Tabata, Decoded

Featured Article, Fitness, Workout Plans
on April 2, 2012
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What is tabata?
Tabata, a form of intermittent training that involves short bursts of maximum effort followed by short periods of rest, was discovered by Izumi Tabata, a Japanese professor and researcher. Tabata found that this method, also known as the Tabata Protocol, builds muscle and increases aerobic ability in a short period of time.

“The basic Tabata formula is 20 seconds of high-intensity training followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times for a total of four minutes,” says Jason Culbreth, owner of Forged Fitness in Raleigh, NC. “Typically you’ll do four to five of these four-minute circuits, doing a different activity for each. For example, you could do four minutes of squats, where you squat as many times as possible for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, and repeat until you’ve squatted and rested for four minutes. After squats, you could apply the same formula to almost any other exercise, like kettle bell swings, lunges, running, etc.”

What are the benefits?
Tabata boasts several fitness advantages, Culbreth says. “Tabata sets go by super- quickly,” he notes. “It is a great workout in short period of time that provides a big benefit. Tabata is fun and exciting, because you are always competing against yourself, trying to complete more reps per work period than the last time.”

The physical results Tabata provides are numerous, too. “Tabata is a great way to burn a tremendous number of calories in a short period of time, build aerobic stamina, and increase muscular endurance, because you are pushing your lactic acid threshold,” Culbreth says.

Who should try Tabata?
Whether you want to improve your cardio prowess, build muscle, or fit in a calorie-torching workout in less than 20 minutes, Tabata is for you. Culbreth recommends doing four to five four-minute Tabata sets once or twice a week to supplement your current workout.

Try Tabata Now
Culbreth’s Tabata set will work your entire body in 20 minutes. Do each exercise for four minutes, alternating between 20 seconds of hard-as-you-can-go work with 10 seconds of rest. Rest for one minute between each exercise.

  1. Squats—Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Keeping your back straight and chest lifted, bend your knees and lower your hips as if you were sitting into a chair. Keep your knees above or behind your toes. Do as many squats as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10. Repeat for four minutes, then rest for one minute.
  2. Push-ups—Begin in plank position with your hands under your shoulders and your heels pressed back. Keep your body long and straight as you lower to the floor and raise back up to plank. Repeat as many times as possible for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, repeating until you’ve completed four minutes. If you fatigue, do the push-ups on your knees. Don’t compromise your form. Continue for four minutes, then rest for one.
  3. Sprints—Alternate 20 seconds of flat-out sprints with 10 seconds of jogging or walking. If you are in a confined space, you can substitute running in place with high knees. Repeat until you’ve completed four minutes, then rest for one.
  4. Sit-ups—Choose your favorite sit-up posture, and apply the Tabata formula—20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. You can change the style of sit-up you do throughout the four minutes.

Get the most out of your Tabata workout with these expert tips.