What is Tabata?

Tabata is a form of interval training that falls under the umbrella of HIIT exercise or high-intensity interval training.  It requires you to perform only 20 minutes to complete a workout, but the level of intensity means it pushes your body extremely hard, and this contributes to the effectiveness of the workout.

History of Tabata
Tabata is one of the newer forms of exercise that was developed by a doctor from Japan called Dr Izumi Tabata, who was studying the science behind exercise and decided to carry out a study focused on interval training which lead to the formation of Tabata.

The test group used were all fit and healthy speed skaters, and he devised two test scenarios where one group were asked to use static bikes, exercising for 60 minutes at medium intensity.  They were asked to do this for 5 days a week and continue for 6 weeks.  The other group used the principles of interval training, and the Tabata approach he was hoping to prove as more effective.

Their program which also went on for 6 weeks consisted of the same static bikes, this time exercising for 4 days a week.  Their routine required them to complete four minutes 20/10 exercise.

20/10 refers to an interval training method of 20 seconds at maximum, really pushing yourself, flat out exercise, then resting for 10 seconds, before starting again.  This gives a 4-minute workout.

More Than Just Cycling
While the study was carried out on static bikes in order to create a fair and level test base, the development of Tabata allows for any form of interval training.

The results showed that group using the new Tabata model increased their aerobic and anaerobic levels more than the other group.  Anaerobic fitness increased by a huge 28%, showing that a shorter overall exercise period at a higher intensity was far more beneficial.

Tabata Now
Tabata has now developed to use a massive range of exercises, from running and cycling to squats or burpees, so is much more extensive than it used to be.

It is possible to be flexible about the way in which you complete the routine, as long as the golden rules of 20/10 are observed.  As with all exercise forms, variations are already being devised but true Tabata sticks to the principles of 4-minute circuits for 20 minutes (so five rounds).

The key thing with this form of training though is that maximum Intensity is preserved at all times in order to achieve the desired results.

Common Tabata Mistakes
Perhaps the most common mistake that people make with Tabata training is assuming they can plod through a circuit at a pace that might be considered working to a satisfactory level but is in fact well below your maximum possible intensity.

Tabata should be a very strenuous workout and if you are not feeling highly drained and pushed beyond your normal levels at the end of a Tabata workout then you simply haven’t worked at a high enough intensity!

Maximum intensity is the absolute most you can offer, and you need to work at that level for the whole 20 mins to gain the most benefit from this kind of workout.

Tabata is an advanced form of exercise
Tabata is generally regarded as an exercise routine for more advanced fitness enthusiasts, and therefore may not be right for you at this time is you are just a beginner.

Having said this, there is a modified version of Tabata that might be right for you, which could serve to build you up gradually to the right level to perform high-intensity Tabata once you are ready.

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