Short on time? Tabatas are a highly effective way to get your metabolism revved up and your fat loss going. All this in only 4 minutes.
What is the Tabata Protocol?
The Tabata protocol is a training method that involves very short but intense exercise intervals followed by even shorter rest intervals. The idea behind it is you can get a similarly effective workout in only 4 minutes as compared to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio.
Over the course of six weeks, the effects on aerobic and anaerobic capacity were studied. Two groups of people performed different types of exercise. The first group completed 8 sets of 20 second maximal sprints followed by 10 seconds of rest (4 minutes).
The second group completed 60 minutes of steady-state cardio. At the conclusion of the study, those that completed the interval training improved both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, while the steady state cardio people only improved aerobic capacity .
Criticisms of the Tabata Protocol
As with any training method, there are a few criticisms of the Tabata protocol. These “myths” I believe miss the point of the study. Critics point out that trainees had to exercise at 170% of Vo2 max during the intervals and that a non-athlete would have trouble reaching that number.
This might be true, but the main point is that these trainees were working at their maximum output. If you are working at your anaerobic threshold, you are going to increase your anaerobic capacity – it doesn’t matter what your Vo2 max is. It’s all relative to yourself and your own fitness level.
Others point out that fat loss was not measured in the study. It wasn’t, but that was not the aim of the study. If you were to take the actual results and apply them to the real world, it doesn’t take much to draw some conclusions.
For example, improving your anaerobic capacity means that you are able to train at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. Doing so increases the total number of calories burned both during your workout, and after your workout via the EPOC effect.
My Own Experience
I have personally tried out this Tabata exercise routine on the stationary bike. I was skeptical at first because the idea of getting a great workout in only 4 minutes sounds like something I’d see on late-night infomercials. However, the training proved otherwise.
After about 2 minutes of intervals my legs were on fire and my heart was pounding out of my chest. By three minutes I had my eyes closed, my head down, and the feeling that there was no one else in this world, at this time, at this moment – than me. I could not think about anything else besides the 20 seconds each interval had to last.
After the final 4 minutes, I immediately got off the bike, walked to the closest flat surface, and laid horizontally until I could bring myself back to reality. There was not a chance that I was about to do any more exercise. That was the toughest 4 minutes of exercise I had ever done.
(the following video shows some people demonstrating Tabatas)
Incorporating the Tabata Protocol Into Your Training Program
Technically, the Tabata protocol was done on a stationary bike, but anything that enables you to work at maximum intensity will provide you with similar results. Sprints, whether done running, cycling, rowing, swimming, etc, will always be best because they get you from zero to max heart rate quickly.
You could also attempt them with other compound exercises like squats, burpees, high-intensity plyometrics, or any other full-body movement. Get creative, but make sure you are reaching maximum intensity. If you can’t get up to your max heart rate or close to it within 20 seconds of the exercise, it probably isn’t difficult enough to use.
Tabatas are an efficient way to improve fitness level. In just 4 short minutes you can get in an effective fat-burning workout that can do more for you than spending an hour or more doing steady-state cardio. Give them a try…I dare you!