Know Your Workout: What is Tabata?

The four minute workout.  The hardest, quickest workout of your life.  HIIT. All of these descriptors have been applied to an exercise method based on studies by Professor Izumi Tabata, a regimen that has now taken his last name as title.

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Tabata is a method of HIIT, which stands for High-Intensity Interval Training.  Professor Tabata’s study demonstrated that pushing the body as hard as possible for short bursts with short rests “may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly.”  In other words, it burns a lot of calories quickly and is proven to be better at burning fat than regular aerobic exercise. 

Torch that fat!

Torch that fat!

HIIT, a category that includes Tabata, should not be confused with an “interval” workout.  Intervals imply high intensity/low intensity rotation.  HIIT rotates no intensity with maximum intensity.  A HIIT session on a track might be 30 seconds full out, all you can handle sprint followed by 10 seconds of standing still, repeating for 8 circuits.  It’s short but it’s HARD.  The payoff is an increased resting metabolic rate for up to 24 hours.  It can also be risky in terms of injury and psychological demands, so, as always, practice with discretion.


Dr. Tabata

As mentioned, the method pioneered by Professor Tabata is one specific type of HIIT.  The Tabata Training Method, as it is officially called, lasts four minutes, during which you can burn 53 calories (which is a fantastic burn rate!)  An official Tabata Method class would look like this 20 minute class:

  1. 10 minute warm up/instruction
  2. 4 minute Tabata
  3. 6 minute cool down

True Tabata: The hardest four minutes of your life

Official Tabata includes moves that are sometimes complex, but tabata-style workouts can be simple moves like sprints, burpees, or jumping jacks.  The important factor is that the body is pushed to absolute maximum capacity for 20 seconds followed by very low or no intensity for 10 seconds, repeated for 8 circuits.  Perhaps the best part of Tabata is that it can be completed anywhere with no equipment!  Tabata training is perfect for apartment living, business travel, or days when you just don’t feel like leaving the house.

To assist in your fitness there are Tabata books, Tabata DVDs, Tabata classes, HIIT timers, and YouTube instructional videos.

As always, consult a phyician before beginning a new fitness regimen.

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