Tabata Training: What’s the Big Deal?

05/31/2013 at 6:21 PM Leave a comment

I posted about the Tabata protocol back in 2008, 2010 and thought it was time to revisit it.

The Tabata Method or Protocol isn’t new, in fact Tabata’s original research was done in 1996, but it seems to be getting more and more press of late, maybe because of the popularity of CrossFit, P90X, Turbulence Training, and other high intensity training methods. Well, what’s it all about, anyway?

TabataBased on the research of Izumi Tabata et al, (hence the name Tabata) at the Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan, it is touted as “the best” way to up the metabolism and burn fat in the shortest amount of time. I don’t know if I’d say that any one thing is “the best”, but it is some pretty interesting stuff. The premis of the training is 20 second work interval to a 10 second rest interval that is done for a total of 8 repetitions (totaling 4 minutes). The original study was to compare moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity interval training and was completed on a stationary bicycle ergometer. To quote the abstract:
“…this study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves the maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity and that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.” Tabata Study

and all in 4 minutes. Who says you don’t have time to work out?

Now, from this and other research it has been extrapolated that this training, along with improving both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, also raises resting metabolism for an extended period of time and translates into greater fat loss. You can see any number of variations on the activities utilizing the Tabata Protocol from front squats to burpees. The key seems to be to make the activity involving large muscle groups and keeping the intensity “exhaustive” or an all out effort level. Now that’s to maximize your results, however, I’m also of the mind that even working at a highER intensity than you are used to will deliver additional benefits over your usual effort level. I use the Tabata protocol when training older adults.

Here’s an example (one of my favorites… Build-a Burpee):

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