Sunday, July 19, 2009


Tabata is one of the best, fastest, and hardest forms of interval training you will ever do. With it being so blasted cold in the winter at times, it is hard for me to get outside to do my normal interval training, in the form of sprinting.

I tried to do a couple different forms of interval training inside, including jump rope, burpees, and squats.

The jump rope did not work because I have no ceilings high enough. I kept hitting the ceiling with the jump rope. The one ceiling that is high enough has too much furniture that would have to be moved.

I managed to do burpees very successfully, but they just were not challenging enough with the routine I was doing. The same went for squats, as I did not feel I was pushing myself hard enough.

So, I needed a form of high intensity interval training that would allow me to stay inside on days I could not get out. Enter tabata.

Tabata is a form of high intensity interval training discovered by Dr. Izumi Tabata, for whom it is obviously named after. It consists of a 20 second exercise at very high intensity followed by a 10 second rest. This is repeated eight times for a total of four minutes.

Now, before you shrug this off as 'only four minutes', let me tell you this has kicked my butt! When I say maximum intensity, I mean go as hard and as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, burst into another 20 seconds, rest for 10, rinse and repeat until you have done four minutes straight.

Tabata vs Cardio and Aerobics

Tabata is by far more efficient than normal cardio and aerobics. Before I explain, there are two related abilities I want to briefly cover.

  1. VO2 Max - This is the maximum capacity of oxygen a person is able to use and transport through their body while working out, or doing interval training. The more in shape a person is, the higher their VO2 max will be.
  2. Anaerobic Capacity - Measures the body's ability to perform exercises at maximum effort.

Tabata is considered superior to aerobic exercises and normal cardio routines because it increases VO2 max , and anaerobic capacity. In Dr. Tabata's study, doing the specific high intensity interval training routine increased VO2 max by 14% and anaerobic capacity by a whopping 28% as opposed to normal cardio workouts.

So what does all this mean?

For me, everything adds up to metabolism. For those of us trying to lose weight and burn fat and calories, interval training is the way to go (Tabata being an advanced form). Keeping your metabolism at a high level will help you break down food and burn fat and calories to use as energy even when not working out.

Normal cardio routines only boost metabolism for the duration of the workout.

Tabata training, along with weight or resistance training (which is what I do) can help keep your metabolism high for up to 48 hours. That means even burning calories during sleep!

The key to my losing 15 pounds in only 6 weeks was the interval training, and eventually adding tabata into the mix. Do no let the 15 pounds fool you, that was 8.5% of my original bodyweight when I started working out! Pretty big weight loss for me, and it puts me exactly at the weight I should be.

Exercises for Tabata

There are several exercises for the tabata method, including some of the following:

  1. Sprinting
  2. Rowing
  3. Biking/Cycling
  4. Thrusters - Squats with dumbbells. Squat, then raise up and overhead press the dumbells.
  5. Burpees/Squats - For those starting out that want to slowly work up to harder tabata routines.

Keep in mind you do as many of these exercises as hard, and as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then do seven more sets. If using weights, do not set them down during the 10 seconds rest periods.

My Experience

My experience with tabata has been humbling. Looking for a way to do interval training inside, my very first time consisted of doing thrusters with 25 pounds dumbbells. I was on the floor panting after the third set. Did not even finish all eight sets. So I waited 20 minutes and started over with 15 pound weights. I was able to complete these, and realized I have alot to work up to.

Do not let this method fool you. In fact, I even recommend consulting a physician if you are not in absolutely terrific shape. You will feel like you have just run up a mountain after this. It is one of the toughest, if not the toughest thing I have had to do in regards to working out. And it is designed to be this way.

Now, after four weeks of getting used to tabata, I love it. I now do sprints and thrusters on rotating days. Sprinting is by far the easier of the two. For thrusters, I am up to six sets with the 25 pound dumbbells, so I still use the 15 pounders for all eight sets.

Check out one of my previous posts, Burn Fat and Lose Weight: Stay at Home Parent Style, for more on interval training and getting back into shape!

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