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What is Tabata and why should we try it

It’s easy to come up with excuses to skip your workout. Maybe you can’t find your go-to shoes or perhaps you’re just not in the mood. But if you’re trying to use I don’t have enough time, as an excuse, then think again. Tabata workouts, a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), can be done quickly and have a slew of benefits. Not only can they boost your athletic performance, but they can also up your cardiovascular health. But where did they come from, how are they performed, and what’s a good example? Here, the experts weigh in.

What is a Tabata workout?

Created by a team of researchers including Izumi Tabata, Ph.D. from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, the technique involves max effort for 20 seconds, resting for the next 10 seconds, and repeating for seven more rounds (you’ll have eight total rounds). When all is said and done, you’ll have 4 minutes of fitness that, according to Tabata’s research, can have a similar effect as 60 minutes of exercise at a moderate intensity.

What are the benefits of Tabata?

Aside from being able to pack in a fair amount of good-for-you benefits in a short stint, Tabata is beneficial for a slew of reasons. Firstly, you can go at your own pace and complete as many reps in the designated amount of time — making it scalable and manageable for people of all fitness levels, says Wendy Cao Noakes, PT, DPT, CSCS. “The great thing about the 20-second interval is that it’s such a short amount of time that most people won't be intimidated by it,” she adds. “But understand that if you work hard for those 20 seconds, you will be dripping sweat by the fourth round.”
There’s also an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to how you program a Tabata workout, adds Kyra Williams, CPT. You can do this with no equipment at all except a stopwatch or clock or timer app, she says, adding that this makes this type of effort ideal for travel. However, you can also use Tabata to build strength endurance while getting in a cardiovascular workout, maybe incorporating a movement like a kettlebell swing.

Not to mention, Tabata can also increase your anaerobic capacity and V02 max, adds Williams. The intensity here elevates your metabolic rate, causing you to burn more calories after your training due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. One caveat: The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends allowing at least 48 hours of recovery time between high-intensity exercise sessions, giving your body enough time to rebuilt and come back stronger.

Tabata Workout Examples

Ready to get moving? Here are four different Tabata workouts to get you going.
Workout 1: Tabata push-ups and squats
  • Perform push-ups for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest.
  • Perform squats for 20 seconds followed by 10-second rest
  • Repeat this for 4 total rounds
Workout 2: Push-Ups and planks
  • Perform push-ups for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second plank hold.
  • Repeat this for 8 total rounds.
Workout 3: Kettlebell work
  • Do 20 seconds of push-ups followed by a 10-second rest.
  • Perform 20 seconds of kettlebell swings followed by a 10-second rest.
  • Repeat this for 4 total rounds.
Workout 4: Skater hops
  • Do 20 seconds of skater hops, followed by a 10-second rest.
  • Repeat this for 4 total rounds.
  • Go directly into 20 seconds of jumping lunges, followed by a 10-second rest.
  • Repeat this for 4 total rounds.

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