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The Basics of Tabata

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a training style focused on high intensity intervals (HIIT).

Extremely short bursts of movement (we’re talking 20 seconds) are repeated multiple times with brief rests (10 seconds) in between.

The key for Tabata is not WHAT you’re doing. It’s HOW you are doing it. Quickly. Intensely.

A true Tabata segment follows this pattern:

  1. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  2. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  3. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  4. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  5. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  6. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  7. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  8. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)

The entire segment lasts for a total of 4 minutes. And less than 3 minutes of actual work.

How can something so short be so effective? The key is to GO HARD during those 20 second sprints. There is no need to “save your energy” or “pace yourself” during a Tabata segment. The bursts pass in the blink of an eye. There’s no time to think – just do.

Through exerting a maximum level of effort during the bursts, you are able to super charge your heart rate. A key determinate of heart health is recovery aptitude. This can be seen through the time it takes for your heart rate to return to a resting pace after exercise. Repeating the process of spiking and slowing your heart rate through quick bursts and rest periods strengthen this capability of your heart.

A Tabata-style workout can also improve your V02 max – an aerobic strength measurable. Some studies (like this one) have proven short, very intense bursts of exercise can be as effective as long steady sessions for both cardio and strength. Increased repetition of strength exercises with a heightened intensity are fabulous for building lean muscle mass. (Check it out the science behind HIIT training results here.)

 

How do I plan a Tabata workout?

First of all, don’t feel bound to the “one-exercise-eight-times-in-a-row” rule. Tabata is adaptable, meaning you can alternate between 2 exercises (template below) or even do 8 different exercises to create a segment.

  1. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  2. Exercise B (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  3. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  4. Exercise B (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  5. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  6. Exercise B (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  7. Exercise A (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  8. Exercise B (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)

 

Once you understand the template, you can create workout plans involving multiple Tabata rounds.

Because WHAT you do is completely customizable, it’s an incredible format to keep in your back pocket.

Just want a cardio push? Ditch the weights. Bored on the treadmill? Use this as a sprint pattern. No equipment? No problem. Short on time? You can squeeze in at least 4 minutes.

In my classes, I prefer to alternate between to exercises during the segments (as outlined above). I have found this format to be engaging, empowering, and exhausting.

Below is an example of 4 Tabata rounds I incorporated into the class I taught this morning. Each set of 2 exercises is repeated 4 times = resulting in an 8 bursts / 4 minute segment.

 

EXAMPLE:

*repeat set of exercises 4x in a row

  1. Squat Curl Press (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  2. Squat Jumps (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  1. Curtsy Upright Row (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  2. Curtsy Pulse / Jumps (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  1. Plank Crawl (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  2. Elevated Chest Press (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  1. Renegade Rows w/ Tricep Push-Up (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)
  2. Burpees (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 seconds)

 

Ready to get goin? Need some inspiration for exercises to incorporate? Check out my library for cardio, upper, lower, and core moves.

Happy sweating!

 

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