As anyone who has done a few sessions with me will tell you, Tabata is one of my favourite methods of training. I love it for many reasons, but if I had to whittle it down to just three I’d say 1) It’s time-efficient 2) It’s simple and 3) you can do it anywhere.
For the uninitiated, Tabata is a popular form of HIIT (high intensity interval training). HIIT training demands (as the name suggests) periods of high intensity exercise followed by a recovery period. Now HIIT is not to be confused with regular interval training, whereby higher intensity exercise (i.e running) is interspersed with lower intensity exercise (i.e walking). Oh no. With HIIT training your bouts of high intensity exercise should leave you weak at the knees – and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Which brings me back around to Tabata training.
Tabata training was born back in the 90’s by Professor Izumi Tabata. It involves 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest and this cycle is repeated eight times for a total of four minutes. Working with two groups of college athletes – half focusing on moderate intensity endurance training and half on this new high intensity intermittent form of training – Professor Izumi discovered that while the moderate intensity group only showed improvements in aerobic capacity, the high intensity training group significantly improved both their aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
So what does this mean for you? Well, besides total exhaustion and a strong desire to vomit, it means BIG calorie burn. The most effective way to use Tabata in its original state is to choose a compound exercise (like a burpee or a squat press) and go hard. But something like that is not for the faint of heart or for someone who is new to exercise – remember, with Tabata you are working at MAXIMUM capacity. An easier (and I use the term ‘easier’ loosely) way would be to choose an upper and a lower body exercise (i.e squat jumps and push ups) and alternate between the two of them throughout the four minute set.
One of the great things about Tabata is that your body will recover quickly between sets, so (if I’m feeling particularly vindictive towards a group) I’ve been known to dedicate an entire session to Tabata, with two minutes rest between each set. I also like to use it myself, either as part of a larger session, or if I’m at home on a weekend and feeling a bit sluggish. Four minutes later I’m back on top of the world!
Some of my other favourite exercises to throw into a Tabata workout: high knees, squat jumps, lunge jumps, fast feet, kettlebell swings and boxing. I’ll also combine a push with a pull (i.e a push up and pull up) or finish off with a Tabata ab circuit.
So that’s Tabata training for you. In short, it’s 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, keep it going for 4 minutes. There are plenty of Tabata apps on the app store, so download one and you’ll be on your way. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!