Friday, April 18, 2008

Tabata Interval Training!

"I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified." - 1 Corinthians 9:27

Thursday's workout was short but very intense. After a 2 1/2-minute bodyweight warm-up consisting of squats, pushups, lunges, mountain climbers and a few other exercises, I used the Tabata method for a four-minute workout to help burn fat and elevate my metabolism. I finished with another 2 1/2-minute bodyweight cool down using similar exercises as the warm-up.

The Tabata method was developed by Izumi Tabata at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan in 1996. In the study, Dr. Tabata compared the effects of moderate-intensity endurance training (aerobic) and high-intensity intermittent training (Tabata intervals) on VO2 max and anaerobic capacity.

The results of the study: The moderate-intensity training group produced a significant increase in VO2 max of about 10%, but it had no effect on anaerobic capacity. The high-intensity training group improved their VO2 max by about 14% while increasing anaerobic capacity by 28%. Dr. Tabata's group also found that short-term intense interval training is highly effective in lowering the ratio of lean body mass to fat without compromising your muscle size. The study was done over a six-week period. Both groups worked out 5 days per week.

One of the hardest aspects of performing a Tabata workout is staying focused for the whole four minutes. It only takes 6-to-8 very hard 20-second intervals with 10-second rest periods to substantially improve both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity (while burning fat).

My exercise of choice for this particular Tabata workout was the burpee.

The burpee is an extremely effective conditioning exercise. It combines a pushup with a squat and a jump. Done at a fast pace, this is one of the best overall bodyweight conditioning exercises you can perform. A burpee utilizing the Tabata method makes it even more brutal! The work periods (20 seconds) may seem short, but done at a blistering pace, the effects build up quickly. A 10-second rest period is barely enough time to catch your breath. But if you push through, you'll be done in only 4 minutes.

In addition to the burpee, many other exercises can be used with the Tabata method. Ideally, you want to use an exercise that works as much of the body as possible. Some good choices include:

Thrusters (front squat to push press complex)
Front Squats
Bodyweight Squats
Jump Rope

If 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest is too difficult, there are a few ways to progress. For weeks 1-4, you can use the Tabata method once per week with 10-second work periods and 20-second rest periods. For weeks 5-8, you can perform 15-second work periods and 15-second rest periods and for weeks 9-12, you can perform the full 20-second work periods with the 10-second rest periods.

A word of caution: Tabata intervals are very intense and should only be used by those who already have a high level of conditioning and no health problems. Also, Tabata intervals should not be used too frequently. For one, they are hard. Two, because the workouts are short it's best to mix shorter more intense workouts like Tabatas with longer, intense workouts such as interval training and other high intensity interval methods (both anaerobic and aerobic).

For those of you who want to see the original abstract for the Tabata interval study, point your browser HERE.

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