Let’s face it: no matter how eager you are to shed some pounds or hit your fitness goals, spending the entire day lifting weights or sweating isn’t always the case for most people — unless you’re a pro athlete or Olympiad. For this reason, many people are turning to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, which include the Tabata workout.
Many people mistakenly think that Tabata training is different from HIIT. It’s not; in fact, it’s a category of HIIT. Like any HIIT activity, Tabata workouts fast-track the crushing of your cardio goals quicker compared to traditional cardio options like running or using a weighted hula hoop. But Tabata training sets itself apart from other HIIT training with its short HIIT format.
Simply put, it’s one of the quickest ways to achieve your fitness goals.
This workout plan focuses on exerting maximum effort for a shorter amount of time. A typical Tabata training is often four minutes long (yes, all you need is four minutes) but they burn your fat, as well as help you improve your strength and endurance. Four minutes of HIIT sounds like an easy workout but Tabata can be tough yet fruitful.
So, how does Tabata even work? Can it help you burn excess fat? Should you add it to your fitness routine?
Here’s everything you need to know about Tabata training.
What is a Tabata Workout?
As mentioned above, Tabata is a form of HIIT workout that has been scientifically proven to help increase performance and endurance for your anaerobic (muscular) and aerobic (cardiovascular) systems. For professional trainers, competitive athletes and even casual exercisers, Tabata training is an effective way to build muscle and burn fat.
Tabata workouts require 20-second intervals of high-intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. You have to repeat the cycle eight times, which totals four minutes. This training’s two-to-one work-to-rest ratio is its claim to fame. It elevates your heart rate to a high anaerobic zone while giving your body just a short time to rest and recover. By encouraging your body to work hard to use more oxygen for fuel, you burn more calories during and after your workout.
However, the four-minute Tabata workout will only yield results if you really push yourself. Effective Tabata training pushes you to the edge of your anaerobic capacity. This means that you can choose the exercises that will spike your heart rate quickly and that you have to give your all.
Where Did Tabata Come From?
A Japanese scientist named Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo discovered the Tabata training workout.
In 1996, Tabata and his team performed a study with two groups of athletes. The first group followed traditional workout protocols while the second group performed intense, four-minute interval training give days a week for six weeks. The second group increased their anaerobic capacity and consumed more oxygen during exercise.
The Tabata Program
Each exercise in a given Tabata training workout lasts for only four minutes but it’s going to be the longest four minutes of your life.
The structure of a Tabata training program is as follows:
- Work out for 20 seconds
- Rest for 10 seconds
- Complete eight rounds
Push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds and rest during your 10-second recovery period. Do them both to complete one set. You need to complete eight sets of each exercise.
As mentioned above, you can do any exercise that you want as long as they get your heart pumping. You can do burpees, squats, push-ups or other exercises that work your large muscles. Kettlebell exercises also work.
Here’s an example of a simple Tabata workout:
- Mountain climbers (four minutes)
- Push-ups (four minutes)
- Burpees (four minutes)
- Bodyweight squats (four minutes)
Understanding the Tabata Method
The best thing about the Tabata workout is when it comes to the actual training you can use any workout that suits your abilities. The quick alternating between rest and exercise increases your metabolism and heart rate immediately. You can also use equipment you think is necessary for your workout.
Tabata workouts target specific muscle groups. You can work out a specific muscle group for the duration of the four minutes, rest longer and start another four-minute workout in another area.
What is the Difference Between HIIT and Tabata?
As mentioned above, Tabata falls under the HIIT umbrella. It’s a high-intensity, interval-based workout. Unlike typical HIIT workouts, you don’t have to finish 20 to 40 minutes of workout to reap the health benefits.
That said, Tabata is a specific type of HIIT workout that is higher in intensity compared to traditional HIIT. In a nutshell: Tabata is considered a HIIT type of training but not all HIIT workouts fall under the Tabata training category.
Is Tabata Training Beginner-Friendly?
If you’re new to exercising or workouts, the idea of a four-minute grueling workout may scare you. To be honest, Tabata is intimidating since the intervals are longer and you have to push all of your energy in each cycle. But the longer intervals also make it better for beginners. This gives you more time to focus on stability, form and overall conditioning.
If you’re new to the Tabata training scene and want to give it a try, you can.
Here’s a program you can try:
- Jumping jacks
- High knees
- Squat to overhead press
What are the Health Benefits of Tabata Training?
Tabata training doesn’t just tire you out. If done correctly, you’ll reap several health benefits such as:
- Burn fat. Regular Tabata training and workout raises your heart rate and metabolism. During the workout, your heart will race like a rocket, which raises your metabolism. As you’re performing intense exercises, your body forces itself to keep up. As a result, your metabolism stays high even after the workout. This means your body will continue to burn fat throughout the day. When doing other moderate-level cardio exercises, you have to wait until your body reaches the “fat-burning zone” to really shed some pounds. When you stop running or jumping, your body stops burning calories. On the other hand, Tabata keeps your body in the fat-burning zone and ensures you continue to burn fat after. Studies suggest that Tabata workouts are more effective than traditional cardio when it comes to burning calories.
- Protect your muscle tissues. When you go on a diet or do regular cardio, there’s a risk of you losing both fat and muscle. To keep your muscles in good condition, you have to work them. Tabata training’s high-intensity nature protects and develops your muscle tissue. Due to the short amount of time it takes to exercise your body, your body won’t lose muscle tissue as you might during a cardio workout. Traditional Tabata workouts coach your body to strengthen your muscle tissues. As a result, you have a better lean body mass to fat ratio and your muscles are more developed.
- Flexible and convenient. Not everyone has the time to devote an hour to a workout. But not having enough time is also a poor excuse to not exercise. This is where Tabata training gives you no excuse. All you need is four minutes of this high-intensity training to get a great workout. If you’re not a big fan of going to the gym, worry not. You can do Tabata training at home. You can use at-home equipment like dumbbells and bands to support your workout. But if you don’t have workout equipment, that’s OK. If a certain workout hurts your spine, you don’t have to do it. You can do other exercises instead. In terms of how often you should do Tabata, training twice a week is enough to help you shed the pounds and stay fit. You can work out for four minutes, shower and go to sleep.
- Faster results. If you want instant gratification in your workout, Tabata training is at your service. The efficiency of this workout is measurable plus it boasts incredible results. Its highly focused nature quickly burns fat and develops your muscles. The results are multiple changes to ability, endurance and appearance.
Spending an hour in the gym or hours running on a treadmill is no longer the only way to burn fat and reach your weight loss goals. Thanks to the Tabata training workout, you can stay fit and burn calories in just FOUR minutes.