Make Time for Exercise This Year With Tabata Intervals

November 29, 2017

Are you strapped for time this holiday season? 


When life gets hectic and busy during the holidays, do you typically let health and fitness fall to the wayside, only to promise yourself that you will get back to it in January?  This year, keep fitness a top priority and learn to squeeze in 3-4 tabata interval workouts each week. 


Tabata intervals are named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, the researcher who first experimented with the unique work/rest intervals and published his results back in 1996.  Here is a link to an abstract of the original article.  


Tabata and his team of researchers had two groups of athletes perform two different types of exercise for a period of 5 days.  One group of participants spent 60 minutes exercising at a moderate intensity while the other group performed 4 minutes of incredibly high intensity exercise by doing 8 sets of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.  


The researchers discovered that while both groups improved aerobic capacity, only the high intensity group improved both aerobic and anaerobic despite the workouts only being 4 minutes in length compared to the other group which performed 60 minutes of exercise during each session.


Since the original study on the tabata interval in 1996 more research has been published validating the interval methodology and other high intensity interval training methods (HIIT) as a means of not only improving fitness levels but also accelerating fat burning and muscle building efforts.  Here is one such study and here is another which looked at using tabata intervals with kids.


A sample tabata routine would be (following a 5-10 minute warm up):

20 seconds of all out effort

10 seconds rest

20 seconds all out effort

10 seconds rest

20 seconds work

10 seconds rest

20 work

10 rest

20 work

10 rest

20 work

10 rest

20 work

10 rest

20 work

done.  That’s it.  Seriously.  


The key to the success of the tabata intervals is selecting exercises that allow you to work at a high output rate for all 8 intervals without failing.  While body weight exercises like squats, pushups, and situps may provide a good session and will cause failure of the muscle groups worked, they don’t raise the intensity relative to VO2 Max.  


I’m not saying don’t do exercises like pushups and squats in a tabata interval at all, but in order to get the fat burning effects that tabata intervals are often touted for, it’s best to do pure cardio exercises like sprints, stationary cycling, rowing, or swimming.  


Download a free tabata timer app on your smart phone, do a short 5-10 minute warmup, and get started with some tamara sprints!


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