Hilton Head Health logo
Wellness Wednesday: POWER OF PERCEPTION
April 2, 2016
Hilton Head Health logo
Coaches Corner: A Letter to Family and Friends
April 2, 2016
Show all

Fitness Friday: TABATA and all its benefits!

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a cutting-edge approach in the fitness industry. Tabata falls under the category of high intensity training and consists of 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This cycle is repeated 8 times, totaling four minutes.

How did it come about?

Tabata was founded by a Japanese scientist named Izumi Tabata, serving as the head coach for the Japanese speed skating team, and fellow colleagues at a department of physiology in Japan.

What is the research behind Tabata?

Dr. Izumi Tabata and his fellow scientists decided to conduct a study at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo to compare moderate intensity training with high intensity training. He conducted the tests on 2 groups of athletes; 1 of the groups used the moderate intensity interval training and the other using high intensity interval training. In group one; the athletes were training in moderate intensity workouts (70% intensity) for five days a week for a total of six weeks with each training session lasting an hour. Group two trained in the high intensity workouts for 4 days a week for a total of 6 weeks with each session lasting 4 minutes, at 20 seconds of intense training (170% intensity) and 10 seconds of rest. Group one had a significant increase in the aerobic system (cardiovascular system), however, the anaerobic system (muscles) gained little or no results at all. Group two showed much improvement in all their athletes. Their aerobic systems increased much more than group ones, and their anaerobic systems increased by 28%. These results indicate that not only did high intensity interval training have more of an impact on the aerobic systems; it had an impact on the anaerobic systems as well.

What are the benefits of 20 second workouts?

    • Fat Loss through Increased Metabolic Rate

Intense exercise raises our metabolic rate to about 15 times the basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Since the BMR is the amount of energy your body burns while at rest, any increase to this rate increases the fat that your body burns even when you are not exerting yourself. This high intensity interval training knows as Tabata puts short-lived, but acute stress on the body. When these intense exercises occur on a regular basis, the body increases its BMR to handle the new demands put on it. When you create an Oxygen Debt (for example: heavy panting during tabata) your body has burned off all of the blood sugar (glycogen) it has and needs to replace all of that energy. It does this by burning fat. Instead of trying to use fat while you are exercising, you use carbs as fuel while you are exercising and use fat after the exercise has occurred. The short duration workouts of tabata were shown to burn an average of 5x more calories AFTER their exercise is over.

    • Muscle Tissue Retention

Dieting as a means to weight loss often causes loss of muscle tissue. Tabata places stress on muscle tissue, which tells your body that more muscle tissue is needed. As a result, the ratio of your lean body mass to fat mass goes up, and by choosing exercises that maximize the muscle mass worked, muscle tissue may increase.

    • Anaerobic and Aerobic Capacity Increase

Your body has 2 systems of fuel, there is Aerobic and Anaerobic. Now, the aerobic system is the greatest amount of energy produced by the body in the presence of oxygen. Anaerobic capacity is the maximum amount of energy that can be produced by the body in the absence of oxygen. This anaerobic energy is produced by burning carbohydrates when there is insufficient oxygen in the bloodstream to produce the required energy aerobically. Please note that one does not replace the other! What happens is you start out by burning fuel with your aerobic energy system, and once you go past the point where there is not enough oxygen in your system to provide aerobic energy to your muscles, your anaerobic system kicks in. To get there, you need to get your heart rate up past what is typically referred to as the Target Heart Rate Zone (50-85% of your maximum heart rate (220-age)). You should use a Heart Rate Monitor to measure yourself.

    • Time Savings

With Tabata, you can gain more results in less time. The short duration of a Tabata workout increases an individual’s willingness and faithfulness to work out regularly. It would be difficult to deny 4 to 8 minutes a day to your physical fitness. In addition, safety requires close attention to your body’s feedback when you exercise intensely which enhances interest in the changes that the exercise routine is making in your body, and thus increased interest helps remove the drudgery of an exercise routine.

How effective can Tabata be?

You may be surprised how intense 4 minutes of exercise can feel. The intervals are both time efficient and taxing. This kind of workout is excellent for athletes involved in sports, boxing, MMA, wrestling, and also is effective for fat loss. Intense interval work such as Tabata, will raise the body’s metabolic rate (BMR) long after the exercise session is completed and this post workout fat loss is the end result. Many studies have confirmed that this powerful “after-effect” of interval training is most effective for fat loss than low intensity, continuous exercise, assuming a true maximal effort is applied.

What are the pros and cons of Tabata?


Tabata will be improving your aerobic system and anaerobic system at the same time much more than traditional cardio training. With the anaerobic increase and short duration of time needed to complete it, Tabata will also fire up the metabolism during the workout and have an after effect after the workout (meaning even after you are done your Tabata workout, you’ll still be burning calories). Additionally, Tabata also improves mental toughness (or will power) because of the high intensity of it. At first when you do Tabata training, the thought of quitting may occur; however, as you pull through the exercise, you gain physical benefits as well as mental benefits. Remember its 20 seconds of work and then a break is right around the corner!


Tabata is very demanding and should not be done too frequently. The typical recommendation is for one or two Tabata workouts per week. As is true for any strenuous exercise a warm-up routine is advisable. Because of the high intensity Tabata requires you to do, it could be dangerous when you perform this exercise when you are prone to strokes and heart attacks. If you know that you have high blood pressure or have had a history of strokes and heart attacks, consult prior with your doctor to see if you are physically capable of performing the Tabata exercise. The other danger about Tabata is that if you’re not careful and are using weights when doing Tabata, depending on the exercise, you could hurt yourself. For example if you are benching real quickly when using Tabata, there’s a chance the bar might slip from your hands. Tabata is performed best with cardio and body weight strength exercises.

What does a basic tabata workout look like?

Any exercise can be incorporated into Tabata training. However the basic outline of the Tabata training method are as follows:

•     4 minutes long (whole Tabata Session)
•     20 seconds of intense training
•     10 seconds of rest
•     Total of 8 sessions or rounds

How do I create my own tabata workout?

A wide variety of exercises are compatible with Tabata, including resistance exercises such as body weight strength exercises and aerobic exercises which can be done indoors or outdoors. A few popular examples are hitting a heavy boxing bag, sprinting, jumping rope, rowing, medicine ball slams, bodyweight calisthenics (squats and pushups). As an example, you can sprint for 20 seconds, walk for 10 seconds, sprint for 20, walk for 10,  continuing until you have completed 8 full sprint/walk sets. To keep time yourself, you can use a large digital clock, personal interval timer, or now music is sold that has the 20 second work phase and 10 second rest phase programmed with verbal cues. Get out and try Tabata!

Vote for H3 pop up