Tips for Tabata Training

10.10.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

Becky Johnson, Certified Personal Trainer (ACE); IBNFC Certified Nutrition Coach

Last week, we talked about renewing, reorganizing and re-prioritizing our fitness lives. This week, I want to focus on what to do during that time you scheduled for yourself! 

Enter: Tabata training. Once you stick with it and see results you will thank me, trust me.

What is Tabata training?

Tabata training is an interval training protocol that only lasts four minutes but creates huge EPOC – excess post oxygen consumption, which means your body continues to burn calories well after the workout is over. The timing of tabata offers negative rest to work bouts - eight rounds working at high intensity for 20 seconds, and then 10 seconds of rest. Tabata training hardly takes any time at all, can easily be incorporated into your day and offers huge benefits. Try it with jump squats, push-ups, or even treadmill sprints!

Doing as little as 4 minutes (or one "Tabata") can increase your aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, resting metabolic rate, and can help you burn more fat (and make you look much leaner) than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. That's right - 4 minutes of Tabata training can get you better fitness gains than an entire hour of running on the treadmill. But you have to put maximum effort into it!

The trick to getting all these benefits is the level of intensity. To do a Tabata, an exercise developed in the '70's for Japanese Olympians, all you have to do is pick a cardio activity such as running, jumping rope or biking and go as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Follow that with 10 seconds of rest and repeat seven more times. And when I say "as hard as you can go," I mean 100-percent maximal intensity. By the end of the 4 minutes you should feel like you have nothing left.

Tabata Tips and Getting Started

A few tips to get you started: First, while you can do a Tabata interval with just about any exercise, start with one in which you're very comfortable. Most people choose sprinting on a treadmill. 

Second, get a good timer. No matter how good you think you are at 1-mississippi-ing, you cannot estimate when 20 seconds and 10 seconds have passed when your brain is that fuzzy.

The Tabata interval workout is loved by researchers and fitness pros alike for its unparalleled fat-torching abilities and simplicity. To do a "Tabata," simply pick an exercise and set a timer for 20 seconds on and 10 seconds rest. Do the exercises as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds and then rest for 10, repeating 8-20 times total. Don't be fooled: The moves may seem simple but they're not! If you're not seeing stars by the end, you're not pushing hard enough. You can use the Tabata protocol with almost any exercise. Here are a few favorite fat burning exercises to get you started.

"Running" on Mini-Trampoline or Bosu
Running in place on a mini-trampoline or Bosu is a great way to get the same cardio effect of running with much less pounding. Tip: Put one hand on a wall, chair, or trampoline bar until you're sure you've got your balance.

Mountain Climbers 
Make a triangle with your hands and feet on the floor with your butt up in the air. Bring one leg up towards your chest similar to a sprinter's start position. Keeping your hands on the ground, jump to switch your legs. Tip: Just quickly touch each toe down in front so you're not resting by putting your whole foot down.

Weight Bench Hop Overs
Place your hands near one end of a flat weight bench with both feet on one side. Keeping your hands on the bench, hop your legs over to the other side. Immediately hop back to the first side. Keep hopping until your timer goes off! Tip: Make sure you're jumping vertically and not horizontally or you'll push the weight bench to the side, which makes it even harder to get back over.

Box Jumps
Find a weight bench or a plyo box that hits somewhere between your shins and your knees. Stand in front of it and jump off of both feet to the top of the bench. Jump back to the floor, again with both feet together. Try not to rest when you land and jump right back up again. If this is too difficult, you can do step ups onto the box.

Jumping Rope
Cardio and coordination all in one! Take a jump rope and jump as fast as you can, using whichever foot pattern like. Options include: both feet together, high knees, the boxer shuffle with heels in front, alternating feet, and butt-kickers. Tip: Make sure your rope is long enough before you start—nothing ruins a good Tabata workout like getting whipped across your calves! To check for proper length, stand in the center of your rope and pull the handles straight up. They should come at least as high as your armpits.

Jumping Lunges
You already know and love (to hate?) lunges for their butt-blasting ability. Add a jump in between alternating legs to up the difficulty and cardio factor. Start by stepping your right foot forward into a deep lunge, until your leg is parallel with the ground. Then jump, bringing your back (left) foot forward and landing in a lunge. Tip: You can step through each lunge if jumping gets too hard

Bicycle Sprints
Bikes are perfect for engaging your whole lower body and skyrocketing your heart rate for those 20 seconds. Tip: It's a little easier to time and to rest on a stationary bike—you can just take your feet off the pedals for 10 seconds rather than trying to start and stop/coast on the road.

Remember to incorporate Tabata training two times per week at first. Give yourself at least one recovery day between sessions. Listen to your body. Take a break if you need to. This type of exercise format is for a more experienced exerciser but even newbies can use a simple exercise like a squat and try to complete a Tabata round.

Let me know what you think of Tabata training!

Stay fit and Healthy,

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