Ask The Ripped Dude: What The Heck Is Tabata Training?

I've written more than 100 fitness articles that have been published all over the world. My goal is to help you get in the best shape possible.
Q

I've been hearing a lot about the benefits of Tabata training. What is it, and should I work it into my program?

Tabata training is one of the most popular forms of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It consists of eight rounds of ultra-high-intensity exercises in a specific 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off interval. It may only take four minutes to complete a Tabata circuit, but those four minutes may well push your body to its absolute limit.

Tabata training was born after Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata and his colleagues compared the results of moderate intensity training and HIIT. The study evaluated two groups of speed-skating athletes. The first group trained on ergonomic cycles at moderate intensity for one hour, five days per week, for a total of six weeks. The second group completed four-minute, high-intensity workouts on ergonomic cycles four days per week for a total of six weeks. The second group completed its four minutes of work by doing eight intervals of all-out training, and then resting 10 seconds.

The scientists' results concluded that the athletes who performed high-intensity training saw increases in aerobic and anaerobic system capacities; whereas the moderate-intensity group did not improve anaerobic performance. The Tabata training method was formed by modeling workouts after the second group.

Implementing Tabata

Technically, Tabata training should be done with one movement. So, if you choose a movement like front squats, or thrusters, or burpees, you do it at absolute maximum intensity for 20 seconds, take a 10-second rest, then begin again. Part of what makes Tabata so difficult is performing four minutes of the same movement at kill-yourself intensity. If you're not absolutely toast after those four minutes, you didn't go hard enough.

mountain climbers

Some people now vary the exercises during a session. It's also popular to increase or decrease rounds and intensity. Although this variation may not technically count as Tabata Protocol, adding or subtracting rounds or changing movements every other round can be useful. (If you really want an insane full-body workout, try three rounds of Tabata!)

Either way, Tabata burns a lot of calories and provides a killer full-body anaerobic and aerobic workout. Tabata training also improves athletic performance, improves glucose metabolism, and acts as an excellent catalyst for fat burning. The Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) effect is off the charts for Tabata Training.

If you'd like to add Tabata to your training regimen, I advise it twice per week. You can do it more often if you're better trained, need quick results, or recover well from the previous sessions.

Tabata Workouts

Here are some sample workouts I use, but there are plenty of pre-made circuits out there (or you can easily put together your own). Here are some movements to incorporate: lunges, jump lunges, thrusters, cleans, hang cleans, burpees, mountain climbers, jump squats, and even push-ups.

overhead slam

You can follow these workouts, or choose to do one movement for all eight rounds. Make certain that you work at your maximum power output.

Monday: 4-Minute Tabata Workout 1
Circuit
1

Mountain Climbers

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

High Knee Jog

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
High Knee Jog High Knee Jog

Burpee

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Burpee Burpee

Air Squat

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Bodyweight Squat Bodyweight Squat

Mountain Climbers

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

High Knee Jog

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
High Knee Jog High Knee Jog

Burpee

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Burpee Burpee

Air Squat

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Bodyweight Squat Bodyweight Squat

Wednesday: 4-Minute Tabata Workout 2
Circuit
1

Suicides (shown as Single-Cone Sprint Drill)

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest (set cones 5 feet apart and run back and forth between them)
Single-Cone Sprint Drill Single-Cone Sprint Drill

Overhead Slam

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Overhead Slam Overhead Slam

Air Squat

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Bodyweight Squat Bodyweight Squat

Heavy Bag Thrust

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Heavy Bag Thrust Heavy Bag Thrust

Suicides (shown as Single-Cone Sprint Drill)

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest (set cones 5 feet apart and run back and forth between them)
Single-Cone Sprint Drill Single-Cone Sprint Drill

Overhead Slam

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Overhead Slam Overhead Slam

Air Squat

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Bodyweight Squat Bodyweight Squat

Heavy Bag Thrust

1 set of max reps in 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest
Heavy Bag Thrust Heavy Bag Thrust


References
  1. Tabata I, Irisawa K, Kouzaki M, Nishimura K, Ogita F, Miyachi M (March 1997). "Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises". Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 29 (3): 390-5. PMID 9139179.
  2. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, et al. (1996). "Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max". Med Sci Sports Exerc 28 (10): 1327-30. doi:10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018. PMID 8897392.