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4 Reasons Push Your Body to its Limits with Tabata Training

June 29, 2014

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You’ve heard a lot of talk about Tabata recently. Whether it’s at the gym, in line at a café, or just walking down the street, everyone seems to be praising Tabata these days. So what is Tabata? While it may sound like a new dance craze or some exotic vegetable, it’s actually a Japanese exercise regimen that has taken the American fitness community by storm.

More specifically, Tabata, or “The Tabata Protocol” as it’s formally called, is a version of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that wins over devotees for its effectiveness and its simplicity.Created by Irisawa Koichi, the then head coach of the Japanese Speed Skating Team, the Tabata protocol works like this: After a 5-minute warm-up, an athlete spends 20 seconds exercising at the peak of their ability, and then rests for 10 seconds, repeating this series for a total of 8 intervals followed by a 2-minute cool-down. During the 20 second interval burst, you work your aerobic system to its edge, activating your anaerobic system so that your body continues to burn fat, even while at rest. The result is in an extremely effective workout in just four minutes.

Devotees of Tabata like to add different exercises to their routine, usually 4 different interval sets, each with a different exercise, resulting in a 20-minute series along with the warm-up and cool-down. Trainers recommend that beginners start off with the 4-minute series, going slow to avoid injury, and add in more exercises as you feel ready.

I’ve started to incorporate the standard 4-minute Tabata protocol into my own workouts, and I’m impressed with the results. Here are 4 reasons why you should give Tabata a try yourself:

Rapid weight loss, naturally.

The science behind it is simple and effective: Working both the aerobic and anaerobic systems results in increased weight loss, largely because of the “afterburn effect,” which causes you to continue burning calories after a workout. Devotees credit the Tabata protocol to measurable weight loss in just one month of steady practice.

It fits into any schedule.

While more seasoned practitioners like to work the Tabata protocol for 20 minutes—8 rounds of 4 minute intervals rotating to a different exercise for each set—I recommend starting out with the original 4-minute set three times a week. You’ll be able to maximize your workout results in the shortest amount of time, while avoiding those pesky injuries caused by overuse and over training. And even once you work up to 20 minutes, that’s still far shorter than most other forms of exercise.

You can use any exercise.

While Tabata was formed by groups practicing the interval regimen on a stationary bike, it’s the timing and intensity that are key, not the specific exercise. As long as you exert yourself at your absolute peak for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat for 8 intervals, you’re following the Tabata protocol and reaping all the benefits.

Tabata is a great way to break out of a workout rut.

Tabata engages both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning, maximizing your workout. Thanks to its intensity and dual conditioning, it kickstarts your exercise routine and changes it up enough to confuse your body. Muscle confusion helps break a workout plateau by pushing your body to perform movements it hasn’t become accustomed to. The result is a leaner, fitter, and stronger you in less time than your previous routine. I recommend varying the exercises you integrate with Tabata to maximize this effect.

What’s your favorite exercise to integrate with the Tabata protocol? Tell us in the comments below!