What is Tabata and Why Should I Care?

Tabatas are an excellent way to switch up your cardio routine. While some freaks of nature enjoy cardio, the majority of the known universe does not, and the idea of having to run for 20-30 minutes is not something that most people look forward to when planning their workouts. Others may not worry as much about the cardio itself but have more difficulty finding time to fit in cardio to their busy day. For all of the above individuals, or for those that just want to mix up their cardio sessions, Tabata may be the answer.

Why? Because they are high intensity to the extent that they only last 4 minutes. Tabatas consist of a cycle of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times. Our personal favorite are bike sprints on a stationary bike, because you can really push yourself without sacrificing form. Other exercises that work well would be normal sprints, mountain climbers, or jump rope.

This method was developed by a Japanese professor whose last name is, you guessed it, Tabata. It was first developed back in 1996 but has been growing virally over the last couple years. In 2015, the Tabata system became a licensed exercise system in the United States and United Kingdom.

Professor Tabata originally did studies to maximize the effectiveness of this workout for those willing to try 4-minute cardio session. The key to maximum effectiveness is committing to going all-out. His experiments showed that these 20-second bursts consumed the maximum amount of oxygen that the body is able to consume and use for energy.

This workout produces phenomenal short term and long term results. For each workout, just 4 minutes burns the same number of calories as jogging for an hour. Additionally, completing tabatas four times per week for six weeks, with an additional day of normal cardio, the body’s aerobic and anaerobic capacity is greatly improved than performing 5 days of normal, long cardio sessions.

For workout convenience there are apps that you can use so that you can focus more on your form and intensity of your workout and less on constantly worrying about your timing. Simply search your app store for “Tabata timer” and a bunch of stopwatch-type apps will pop up in the results. These apps not only keep track of time but alert you when it’s time to switch from “on” period to rest period.

Now let me throw in a few tips that will help you get the most out of your tabatas. First, be sure the warm up for at least 10 minutes. You’re going to be performing at incredibly high rates during the 4 minutes of tabatas, and you want to make sure your muscles are properly stretched and warm to avoid any type of injury.

Next, go all-out. This will not be easy. You will be pushing your muscles and your respiratory system to the limit. However, to get the full benefits you don’t want to give in to slowing down to make it easier on yourself. Commit so you can see the results you want, both in the post-workout exhaustion and satisfaction, and long term benefits.

Finally, focus hard on breathing during the 10 seconds of rest. Again this won’t be easy. Each 10 seconds will seem to go faster and faster. Trying your best to breathe deeply and fully will help to maximize each of your 20 second bursts.

So if you can squeeze in 4 minutes to your busy schedule, try out a Tabata workout and discover how such a short amount of time can lead to an effective cardio workout.