All of you that went through our private introduction lessons have already done Tabata before. When you heard “We’ll do Tabata today” at the 6th lesson, you probably still didn’t know what was going to happen. And when your coach explained to you that you will work only 20 seconds and then you’ll rest for 10 seconds, and this will happen only 8 times and you’ll be done in 4 minutes, you probably didn’t expect that it’s going to be that bad. In this article I’d like to focus on Tabata training more closely.
This high intensity training method was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team of scientists at National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo in 1990. Doctor Tabata and his team divided athletes into two groups and each group was given a 6-week training plan. One group followed a typical endurance program (higher volume and low intensity training) 5x per week. Second group trained only 1 hour per week, but they were doing a high intensity training (later on named Tabata training after its author). After 6 weeks, control group trained 1.800 minutes in total and “Tabata group” trained only 360 minutes. Even though the “Tabata group” spent much less time training, their results were better. “Tabata group” improved their anaerobic capacity by 28 % and their aerobic capacity by 14% (even though their training was high intensity). You can see the progress of both groups in the graph below. White points in the graph represent training group that followed a typical endurance program, red line represents the “Tabata group”.
Tabata is a short training. You exercise only for 20 seconds, but you go at maximum intensity. Then you get 10 second rest and then you do another 20 second interval. You do a total of 8 sets, therefore the whole routine takes only 4 minutes. These are a few things that are important while doing Tabata:
- Go as fast as you can every set. Don’t try any strategies like “I’ll go slower, so that I can last all 8 rounds.”
- Work for entire 20 seconds, don’t stop in the 18th or 19th second because you feel like you can’t continue anymore.
- Your rest is only 10 seconds. Start the next set IMMEDIATELY!
- Stick to this for all 8 sets, don’t give up!
- Choose one movement or exercise that you’re going to do for the whole Tabata. If you want to do more movements/exercises, I recommend doing: “Tabata exercise 1 – 3 min break – Tabata exercise 2, and so on”
Even though Tabata was originally designed as a training for endurance athletes, you don’t have to use it only for running, cycling or swimming. You can choose pretty much any movement for Tabata. It can be one of bodyweight movements like squats, push ups, sit ups, burpees or our favorite Tabata hollow rocks. Or you can do weighted movements like squats, KB swings, power cleans.. If you pick a movement that includes weight, be careful about what exercise and weight you’re going to do, so that you’re able to maintain perfect technique for all 8 sets. Since Tabata is high intensity, you are risking getting injured if you don’t execute the movements properly.
Tabata training is ideal in situations when you don’t have time for your standard training. I personally use Tabata for running in cases when I don’t have much time or I don’t feel like doing my regular running training. If I do Tabata, I know that it will hurt a bit, but I’ll be done in 20-25 minutes including warm up and cool down. Tabata is also good if you can’t get to the gym to do your CrossFit workout (because of holiday or business trip, etc.). You can do Tabata with your own bodyweight in a hotel room.