TABATA Training

Tabata training are shorter, more intensive workouts lasting as little as 10 minutes that can be just as beneficial as those lasting up to an hour. Tabata training protocol is the reason behind the recent boost in popularity of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT or HIT).

What is Tabata:

Tabata is the name given to a workout that uses 4 minutes of training alternating between high and low intensity. It is named after a Japanese doctor, Izumi Tabata, who conducted the original research. Traditional Tabata protocol involves doing repeated intervals of exercise at high intensity [exhaustive] followed by shorter recovery periods usually at a ration of 2:1. For example 7-8 boosts of exhaustive exercise lasting 20-30 seconds followed by 10-15 seconds recovery. Over the years adaptations to this protocol have been devised. Many involve strength training as opposed to using only cardiovascular equipment. Our HIIT class for example uses body weight and small equipment to create physiological adaptations similar to Tabata.

Benefits of Tabata workouts:

Benefits extend beyond fat burning with the main advantage being the effect on the metabolism. As such its a fantastic method to incorporate into an existing training regime.

  • Increased aerobic fitness
  • Increased anaerobic fitness
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Increases resting metabolic rate
  • Increased athletic performance in trained athletes for whom increasing the training time will not yield additional benefits or is not possible
  • Lowers insulin resistance
  • Improves glucose tolerance
  • Enhances fat oxidation
  • Reduces total body fat and trunk fat
  • Increases fat burning

Who should do Tabata training?

People at risk of Type-2 diabetes

Individuals with little time for training

Those who do not tolerate lengthy cardio sessions well.

If you are looking to increase your training effectiveness without increasing the time spent doing lengthy cardio

Trained athletes looking to improve their performance

When should you do Tabata? 

Despite continuing research into the optimum time of the day to train you should aim to train at times that promote long term adherence to exercise. Like with all exercise in general the optimum time is the time that allows you to stick to a regime in the long run. For this it pays to spend a little time analysing your weekly schedule and planning your training during the most convenient times to you.

How often should you do Tabata training?

Original method is based on 5 sessions per week for 6 weeks. This does not mean that similar effects can not be obtained with less frequency. The key is to start slowly. Even once a week may be more than enough. Especially if you are just starting out on your fitness journey.

Examples of Tabata protocols:

8 x 20 second of exhaustive work vs 10 seconds recovery. This is the original TABATA protocol that used a stationary bike and measured cardiovascular work load under medical supervision. This can also be done on a treadmill, using battle ropes, swimming and even using resistance training instead of traditional cardiovascular methods.

As your fitness improves experiment with increasing the length of the fast interval for a maximum of 5-20 minutes of total work.

Scientific bases of Tabata training:

The method is based on the original work of Izumi Tabata who in 1996 used a variation of stationary bike to compare the effect of endurance training (60 min at 70% VO2 max [aerobic zone], 5times per week, 6wks) against high intensity intermittent training (HIIT) (30 seconds at 20sec fast, 10sec slow at 170% VO2 max [exhaustive]). Aerobic capacity (fitness) increased to similar levels between two groups. The HIIT group had the added benefit of elevating their anaerobic capacity (fitness)

Caution and considerations:

Due to high intensity of the method untrained individuals may have difficulty tolerating the training. In the short term recovery must be managed to promote long term adherance.

With healthy wishes,

Dmitri Tkatchev

Additional sources:

The original study: Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. (1996): Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 29 (3): 390–5.

Stephen H. Boutcher (2011) High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss Journal of Obesity