What Is Tabata Training All About?
If you follow fitness blogs and sites or if you could peruse Pinterest for an embarrassingly long amount of time (like me), chances are you have seen something called "Tabata." Tabata interval training is pretty popular on the internet for it's time efficency and how wring-out-your-shirt sweaty you are at the end of it. But what is all the hype about? Is it really that great? And who the hell is Tabatha--er, Tabata?
You can thank Japanese researcher and professor, Izumi Tabata (pictured above) for this protocol of high-intensity circuit training. During his work with the Japanese speed skating team, the head coach asked him to research some methods of short burst high-intensity work followed by short rest. It combines low-intensity of aerobic training with high-intensity muscle training, allowing people outside the athletic population to get the best of both worlds. While Professor Tabata says that he is still researching the full benefits of Tabata training, the results so far have been positive including increased metabolic changes, increased anaeobic capacity and VO2 max (oxygen consumption--this is a good thing. Lance Armstrong had an astornomically high VO2 max) and increased EPOC--meaning that long after the workout is over, your body is running at a higher level and burning more calories, even at rest! Cool huh?!
How does it work? After a 5 minute warm-up, you perform 8 rounds of one exercise. One round is considered 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, so have a stopwatch or interval timer handy! Sound easy? Trust me, It's NOT. And if it is, you need to be working harder. This is designed for people who are already fit or athletic but don't be discouraged! If you're new to exercise and not quite there yet, work up to it by starting with 4 rounds instead of the full 8, or modify your exercise to sitting up and down from a chair instead of jump squats. Or try wall push-ups instead of ones on the floor or sprint training. The beauty of Tabata protocol is that you can make it whatever you need it to be in order for it to be a safe workout for you. But of course, always consult a physician before undertaking this kind of workout, espeically if you have high blood pressure or any cardiovascular issues! If you've already been training high-intensity intervals, give it a shot and see how you do with it. Because of the super intensity of it, I wouldn't recomend doing it more than twice in a week.
At RockIt Fitness, I love to do Tabata as a benchmark workout. I actually do three sets of Tabata (I know, I'm such an evil trainer) but it's for a purpose! I pick all bodyweight exercises, one lower, one upper and one for the core such as squats, push-ups and sit-ups or kick-ups. I then count the number of reps that my clients can perform in 8 rounds and compare their numbers every 8 weeks. If you've ever been to the RockIt studio, you'll know that there is no lab equipment, no metabolic carts and fancy machines so Tabata intervals are a great way for me to track progress. Plus, the numbers I get from this testing means more to my clients than fancy numbers and charts that only make sense to a fitness professional or researcher. Rockiteers like to hear "your squats were at 80 last time and today you smashed it with 102."
If you're looking to try out Tabata or want to see how my personal Tabata testing goes, you can follow right along with me in real time with my video here.