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Time for Tabata

Want to get into fantastic shape without spending hours working at it? It’s time to try Tabatas. This is no gimmick—it’s a scientifically proven fitness technique that will torch calories and improve endurance and it only takes four minutes.

And if four minutes sounds easy, you haven’t tried Tabata training yet.

What is Tabata Training?
Tabata training is the brainchild of Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata who worked with the Japanese speed skating team in the early 1990s and noticed that short bursts of high intensity effort seemed to be as effective as hours of moderate effort. So he created the Tabata protocol:

  • 20 seconds of all-out effort
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • Repeat 8 times (four minutes total)

Scientifically Proven
Tabata’s groundbreaking 1996 study proved the method works. He divided athletes into two groups. One group performed an hour of steady cardiovascular exercise on a stationary bike five times a week (a total of five hours of exercise per week). The other group performed a 10-minute warm-up followed by four minutes of Tabata intervals four times per week plus one 30-minute session of steady exercise with two minutes of intervals (a total of 88 minutes of exercise per week).

The results were astounding. After six weeks, the group performing Tabata intervals had increased their anaerobic capacity by 28 percent and their VO2 max by 15 percent. In contrast, the control group improved their VO2 max by 10 percent, but experienced no improvement in anaerobic capacity.

Try Tabatas
Ready to push yourself to the limits, torch calories, and improve your endurance? You can add Tabatas to your own workout routine and start to see results. You can turn any exercise into a Tabata session. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Sprints on the treadmill or a stationary bike
  • Jumping rope
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Jumping squats
  • Jumping lunges
  • Box jumps
  • Push-ups
  • Side-to-side jumps

These are just a few ideas. Pick any exercise you’re comfortable with and turn it into a Tabata session. A few things to remember:

  • Time yourself: You need a timer for Tabatas to take the guesswork out of it. (Hint, there's an app for that.)
  • All-out effort: Go as hard as you possibly can during the 20-second interval. This should be uncomfortable and you want it to be over—and it will be, in four minutes.
  • Break it up: Tabatas are not for every day. This is an all-out, intense effort. Do them every other day at most.

One final note—you don’t have to limit yourself to one Tabata. You can stack several Tabata routines together for even better results. For example, you might do three different Tabatas (12 minutes total) during one workout. Just be sure to give yourself at least a full minute of rest between Tabata sets.