For those of you with goals to get lean, fit and lose weight then cardio is most certainly on your training programme. And unless your very new to exercise, or have been training in a gym under a rock for the last year or so then you are probably aware of HIIT sessions, the best way to speed up fat loss and make fitness gains in less time. HIIT, high-intensity interval training provides the foundations for Tabata, but what is Tabata training?
Studies (1) have shown show that HIIT workouts take far less time to complete than slow and steady cardio workouts, lead to as much as twice the total fat lost. However, to take it a step further Tabata maximises your anaerobic and aerobic capacity in a very hard core workout that takes mere minutes. It’s a gruelling heart-pounding session in which you push yourself all-out for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest, for 4 minutes total (2). I know what you’re thinking, 4 minutes is that all, but believe me when I say its hard work, let’s look at it in more detail.
Historically Tabata is the surname of Dr. Izumi Tabata. Dr. Tabata, a professor at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, Dr Tabata identified the health benefits of these 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off workout plans in 1996. Dr. Tabata took two groups and put them on an exercise program for six weeks. The control group did one hour of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week. The other group did the high-intensity Tabata-style training. The results were unquestionable; the Tabata group improved both its aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels and interestingly the overall anaerobic fitness level increased by 28% over this short period and aerobic capacity increased by 14% (3).
Aerobic capacity is also known as the body’s maximum oxygen capacity, this is the most amount of oxygen consumed by the body whilst exercising. Anaerobic capacity is the maximum amount of energy that can be produced by the body in the absence of oxygen. This anaerobic energy is produced by burning carbohydrates when there is insufficient oxygen available in the bloodstream. As suggested above Tabata training improves both of these maximum capacities significantly.
Tabata training is attractive because it saves a lot of time for people. It offers the maximum benefit with the least amount of time used to get those results. If you’re looking for results around loosing fat and building lean muscle then Tabata also caters for muscle retention. Dieting as a means to weight/fat loss often causes loss of the muscle tissue, not good if you’re looking for muscle gains. Tabata training places stress on muscle tissue, which then informs your body that more muscle tissue is needed, therefore the ratio of your lean body mass to fat goes up, and by choosing exercises that maximize the muscle mass worked, muscle tissue can increase (4).
Another aspect of Tabata training is that it can be adapted to suit your health and fitness goals. Using the principles of Tabata at the end of your ‘normal’ work out is a great way to dig deep and reach your fitness potential. Tabata training at the end of your work can be used on a specific body part or muscle group to intensify the benefits of its principles. As discussed Tabata training will hone in on developing your cardiorespiratory system improving your maximum aerobic and anaerobic capacities. However the intense muscle pump on individual muscle groups from a Tabata style workout cannot be ignored also. This type of training with free weights engorges the muscle with fluids and nutrients while stretching the muscle fibres. The benefits don’t stop there, a Tabata style workout with free weight resistance boosts growth-hormone levels, growth hormone are both anabolic and lipolytic (fat burning) fundamentals (5).
Reverse Lunge (30s)
1 minute Rest
Bicycle crunch (30s)
Workout 2 (maximum effort) Free Weights
Body weight press up (20s)
Mountain Climber (20s)
Dumbbell Lateral raises (20s)
Dumbbell Bicep Curl (20s)
Dumbbell Fly (20s)
Bench Press (20s)
You may well have grasped the principles of HIIT training, but Tabata training is another level again, it is certainly not for beginners. You need to be comfortable with high intensity training knowing how your body feels during this transition into peak performance.
Ensuring you know the exercises you are about to perform well, it may be worth trying out the exercise slowly beforehand to ensure your form and technique is right. High intensive and high impact training such as Tabata can cause injury. Make sure you warm up and cool down before any form of exercise, and work your way up to the intensity of Tabata training. 4 minutes are extremely hard work can cause a dip in motivation and form when carrying out the exercise. Ensure you are psychologically prepared for what is about to happen, if you fail to prepare then prepare to fail.
Fresh Start boot camp in Chiang Mai offers a number of opportunities to learn more about types of training, tailored training regimes are the best ways to reach your goals. Tabata training includes a number of strong fundamental points that we like to include in our boot camp, helping you reach your maximum potential.
1. Buckley, AJ. et al. (2010). Adaptations to skeletal muscle with endurance exercise training in acutely fed versus overnight-fasted state. Journal of Science and Sports Medicine. Jul;13(4):465-9
3. 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, 28(10), 1327–1330.
4. Tabata, I., Irisawa, K., Kouzaki, M., Nishimura, K., Ogita, F., & Miyachi, M. (1997). “Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 29(3), 390–395.