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Tabata Training

by Alexandra Parren

Kettlebell Swing Tabata HIIT Workout Home Gym

Tabata is a type of HIIT training that claims to burn as many calories as an hour-long run. But how does it work?

What is Tabata?

Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata developed this 4-minute workout whilst training Japan’s speed skating team. Dr Tabata and his team conducted research on two forms of training: high-intensity interval training and steady state cardio. One group completed an hour of steady cardio on a stationary bike 5 times per week, whilst the other group completed 10 minutes warm up, followed by what we now refer to as the Tabata training principle, (20 seconds of all-out work followed by 10 seconds rest and repeated eight times in total), four times a week. The steady state group clocked up 300 minutes of training whilst the Tabata group spent under a third of that working out, just 86 minutes a week. After 6 weeks of following the routine, those completing steady state cardio improved their VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) by 10%, however, the Tabata group not only increased their VO2 max by an average of 15% they also increased their anaerobic capacity (energy without oxygen) by 28%.

When describing Tabata, the creator says, "If you feel okay afterwards you've not done it properly." 

Can anyone do Tabata?

Despite its extreme intensity, Tabata says “Everyone can do it but beginners should start with educated trainers so that they can work at the correct intensity for them”. When it comes to Tabata training, it is you against yourself, so there is no set speed or number of repetitions. If you’re not sure or have never tried it before, try the routine with a personal trainer or partner, that way someone is there to keep an eye on how you’re doing, as well as keep you motivated. If you have any underlying health conditions or are pregnant, however, this is not the routine for you.

How should I feel after Tabata?

Common symptoms of an effective Tabata performance include:

  • Shortness of breath / Inability to talk
  • Sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Increased lactic acid

Tabata exercises

The Tabata training principle can be applied to any exercise to make an intense workout regime, but exercises which work the best tend to be big compound exercises, which require lots of muscle groups and lots of effort.

Examples of bodyweight Tabata exercises include:

  • Burpees
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Box Jumps
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Mountain Climbers

These exercises are all big calorie burners to make the most of your short workout and get your heart rate up quickly.

    Workout at work: Tabata

    Research has shown it is essential not only to exercise in the gym but to keep active throughout the day to keep healthy. Being so short, Tabata is perfect to pull out on your lunchbreak. Try bodyweight-only moves for a workout you can take anywhere and return to sit in your office guilt-free, as you’ll be burning calories to recover from your lunchtime performance for up to 24 hours!

    Benefits of Tabata

    • Save time - After a quick warm up all you need is 4 minutes for one round of Tabata.
      • Increase your body’s Aerobic and Anaerobic capacities - Working with and without oxygen.
      • Afterburn - Research has shown Tabata has an EPOC effect (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and can burn up to 150 calories in the 12 hours after training.
      • Tabata raises your base metabolic rate (BMR- The number of calories your body burns at rest).
      • Maintains muscle tissue - High-intensity exercises stress the muscles to create an anabolic effect.
      • Easily adaptable protocol - Bored of your Tabata workout? Just switch up the exercises!
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