The Real Tabata: A Brutal Circuit From The Protocol's Inventor

The word 'Tabata' has been thrown around a lot recently. Follow the original protocol with a new fat-melting circuit from the researcher whose groundbreaking studies started it all.

Short workouts! Long-lasting results! Get the body you want in just minutes a day! It sounds like a late-night infomercial, and the results seem too good to be true. But the Tabata protocol has the science to back it up.

The program's method of 20 seconds of all-out work followed by just 10 seconds of rest has been making waves in the fitness industry since Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata first developed the system in 1996. But in the last few years it has spread rapidly.

This year, the Tabata system launched as a licensed exercise system in the United States and the United Kingdom, with Dr. Tabata himself as the figurehead. This wasn't what he envisioned when he performed his original research, though.

"I had no idea it was going to be as popular as it has become," says Dr. Tabata. "It has been very exciting, and I'm very flattered that the name Tabata has become synonymous with this form of exercise."

So why bother with creating an official Tabata system? Just do an Internet search for Tabata workouts to see how many unofficial imitators have sprung into existence. Talk to people in the gym, and they'll regularly use "Tabata" as a noun: "I'm just going to do some Tabatas."

The Official TabataTM Trailer—The Science
Watch The Video - 02:45



Some protocols which go under the T-name are true to the original principles of Tabata's work, while others are just run-of-the-mill interval workouts. Part of the motivation for the new brand, says Tabata, was to dispel some of misconceptions about the workout regimen and to ensure people do it properly to get the results they want.

With so many copycats on the market, we went directly to the man himself. He provided a Tabata-approved, research-backed workout plan meant to get you jacked and leave you gasping in four minutes flat.

Professor Tabata's original study changed the way we think of intensity. His new study may tell us even more about excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

The Tabata Story

In 1996, Dr. Tabata and his research team at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Japan undertook a study with a simple premise: after a 10-minute warm-up, subjects performed eight rounds of 20 seconds of work on a mechanically braked cycle, each followed by 10 seconds of rest.

The total exercise time after the warm-up was 4 minutes. That's it. There's a caveat, however: the 20-second bursts were all-out effort at a mind-boggling 170 percent of VO2 max, which is the highest amount of oxygen the body can consume and use for energy.

This short-term explosion of energy produced some incredible results both in the short- and long-term. Just one four-minute session burned the same number of calories as a 60-minute jog. But when performed four times per week for six weeks (with a single day of long-duration cardio added in), it was also more effective at improving the body's aerobic and anaerobic capacity compared to regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.

In 1997, Dr. Tabata concluded that 30-second bursts at 200 percent of VO2 max with 2-minute rests was not as effective as the 20-10 protocol at taxing the aerobic and anaerobic systems, even though the 30-second, 2-minute protocol had longer and more intense bursts of exercise. The 20-10 model has borne his name ever since.

Despite what you may have heard, the two studies did not deal with fat loss, body composition, or the much-discussed "afterburn" effect. But Dr. Tabata says he'll soon produce a paper on the improved effects of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) following the Tabata protocol, which will be the first scientific study showing clinical results that the 20-10 protocol can burn calories for up to 12 hours after the workout.

Even though the original study was conducted on Olympic speed skaters, Tabata says he has seen encouraging results implementing the Tabata protocol with subjects dealing with illnesses such as diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and stroke. "You don't have to be an elite athlete for this [protocol] to help improve your life," Tabata says.

True Tabata

Just to be clear, a Tabata workout isn't supposed to be a walk in the park. Dr. Tabata is concerned that people aren't using the Tabata protocol correctly, because their 20-second bursts are often too mellow to elicit increased EPOC and improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness. If this is the case for you, it could be because your movements are too complicated, or you do movements like planks or bodyweight squats, which are hard to push to maximal intensity.

After your warm-up, this workout only takes 4 minutes—the most intense 4 minutes of your life.

To get the authentic Tabata experience—and results—you could start by going back to the original template. Hop on a spin bike similar to what was used in the studies from the late 1990s, warm up for 10 minutes, and then crank it during each 20-second interval. If you can stomach it and your cycle offers it, increase the resistance.

If you'd like to branch out from the bike, try this bodyweight Tabata workout consisting of eight exercises which received the stamp of approval from Dr. Tabata. Perform each exercise with the highest intensity possible during the 20-second bursts, and try to recover during the 10-second rest periods. Repeat once through, totaling four minutes.

Note: This is an intense workout. Consult your physician first if you have any medical issues.

TABATA PROTOCOL CIRCUIT

Perform each exercise with the highest intensity possible during the 20-second bursts, and try to recover during the 10-second rest periods. Repeat once through, totaling four minutes.

Exercise 1: Cockroach

Areas Trained

Full-body, emphasizing legs, glutes, arms and core.

Instructions

Starting on all fours, crawl as fast as possible forward for four paces. Stop, get up, and jump in the air. Turn around, get back on all fours, and repeat.

Exercise 2: Rotating Jump Lunge

Areas Trained

Legs, glutes, and core.

Instructions

Start in a lunge position with your arms in a circle. Swing your arms around to one side, then jump the lunge on to the other leg, swinging the arms in the opposite direction. Use the arm swing to provide momentum.

Exercise 3: Sprawl and Jump

Areas Trained

Full-body, emphasizing legs, arms, glutes, and core.

Instructions

Sprawl out to the side, putting both hands and one foot on the ground. Bring your top leg toward your chest. Push off with the hands and get up into a standing position, then jump. Repeat on other side.

Exercise 4: Weighted Wood Chop

Areas Trained

Biceps, shoulders, core and legs.

Instructions

Lunge to one side, holding a light weight (2.5-5 lbs.) with both hands. Swing the weight up from the floor to above your opposite shoulder. Repeat, alternating sides.

Exercise 5: Frog Jump

Areas Trained
Legs and glutes.
Instructions
Drop into a squat, then jump in the air with the knees tucked up. Repeat quickly.

Exercise 6: Single-Leg Burpee

Areas Trained

Full-body, targeting legs, glutes, biceps, triceps and shoulders.

Instructions

Start in the push-up position. Jump in with one leg, and then jump up, bringing the opposite knee toward the chest. Repeat on the other side. If this is too difficult, perform the burpees with both legs.

Exercise 7: Single-Arm Kick-Through

Areas Trained

Biceps, triceps, core, glutes, and legs.

Instructions

Start in a push-up position. Shift your body weight toward the right arm, and then kick to the left with the right leg. Alternate the movement on your left and right sides quickly.

For a less-advanced version, keep both hands on the ground and alternate knees to the chest rapidly, similar to a mountain climber.

Exercise 8: Crab Lunge

Areas Worked

Full-body, targeting arms, core, glutes and legs.

Instructions

Start in a deep squat and lean back into a crab-walk position. Take a small weight (2.5-5 lbs.) in one hand, using the other to balance on the floor. Swing the weight back over your head, adopting the crab position. Alternate sides and repeat quickly.


For more info, visit tabataofficial.com.


Related Articles

About The Author

Jon has coached and helped numerous clients reach and surpass their fitness goals, including high-level athletes, emergency personnel and more.

RATE THIS ARTICLE
POOR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
EXCELLENT
OVERALL RATING
6.7

Out of 10
Good
80 Ratings

28

Comments

Showing 1 - 25 of 28 Comments

(5 characters minimum)

      • notify me when users reply to my comment
Alight3

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Alight3

Great article!

Article Rated:
Oct 2, 2013 6:29pm | report
 
Pirolai

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Pirolai

wow true that.... extreme

Oct 2, 2013 9:40pm | report
ThatRandomBloke

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
ThatRandomBloke

I'm already doing tabata sprints, definitely think I'll give this a go. It looks intense!

Oct 2, 2013 7:33pm | report
 
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 5'11"
  • wt: 203.93 lbs
  • bf: 16.0%
brankin7

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
brankin7

Nice article. I use the Tabata pro iPhone app when training like this. I would usually do bouts with the punch bag as an exercise but will try some of the suggestions above also

Oct 3, 2013 5:21am | report
 
RelaxImJoking

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
RelaxImJoking

Im gonna try the cockroaching crabby frog!

Oct 3, 2013 8:42am | report
 
BeastReza

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
BeastReza

Good Atricle...

Oct 3, 2013 9:14am | report
 
samerym

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
samerym

The first time I did Tabata (on the bike,) it took me about 45 minutes to recover fully. After a few times, though, I was back to normal within five minutes.

Oct 3, 2013 9:17am | report
 
gregpalen

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
gregpalen

Is Tabata appropriate for all fitness levels? I'm surprised it does not appear in any of the PT training manuals (like the ACSM handbooks). Wondering what the contra-indications are for it besides the obvious...

Oct 3, 2013 9:25am | report
 
djcoast

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
djcoast

It is in a way, but honestly to do true Tabata (with 100% intensity) I would only recommend it to someone who's already in shape.

Jan 22, 2014 1:27pm | report
MammaBrink

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
MammaBrink

Great article - any chance you can get someone to demo those movements?

Oct 3, 2013 10:11am | report
 
Melissat46

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Melissat46

Trying these tonight!!!

Oct 3, 2013 10:13am | report
 
DankDangles

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
DankDangles

The trailer does the system a discredit because it is presented int he same way other exercise fads are presented: with a cheesy narrator, already fit models, and an oversimplified introduction to the science of tabata.

Good thing I knew about this about 2 years ago because if I saw this on TV, I'd laugh at ti and ignore it.

Oct 3, 2013 11:16am | report
 
Muscle Mania Matt

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Muscle Mania Matt

Yeah. My bone with it is that the original Tabata work is done with ONE movement, as were the original copycats. That is why it is hard. 8 sets of front squats is a heck of a lot different than using 8 different movements. If you call circuits, like the one mentioned in this article, then you generalize "Tabata" enough that it doesn't even really mean anything. Just call it a circuit and be done with it, because you remove anything unique about Tabata.

Oct 3, 2013 12:22pm | report
djcoast

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
djcoast

Agreed. I found out about Tabata in a book by M&F called "101 High Intensity Workouts". There a weight program in there by Jim Stopanni (who I had no idea was back then) about split training 5 days a week like traditional but completely different by doing each exercise as a Tabata set. The results were so quick and amazing that everyone who knew me wanted to try it, I have had so many people lifting weights with Tabata for the past 5 years before it came as popular as it was. Gymboss should sponser me I got so many people to buy their timer, lol. Long story short, thank God for that article by the Doc, because if I discovered it through that site and video I would of never of bit on it.

Jan 22, 2014 1:36pm | report
mkman

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
mkman

Interesting will take a closer look!

Oct 3, 2013 11:38am | report
 
willinbrief

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
willinbrief

I'M GONNA ADD THIS TO MY ROUTINE TRUE DAT

Article Rated:
Oct 3, 2013 12:03pm | report
 
murthym

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
murthym

Seriously, the guy on the stationary bike is working at full capacity and his heart rate is 134?? Full capacity for him should be around 180 .

Oct 3, 2013 12:07pm | report
 
Fireice2

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Fireice2

depends on one's fitness levels.

When I was around 30% BF my very intense workouts would bump my heart rate around 170-180bpm. now, its around 150-160. This is using a chest mounted sensor. My average heart rate recovery from an intense exercise is 35 beats in a min.

As you get fitter, the heart can work less, given the same intensity.

Athletes have more efficient cardiovascular systems than us mortals though. :)

Oct 7, 2013 1:55am | report
whiteboychef

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
whiteboychef

Would like to see these exercises shown/displayed or on a video. Some are hard for me to envision.

Oct 3, 2013 6:52pm | report
 
xstrike9999

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
xstrike9999

I can't figure out how to do most of these movements, and I think most people can't either. Any chance of getting pictures or a demo of this?

Oct 3, 2013 6:55pm | report
 
upinstrize23

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
upinstrize23

all I know about tabata is, IF you do it right you should not be able to do more afterward

Oct 4, 2013 3:37pm | report
 
andreica

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
andreica

Nice, but is there a video guide for all this?

Oct 4, 2013 9:31pm | report
 
HELLIONx360

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
HELLIONx360

So, is the video an infomercial?

Oct 10, 2013 10:25am | report
 
djcoast

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
djcoast

Tabata is amazing. I transformed my body doing Jim Stopanni's Tabata weight regimen from an article he wrote back on 2009. Now imagine the above sample workouts but using weights doing 4-6 exercise per body part each day. I torched fat and built muscle at the same time, going from 190-155lbs. A set of Tabata squats with 185lbs doing quality reps (6 per set) is no joke.

Jan 22, 2014 1:24pm | report
 
Courtneybh

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Courtneybh

Visuals would be excellent.

Apr 23, 2014 11:37am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 28 Comments

Featured Product