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The Tabata Protocol: The Workout You’re Not Doing, But Should

workout-585The Tabata Protocol has been said to be the best extreme aerobic cardio workout ever to be created. Developed in 1996, the Tabata Protocol was born when Izumi Tabata, with the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, Japan, sought to find out how moderate- and high-intensity exercise impacted cardiovascular (endurance) and aerobic (sprint) fitness. He found, as was already common knowledge, that steady state cardio improved cardiovascular fitness. The big surprise, however, was when it came to sprint training.

The sprint protocol used was 20 seconds of high-intensity spinning followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of a 4-minute session on a bike. The results of the six-week study showed that sprint training improved cardiovascular fitness above and beyond steady state training. Subsequent tests with similar rest-to-work ratios showed an increase in fat loss with shorter high-intensity work compared to that of longer, steady state cardio sessions.

What does this tell us? Intense is best, and Tabata workouts are definitely intense. Tabata workouts are defined as any 4-minute long timed workout that consists of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times (for a total of 4 minutes. See how that works?).

In addition to increasing your aerobic and anaerobic ability, it is also a great training technique for weight loss. Rueben Baca, personal trainer in Seattle, has been involved in fitness since 1990. He has held several national certification through The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the International Kettle Bell Fitness Federation and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He and colleague Autum Purman run Paleo Bootcamp, the “only bootcamp in Seattle that has integrated smart nutrition and smart training for guaranteed results” where they use similar techniques to help clients achieve results. “Tabata helps to increase cardiovascular fitness and anaerobic fitness, which I call Sprintabilty,” says Baca, “but it can also accelerate fat loss if one follows a smart eating plan.”

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  1. Tabata is good stuff, all high intensity interval training is.

  2. Fatso says:

    Oh yeah. One of my Spinfit instructors (Sammi, every third Wednesday night) sometimes incorporates a track like this into our routine. It’s a KILLER track. She divides the room in half, and it’s 8 seconds for either side of the room, as fast as we personally can go, with a 30 second slow-down pedalling break in the middle of the track.

    It’s the only track I’ve ever known where EVERYBODY’S gasping for breath afterwards. But it’s also the only one where my legs REALLY feel like jelly, too.

  3. Samantha Wallace says:

    I am going to try this workout tomorrow morning! I may even convince my hubby to give it a shot (insert evil laugh here).

  4. D Baca says:

    My brother knows his stuff!

    I do a variation of Tabata with just breathing exercises! I breath very hard for 20 seconds and then commence normal breathing for 10 seconds. I don’t know if this is beneficial or even healthy, but boy is it INTENSE!

  5. I love Tabata! And the looks I get from getting a butt-kicking from 4 minutes on the elliptical are priceless! These sprints have revealed my abs like nothing else ever has.

  6. Kellie Stalker says:

    I LOVE TABATA. My instructor does this and its amazing.

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