What Is Tabata?

What is Tabata Training?

When fitness enthusiasts and trainers talk about “Tabata training” or the “Tabata Protocol”, they are referring to a type of high intensity interval training.

This training protocol involves performing a particular exercise (or exercises) at high intensity for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated 8 times for a total training time of 4 minutes. On a graph, the training protocol would appear as follows:


Single Exercise Tabatas Vs Multiple Exercise Tabatas

You could perform the same exercise for each of the eight 20-second intervals or you could perform a series of different exercises to create a 4-minute circuit training type of workout. You could also repeat the 4-minute Tabata cycle for multiple sessions. Typically, 4 sets of “Tabatas” is recommended with 1 minute of rest time in between each set for a total of a 20-minute workout.

You can see an example of using this training protocol for a single exercise for squats in the video below:

You can also apply the Tabata training protocol to a combination of exercises (with or without weights) within each set . For example, this is a video of a Tabata set that combines pushups, chinnies and mountain climbers:

The Origins of The Tabata Training Protocol

The Tabata training method and its many variations are “unofficial” adaptations of the training protocol used by Dr Izumi Tabata in a research study published in 1996. In this landmark study, Dr Tabata showed that short bursts of high intensity training had superior aerobic and anaerobic training effects compared to longer moderate intensity training. These benefits were seen in already well conditioned elite athletes.

In his research study, Dr Tabata divided elite athletes from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan into two groups. Each group trained for 5 days a week on a mechanically braked cycle ergometer over a 6 week period. The first group trained at moderate intensity for 60 minutes 5 days a week. The second group trained using the 4-minute high-intensity protocol (e.g. 20 seconds at high intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 8 times).

At the end of the training period, Dr Tabata found that the first group that trained at longer durations with moderate-intensity showed slight improvement in aerobic capacity but did not show any improvement to anaerobic capacity.  However, the test group that trained at short bursts of high-intensity showed improvement in both anaerobic and aerobic capacity. More interestingly, the second group showed superior training improvements compared to the first group.

Since this study was published, many athletes and trainers have adapted the training protocol used in this study as the basis of formulating their training programs. This is what is now known as “Tabata Training”.

Who Should Do Tabata Training?

It is no surprise why Tabata training is becoming increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts and professionals. Firstly, the training method is supported by scientific evidence to show that it is a superior training method compared to traditional cardiovascular training. Secondly, who wouldn’t prefer better results in just 4 minutes compared to 60 minutes of traditional cardio exercises?

However, I should point out that despite the benefits above, the high-intensity nature of the training will make this training “feel” a lot harder than traditional cardio exercises. Especially for individuals who are not already physically conditioned. People who are not used to training at such high intensity should start of slowly and with supervision from a fitness professional to avoid the the risk of injury.

The benefits of Tabata training would appeal to the following groups of people:

  1. People who want to increase their athletic capacity. As Dr Tabata demonstrated in his study, the Tabata training protocol improves both aerobic and anaerobic capacity in already fit individuals.
  2. Individuals who want to lose weight or reduce fat. Studies have shown that high-intensity training result in Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption or “EPOC” for short. In layman terms, research shows that the metabolic effect of exercising at high-intensity can continue long after training resulting in more calories being burnt!
  3. Individuals who do not have a lot of time for fitness training. Finally, busy professionals or individuals who do not have a lot of time for exercising could adopt the Tabata training protocol to ensure that they maximize the efficiency of their workouts.

How Do I Get Started?

Everyone has a different level of fitness, so finding a universal program that suits everyone is not possible. The basic rule to follow is to start easy and build up as your level of fitness improves.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to get started. We do recommend getting a simple Tabata Timer that can help you time your workout and rest intervals conveniently. This fits in your pocket and you can then bring it anywhere and workout anywhere.

To get started, first – measure your weight and body fat percentage. If you don’t have a baseline to compare with, its hard to know if the workout is working for you.

Next, select just one or two Tabata exercise that is easy for you to do and just do that for 2 weeks. Use the Tabata Worksheets that are provided FREE from this website to record your progress.

After 2 weeks, check your weight and body fat measurements. If you feel comfortable, add on more Tabata exercises or choose more challenging exercises to do.

If you’re still lost – try this simple program: http://tabataexercise.com/a-simple-new-year-tabata-workout-program/

Don’t forget to share you results and workout ideas at our community page at: http://Facebook.com/TabataExercise


52 Responses to “What Is Tabata?”

  1. […] down and stretch, and a quiet reflection time on a Bible verse of the Day).  Some workouts are Tabata style workouts where we do one or two exercises for twenty seconds of work and ten seconds of rest […]

  2. […] performed in Tokyo in 1996 by Dr. Izumi Tabata.  The formula for the workout became known as the “Tabata Protocol” and is now known simply as Tabata.  The Tabata Protocol is short intervals of high intensity […]

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