared to traditional aerobic exercise and ramps up the rate at which your body burns calories after the workout. In other words, you’ll shed fat during the workout and you’ll continue to do so post-exercise.
Second, as mentioned before, Tabata training increases both aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
Third and finally, Tabata training is not only effective, it is also time-efficient—which is a rather important consideration considering how busy a modern urban-dweller can be. Building your personal commitment to exercise and stay in shape is also considerably easier when it starts with just four minutes a day.
All that’s left is to pick your exercise and get ready to push yourself like never before.
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