Time is one of the top reasons not to work out, or to be more specific, a lack of time. In today’s world of constant connectivity, finding the time to work out can feel impossible at times. But fear not, you can still nail your fitness goals even if you’re strapped for time. There’s scientific evidence that suggests you can boost your overall fitness levels in just a few minutes a day by doing the Tabata training method.
Tabata, also known as the four-minute workout will get your heart racing in minutes. It’s perfect for someone looking for results but has little time to spare. With busy schedules and fitness goals, the busy schedule usually wins. The good news is Tabata training is short on time and tough on fat!
Here are 4 benefits of Tabata training:
- Burn fat
- Protects muscle tissue
- Convenient and flexible
- Increase anaerobic and aerobic capacities
What is Tabata Training?
Tabata is a unique form of cardiovascular exercise that delivers more health benefits than virtually all traditional physical exercises. Tabata training is a form of high-intensity training, that includes eight rounds. Each round consists of 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest, for eight rounds altogether.
Tabata is one of the most well-known HIIT protocols. The great thing about Tabata training is almost any exercise, both in the gym and out, from sprinting to weightlifting, can be used in this training style.
This type of training aims to get you exercising at 170% of your VO2 max; in layman’s terms, it means 100% maximal intensity. So, you’re giving it everything you have during that short period of time. By the end of the four minutes or eight rounds, you should feel like you’re completely exhausted.
The History of Tabata Training
Although this training method seems to be one of the newest fitness fads, it’s actually been around for quite some time. The name Tabata comes from the man who invented it. It was developed by a Japanese professor Dr. Izumi Tabata, who used Tabata Training methods on the Japanese Olympic speed skating team.
Back in 1996, scientist, Dr. Izumi Tabata carried out a study analyzing the effects of a specific HIIT program that the coach had developed for his athletes. The team was split up into two groups. The first group used ergonomic cycles at a moderate intensity five days a week for one hour. The second group used four-minute high-intensity workouts on ergonomic cycles four days a week for six weeks in total.
The second group carried out what is now known as Tabata training. After six weeks of training, the professor found that the second group experienced a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity and a 14% increase in their V02 max. V02 max refers to the amount of oxygen you can use during exercise. The higher your V02 max, the more oxygen you have access to.
Interval training isn’t new, but it has gained a ton of popularity in recent years. While the study was carried out on static bikes, Tabata training can be used in any form of interval training. For example, Tabata training for runners might include 20 seconds of sprinting followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is designed to improve cardiovascular fitness. You can use Tabata for weight training as well as core strength too.
What’s the difference between Tabata and interval training?
It’s all about timing. On average the rest periods in Tabata are much shorter than they are in other forms of interval training. With the idea being that the shorter the training sessions, the higher intensity it will be. In Tabata’s original research, the aim was to work at 170%. Whereas, during standard interval training sessions, most people aim to hit 80-95% of their maximum heart rate. Tabata training is a form of HIIT, but it uses very specific protocols.
Tabata is one of the few training styles to have incredible anabolic and cardiovascular effects on the body quickly. One study found that a Tabata session that used multiple rounds of weight-lifting and explosive exercises resulted in increased caloric expenditure beyond what you would normally see in only four minutes of exercise.
The Tabata training session also met the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) guidelines for improving cardiorespiratory endurance. Cardiorespiratory endurance is a measurement of how well your lungs, heart, and muscle work together to keep your body active over time.
4 Benefits of Tabata Training
Now that you have an idea of how Tabatas are performed, let’s dig deeper into the amazing benefits that come from it.
1. Burn Fat
Tabata training will raise your metabolism and heart rate in no time. Without a doubt, your heart rate will rocket which, in turn, raises your metabolism. As you’re performing at such a high level of intensity, your body has to work much harder to keep up. Your metabolism will stay at a high not only during the workout but after you’re finished as well. This means that your body will continue burning fat throughout the day.
Related: Metabolism: Keep it Healthy
When performing other forms of moderate cardio, you have to wait until your body gets into the “fat-burning zone” in order to really burn fat. As soon as you stop the cardio, your body stops burning calories. This is where Tabata training is different. Tabata training places your body directly in the fat-burning zone within the first round and keeps burning hours after.
Evidence suggests that Tabata training is up to five times more effective at burning calories than traditional cardio in four minutes. In a study by Auburn University Montgomery professor Michele Olson, Ph.D., just a small amount of interval training was found to be significantly more effective than cardio training in the same time period.
2. Protects Muscle Tissue
When you lose weight or diet, there is a risk of not only losing fat but losing muscle too. In order to keep muscles in tip-top condition, you need to work them. The high-intensity training that comes from the Tabata method is great for developing and protecting muscle tissue.
With the short amount of time that it takes to get a good workout, you won’t be eating away at any muscle tissue as you might during long durations of cardio. The Tabata method of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) places stress on muscle tissue, which tells your body that more muscle tissue is needed. As a result, the ratio of your lean body mass to fat goes up, and by choosing exercises that maximize the muscle mass worked, muscle tissue may increase.
3. Convenient and Flexible
Whether it’s children, work, commuting or family commitments, time is precious and something everyone could do more with. Not having enough time is one of the top excuses not to exercise. But, no matter how busy you are, all it takes is four minutes of this high-intensity workout to get a great workout in.
Many people don’t want to spend hours at the gym to exercise, whether it’s financial or time restraints. You don’t need to go to a gym or have any special expensive equipment to reap the benefits of Tabata training. All you need is your own body weight or some at-home equipment like bands and dumbbells. Tabata is short and sweet and due to the high-intensity of the workout, you don’t need to do it every day. Training twice a week with this method is enough to get the benefits.
4. Increase anaerobic and aerobic capacities
Anaerobic capacity represents the maximum amount of energy that can be produced by our body in the absence of oxygen. While aerobic capacity is a measure of the ability the lungs and heart have to get oxygen around the body.
One study investigated the effects of Tabata training on increasing aerobic capacity. The study included 18 female futsal players. Futsal is a ball game that requires excellent physical condition and speed. Participants used Tabata training to find out whether it had a significant effect on aerobic capacity. The results show that the average V02 max after Tabata training was higher. This suggests that Tabata training can have a significant influence on increasing aerobic capacity.
3 Tabata Training Workouts to Try Today
With all these amazing benefits that come with Tabata training, why not give it a try? Remember to always get a good warm-up 5–10 minutes before any form of training. As with any exercise, you should warm-up properly before to reduce the risk of injury.
Here’s what a typical Tabata training session looks like:
Four minutes long (whole Tabata Session)
- 20 seconds of intense training—as hard as you can go!
- 10 seconds of rest, OR “recovery”
- Total of 8 sessions or rounds
Tabata training always follows the same protocols and lasts only four minutes. Having said that, it might be some of the longest four minutes you’ve experienced. Be prepared to work hard and really push yourself. You do each set eight times and the set can include pretty much any exercises you want such as squats, burpees, push-ups or any exercises that push your big muscle groups. Here are a few Tabata training routines for you to try out. Push hard—results are coming!
Sprinting & Ropes Tabata
- Sprinting: sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds x 8 times
- Battle rope: Rope for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds x 8 times
Body Weight Tabata
- Push-ups: 20 seconds push-ups, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
- Body Squats: 20 seconds Squatting, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
- Planks: 20 seconds planking, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
- Pull-Ups: 20 seconds pull-ups, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
- Bicep Curls: 20 seconds curling, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
- Chest Press: 20 seconds Chest press, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
- Walking lunges with dumbbell: 20 seconds lunging, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
- Overhead Tricep Extension: 20 seconds overhead, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
The original HIIT protocol developed by Dr. Tabata was created for athletes. But, the exercises can be adjusted to suit your level of fitness. If you’re new to high-intensity workouts, make sure you can do all the exercises with proper form before jumping straight into your four minutes. Choose moves that are suitable for your level of fitness and remember that everything can be modified.
Tabata training is a great way to shake up your current exercise routine and push yourself further than you thought you ever could. With just four minutes to complete, you won’t find time to get bored. Always warm-up properly and challenge yourself like never before. If you never have time to work out, then this training method is for you. Mix up your workouts and start by adding four minutes of Tabata training to your fitness routine.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Thursday, August 8, 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.