What is Tabata and Why You Should Use It

Girl jumping on matWhat if I told you there was a secret workout formula that could burn as many calories in four minutes as in an hour of running? Well, there is such a workout that can, at least based on some research, accomplish this magic, and it is called Tabata, a specific type of interval training. It sounds exotic, but it is just named after the last name of the Japanese researcher who pioneered that type of exercise, Izumi Tabata. The good news is that it seems to work. The bad news? Well, it is four minutes of absolute hell unleashed on your body. Sound good? Yes it does. I agree. So keep reading.

In his studies, Tabata’s program burned a lot of calories during and after the exercise (due to its intensity the effects may last as much as 12 hours afterwards), as well as increased overall aerobic and anaerobic capacity. So, not only does Tabata increase your heart and lung health, it increases muscle mass too.

Tabata should start with a ten minute light warm-up, followed by doing intense exercises for twenty seconds, resting for ten seconds, and then repeating this 20 on-10 off protocol for four minutes. The key for Tabata to work is for it to be extremely intense. In other words, for each of those twenty second bursts, you are giving your all, to the point that you are out of breath by the end of that brief period. If you can “recover” at all during the ten second rest, you aren’t doing Tabata right.

So here it is for those who need to see it written out differently:

Exercise 1: 20 seconds on, 10 second break, 20 seconds on, 10 second break
Exercise 2: 20 seconds on, 10 second break, 20 seconds on, 10 second break
Exercise 3: 20 seconds on, 10 second break, 20 seconds on, 10 second break
Exercise 4: 20 seconds on, 10 second break, 20 seconds on, You’re done! (finally)

There are a variety of exercises you can use with Tabata. I prefer ones that are explosive in their movements, because that makes for a more intense workout. This is why I use exercises like squat jumps (jumping high and landing in a squat), burpees, moving push-ups (doing a push-up, moving to the left, doing a push-up, moving back, etc), hurdle jumping, etc. You can do Tabata with more traditional exercises like jumping jacks as well, but I prefer to ramp up the intensity.

Little girl jumping on matI like Tabata because it is so brief. I can get motivated to do a four minute workout. I also like that I can do it anywhere. Granted, I have to lessen the intensity level when I am at work in my shirt and tie, but I can still do something for four minutes anywhere I am. I will often do “static hold” Tabata throughout the day.

I know this won’t burn as many calories as an intense one, but it builds muscle regardless. I will hold the squat and lunge positions. Also holding the push up position an inch off the ground can be very intense. This is much more difficult than it sounds.

There are some great apps you can use to enhance your Tabata workouts. This one is my favorite for Android. It has plenty of pre-defined Tabata workouts, and you can create your own from their selections, or you can just time yourself generically. I like it the best because it gives warning beeps before ringing a bell telling you to shift from intense to rest. It is free and a perfect app for my use.

Try Tabata today. Even though I run regularly and use the Beachbody Insanity line of products, I am virtually always sore after doing Tabata.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is author of seven self-help books, and an in-demand speaker and consultant. Over a million readers per year read his online content, and his writings have been referenced in many publications and news outlets, including Girls Life, Fox News, the New York Times, Huffington Post, and BBC. He also writes for The Popular Teen, and other sites. Follow him on Twitter.

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