Back in 1996, exercise scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Japan came up with a novel way to torture runners and fitness enthusiasts. He established an intensely grueling but highly effective interval training method, designed to generate maximum results in the staggeringly short time of four minutes. That’s right – 4 minutes! Never mind that they’ll feel like the longest and most painful four minutes of your life.
What is Tabata?
The Tabata routine can incorporate a whole range of physical activities, from running, push ups, planks, and squats to stability ball exercises, resistance bands and weights. The essential interval breakup comprises 20 seconds of high-intensity drills followed by 10 seconds of recovery; this cycle is repeated 8 times, adding up to a total of 240 seconds.
An example of Tabata training for runners is 20-second sprints at your fastest speed and 10 seconds of rest. When followed consistently over months, the method boosts one’s fitness levels dramatically, and in the case of runners, also serves to increase speed and endurance.
The Tabata advantage
One of the biggest benefits of the Tabata method is that it improves both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels at a much higher rate than regular exercise over the same period. Therefore, not only does it better your performance during high-intensity short-term activities such as sprints, squats, pushups, but also improves your aerobic capacity for endurance sports like marathons and long-distance swimming. In short, it makes a great difference to both your cardiovascular capacity and muscular endurance.
Whether you choose to run or incorporate a diverse mix of workouts for your Tabata routine, one of the other immediate benefits you will notice is an increased metabolic rate. Because the routine demands high-power workouts, the effort put in by your body is far greater than regular training sessions. For those who are looking to lose weight, this means that they can burn fat more effectively thanks to the kick in their metabolism.
While the benefits of Tabata workouts are many, they should not be the only thing you do. Mix your routine up with fartlek intervals and long, slow runs, as well as strength and core training for well-rounded fitness.
Due to the intensive nature of the workout, Tabata should not be attempted by beginners. Your body should be at a moderate to high fitness level and used to high-power workouts at least twice a week. Adequate warm-ups are essential.
There is a greater risk of injury associated with high-impact workouts, especially if you’re fitness level cannot cope with the intensity of the routine. Make sure that your workouts are supervised and timed by a buddy or a trainer to avoid injuries due to incorrect technique.