Let’s Talk Tabata

tabataThis is the 3rd and final post in the metcon series. In this post it’s all about Tabata training. This style of training was introduced by Dr. Izumi Tabata along with his research team based on a study they did in 1996.

One of the things I love about it is that it combines a typical metcon workout with HIIT. So, you get variety and structure. The best of both worlds. While they’re all part of the metabolic conditioning category, I think of metcon, HIIT and Tabata as three different styles of these workouts.

Tabata uses exercises you would see in a metcon workout and is segmented into high intensity intervals and rest intervals (similar to HIIT). The classic Tabata workout is 20 seconds of work paired with 10 seconds of rest. You do 8 rounds of work-rest interval pairs for a total 4-minute workout. Definitely the shortest of the workouts, but still very effective as long as you really push the intensity. You also have the option of doing 2 or 3 (though I wouldn’t recommend more than that) back to back to create a longer workout.

In Tabata training, as with other types of meton, you get some great benefits including:

  • Increased metabolism for many hours after the workout
  • Increased fat burn
  • Muscle tissue retention
  • Aerobic and anaerobic capacity increase
  • Time efficiency

Muscle tissue retention is an important one to note. Steady state cardio is known to result in muscle loss. Metabolic conditioning (metcon, HIIT, Tabata) serves to preserve muscle while delivering benefits to the cardio vascular system (i.e. strengthening your heart).

Increased fat burn is another one the things metcon workouts have over steady state cardio. We’ve all heard of “the fat burning zone”, but the reality is that while lower intensity cardio burns a higher percentage of fat, high intensity training burns a greater amount of fat in total (and in much less time).

Tabata workouts can be done with weights, cardio equipment or no equipment at all. The one thing you will need is a timer. There are interval timer apps for your smartphone. Since I don’t really want to worry about my smartphone getting damaged during an intense workout my favorite is still the Gymboss interval timer.

Here’s a sample Tabata workout including weighted and body weight exercises:

Warm-up with moderate cardio for 5 minutes.

  1. Squats (20 sec.), Rest (10 sec.)
  2. Burpees (20 sec.), Rest (10 sec.)
  3. Deadlifts (20 sec.), Rest (10 sec.)
  4. Mountain climbers (20 sec.), Rest (10 sec.)

Do this circuit twice for a total of 8 Tabata intervals (4 minutes). Cool down and stretch afterward.

You can mix in just about any exercises you like. Compound/multi-join exercises are best. If you decide to extend your workout by doing two or three back to back, take a 1 minute rest between each 4 minute workout. These workouts are intense. So, consider adding them to your program just once or twice at week.

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