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Tabata Training: Why You Should Try It

Currently one of the most popular forms of cardiovascular exercise, Tabata is also one of the fastest ways to get your workout done. But what is Tabata training exactly? We’ve got all the details, including a Tabata workout plan. Get ready to try Tabata!

What is Tabata?

Have you heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? Tabata is essentially a form of HIIT. The main difference between Tabata and HIIT workouts is that the intervals between work and rest in Tabata are shorter than those in HIIT.

First introduced in 1996, Tabata is a way to reap the greatest cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits as quickly as possible. Typically 4 minutes long, Tabata uses 20-second training sessions and 10-second recovery intervals. Because the rest is so short, your body never really has a chance to recover from the work of the last session. This results in more calories burned. The key is to give it all you’ve got. You want to be working out at an intensity where you can’t have a conversation. If you’re not, you probably aren’t getting all the benefits. 

The history of Tabata

Despite the popularity of Tabata, its history is less well-known. Tabata is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese scientist who discovered the method while training his country’s Olympic speedskating team. His study compared two teams, one using moderate-intensity training and the other using high-intensity training. The teams both worked out for six weeks, and the high-intensity group only worked out for four minutes, four days a week. The moderate-intensity group worked out longer and more frequently. The results were clear: the high-intensity workouts resulted in increased metabolism and greater weight loss.

Benefits of Tabata

If you’re looking for a workout that you can finish in less than 10 minutes, then definitely give Tabata a try.

Moderate-intensity training is good for weight loss, and most experts recommend you do it for at least an hour, four to five times a week. But most people aren’t meeting those guidelines. After all, getting to the gym every day isn’t always possible. This is where Tabata can help. It’s easy to do at home, and you can finish your workout in about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, because of Tabata’s “afterburn effect,” you’ll continue to burn fat well after your workout is finished.

Is Tabata training suitable for beginners?

Yes and no. While anyone can try Tabata, common-sense precautions should be taken. Those with injuries and those who haven’t done aerobic workouts in a long time should not start with Tabata.

Tabata comes with its own risks. If you begin feeling faint, dizzy, or nauseous, stop right away and rest.

If you’re new to Tabata but have some experience with HIIT, you will find it completely doable. As with any exercise, Tabata comes with its own risks. If you begin feeling faint, dizzy, or nauseous, stop right away and rest. And if you’re at all uncertain about it, talk to your doctor before beginning Tabata. 

Example of a Tabata leg workout

Although there are also full-body Tabata workouts, if you’re looking for a more isolated approach, we’ve got you covered. Your legs will be burning after this four-minute, seven-move, at-home Tabata workout.

1. Low surrenders

Begin in a squat position, keeping your feet hip-distance apart and hands behind your head (keep them there the whole time). Step your right foot back so that your knee rests on the floor. Do the same with your left foot so that you’re kneeling. Return to the original squat position, one leg at a time. Repeat. 

2. Squat jumps

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down, bringing your hands in front. Make sure your knees are tracking over your ankles and don’t jut forward. Then, jump up with an explosive movement, swinging your arms behind you. Land softly.

3. Side-to-side shuffle

Begin with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and hands facing outward in front of your chest. Bending your knees, shuffle quickly from one side of the room to the other.

4. Squat side kicks

Standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart and hands together in front of your chest, squat deeply. As you rise back up, shift your weight to your left leg and bring your right leg up, kicking to the side. Lower your right leg and repeat the movement on your left side.

5. High knees

Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart and hands facing down in front of your abdomen. Moving as fast as you can, pump your knees up, trying to connect them with the palms of your hands.

6. Back lunge forward kick

Begin with your right foot behind you in a lunge position. Shifting your weight to your left foot, kick with the right as high as you can. Kick for 20 seconds on the right side, take a 10-second break, then kick for 20 seconds with your left leg.

7. Wide sumo squat jumps

Begin in a sumo squat, with your feet out wider than your hips and toes pointed slightly out. Squat deeply, then jump as high as you can. Land softly back in the sumo squat position.  

Example of un upper-body Tabata workout

If you’re looking for ab exercises, this upper-body Tabata workout might help. There are seven moves, and weights are optional. 

1. Bicep curl/overhead press

Using a light weight, begin standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart and arms lowered by your sides. Complete a bicep curl, then bring your arms up for an overhead press. Repeat.

2. Diamond push-up

Get into push-up position (knees can be up or down), placing your hands in a diamond shape beneath you. Lower your body down, then return to the original position.

3. Seated twists

Take two dumbbells and sit down with your knees bent in front of you. Your feet can be on or off the floor. Holding the dumbbells together in front of your chest, twist first to the right, then to the left. Continue to twist back and forth for the duration of this interval. 

4. Side plank with underarm reach

You can do this move with or without weights. Get into a side plank position on your right side. Bring your left arm up high, then twist so it reaches beneath you, stretching towards the back of the room. Return to the original position and repeat. Stay on your right side for 20 seconds, then switch to your left after a 10-second rest.

5. Low plank hold

Get into low plank position. Hold for 20 seconds. 

6. Boxing jabs

Begin in a lunge position with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your left arm out, punching the air, then return it to your side and repeat the same move on the right. Continue alternating arms. 

7. Plank up and downs

Begin in a low plank position. Move into a regular plank position. First, lift your left forearm and place your hand on the floor, then repeat on the right side. Return immediately to a forearm plank. Repeat this cycle.

Tabata tips

While Tabata is more of a strategy than a set formula, here are some tips for making your Tabata experience the best possible:

  • Try Tabata anywhere. Want to be outdoors? Try sprints. At the gym? Use weights.
  • Intense workouts carry a greater risk of dehydration, so keep your water handy and be sure to refuel with a post-workout snack if needed.
  • Are you a beginner to high-intensity interval training? Consider starting out with other HIIT workouts that are less intense and working your way up to Tabata.

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, you’ll love the speed, efficiency, and fun of Tabata.

While fitness trends come and go, quick-interval training methods like Tabata are here to stay. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, you’ll love the speed, efficiency, and fun of Tabata. 




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