Tabata workouts are very popular, and there are reasons for it.
We quite often perform Tabata sets or workouts but what are they and where do they come from?
First of all, what is the definition of a Tabata set?
Tabata training is a type of high intensity interval training with the following format:
- 20 seconds of a very high intensity exercise (e.g. sprints, burpees, Dummbellthrusters)
- 10 seconds of rest
- Repeat 8 times for a total of 4 minutes
Where does Tabata come from?
Dr. Izumu Tabata is a professor at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciende at Ritsumeikan University of Japan. Along with the head coach of the Japanese speed skating team, he wanted to find out if very short burst of high intensity exercise followed by even shorter rest, would improve the skater’s performance.
To test the effectiveness of this training regime, Dr.Tabata took study subjects through the high intensity (170% of VO2 max) 4-minute Tabata workout using a stationary bike.
He compared the results with another group of athletes who followed a different workout. This group performed a workout with an even higher intensity (200% of VO2 max) of 4-5 bouts of 30 seconds, followed by 2 minutes rest.
The results were that the Tabata athletes improved their VO2 max, the body’s ability to use oxygen more effectively. This translated into improved performance on the ice.
The other interesting finding was that the Tabata protocol improved the anaerobic and aerobic energy system. Traditional interval training, with longer rest between work sets and moderate intensity exercise improve the aerobic system, but not always the anaerobic system.
However, as Dr.Tabata found in his research study, doing high intensity interval training with a rest period shorter than the work period can target both systems. This gives gives athletes as well as the average exerciser, more bang for their buck.
How to use Tabata workouts in your training
Tabata sets can be done with lots of different exercises depending on the goal of your training.
Normally they should be done with maximal-effort-sprint-like activities. Intensity and not duration is the key. A person should not be able to go for more than four minutues doing maximal effort.
You can also use the same 20:10sec format with strength exercises which will improve your strength but won’t have the same result on your VO2max and aerobic/anaerobic system.
Tabata sets, as many of you know, are not easy. Especially while doing them with a cardio-based exercise, this 4-min workout might feel like the longest 4 minutes of your life!
As always, there are a few ways to modify the workouts to your own fitness level.
- Perform the exercises with a lower intensity or slower pace.
- Perform a modified variation of the exercise.
- Instead of doing the same exercise 8 times, do a super set and choose 2 exercises and alternate between them so you do 4 of each.
- Perform less then 8 sets.
- Have a longer rest then 10 seconds.