You've probably already heard of high-intensity interval training – a type of workout that alternates between short periods of intense exercise and small intervals of recovery. While there are a seemingly infinite number of variations and styles of HIIT, there's one popular HIIT workout you should definitely try adding to your weekly routine: the Tabata workout.
Tabata training is an extremely intense form of HIIT that was created by Dr.Izumi Tabata, who first developed the system to train Olympic speed-skaters in 1996. The regimen was created based on a study conducted by Dr.Tabata, which compared the benefits of moderate, steady-state training with a HIIT regimen that involved a 4 minute workout consisting of 20-second ultra-intense bursts of exercise alternated with 10 second intervals of rest. The group doing moderate exercise trained 5 times per week for one hour, while the group performing the HIIT regimen trained 4 times per week, plus another day of one-hour steady-state training.
The conclusion of the study revealed that the HIIT athletes gained both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, while the moderate-training athletes improved only their aerobic performance.
The workout is quick and easy to remember, each round lasting 4 minutes total, and consisting of 8 cycles of ultra-intense 20-second bursts of exercise with 10 second intervals of rest. It burns calories and fat, provides an excellent aerobic and anaerobic workout, improves glucose metabolism, and, when done regularly, speeds up your basal metabolic rate long after your workout is over. Typically workouts consist of 4 rounds, concluding to a very intense 16 minute training session.
Though the workout is attractive because it is short, simple, and provides benefits that steady-state training alone cannot achieve, you really need to push your body to its absolute limits for the workout to be effective. If you don't feel that familiar I-don't-think-I-could-continue-for-one-more-second kind of exhaustion after those 4 minutes, you probably aren't doing it right.
The beauty of the Tabata workout is that on top of being short and simple, it's also very versatile. While the workout should technically involve only one movement, the options for which exercise to perform are unlimited; some popular options include sprints, jump rope, burpees, pushups, and squats. If you'd like to incorporate the Tabata workout into your fitness routine, you should start by doing it twice per week. Many people decide they're content with this frequency, but depending on your fitness level and goals, you can slowly work your way to doing the Tabata workout up to four times per week.
Before incorporating the Tabata workout into your weekly fitness routine, consider whether or not it is right for you. The Tabata workout may be quick, but it is incredibly challenging, and the extreme intensity of this workout means that it isn't a suitable regimen for beginners; novices may not be able to maintain the pace and effort the Tabata workout demands without compromising their form, increasing their risk for injury. For this reason, the Tabata workout is better suited to those who are already moderately athletic.