Your Guide To Tabata Training

Mar 11, 2014 | fitness

In my experience as a personal trainer for all these years, what I’ve found the number one excuse for people not working out is “I don’t have time”.

Heard the saying, ‘someone busier than you is running right now’? Well, I’m here to tell you to shut down your social media for 20 minutes so you can have enough time to squeeze in a workout.

Now, when you have limited time and want the maximum result from your workout, you don’t head to the park with the dog, you do a H.I.I.T (High Intensity Interval Training) session. This particular H.I.I.T session comes by the name of Tabata. Inspired by the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating Team and prompting the first ever study in 1996, this training promises to show results just after six weeks of training – a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity and a 14% increase in the VO2max (maximum oxygen consumption).

The format of this kind of training is very simple – 20 second work/10 second rest X 8 rounds. This works not just because of its fitness benefits but for its versatility. For its original test and study, this format was used on a spin bike, but ever since then it’s been tested on sprinting, resistance training, plyometrics and bodyweight exercises.

Since 1996 there have been loads of other studies, like the American Council on Exercise (ACE) who tested 16 healthy, moderately fit females by putting them through a 20 minute full body workout, measuring their blood lactate levels as well as their heart rate, every four minutes. What they found was incredible. Firstly, they averaged 86% of HR max and 74% VO2max, in addition, they burnt an average of 15 kcals per minute, both results meeting or exceeding industry guidelines for improving cardio fitness and calorie expenditure for weight loss.

Not to get too technical here but a further study done by Professor Boutcher in Journal of Obesity NSW showed why Tabata training really works. He said in his report, “rapid bursts of muscle movement appear to flood the blood with hormones called catecholamines. These break down fat stores in the body, and burn them up as energy. By comparison, conventional moderate exercise, such as cycling for 40 minutes does not raise the blood-levels of catecholamines much at all”. Impressive, isn’t it? I am certainly up for 20 minutes over 40.

On a much more non-scientific note, the beauty about Tabata is it can be done outdoors, at the gym or at home with no equipment. You can change up the routines in so many ways to add variety to your training, and most importantly, it’s only going to take as long or even less than catching up on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest pages! Win-win.

Remember the key to this type of training is intensity and because of that reason, it may not be for everyone. You do need to push yourself in a zone of discomfort, so a base level of fitness is recommended prior to testing the Tabata. Ideally you would do this type of training 3 times per week, complimenting your other workouts.

I’ve put together a Tabata workout for you to test the theory:

Exercise 1 Squats
Exercise 2 Push Ups (knees or toes)
Exercise 3 Skipping
Exercise 4 Mountain Climbers
Exercise 5 Box jumps (gutter/step close to knee height)
Gym option
Exercise 1 Weighted squat (dumbbell or bar)
Exercise 2 Push Ups
Exercise 3 Kettlebell swings
Exercise 4 Sit ups (weighted option)
Exercise 5 Medicine ball throwdowns
Each exercise 20s on, 10s rest X 8 rounds
Complete 8 rounds of each exercise before moving on to next


Who’s keen? See you in 20 minutes…

Do you have any favourite Tabata workouts you would like to share… leave your tips in the comment box below.


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