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Tabata Intervals

Tabata Intervals

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blog article 2, tabata-intervalsFrom time to time I’m asked by Kandu members if they should be doing any extra cardiovascular training away from the gym to help speed their progress. Depending on their goals and level of fitness I generally agree that including some form of outside activity will be beneficial to helping achieve their goals. As I prefer quality training over quantity of training where possible, one option for including some helpful cardiovascular training at a minimum investment of time is Tabata Interval Training.

Based on the 1996 study at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo by Izumi Tabata workouts are comprised of 20-seconds of very intense exercise followed by 10-seconds of rest, repeated for 4-minutes (8 cycles total). Researchers have noted improvements in resting metabolic rate (for up to 24 hours post Tabata workout), improved maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), aerobic and anaerobic capacity as well as reductions in body fat and insulin resistance.

In terms of increasing performance Tabata workouts can be altered to take into account the activity and goals of the athlete. A study in 2009 of elite rowers demonstrated a 2% improvement in performance after just 7 interval training workouts where the athletes performed 8 x 2.5 minute work periods at 90% of maximal speed followed by a 75 second rest period. This and similar studies show that even at the highest level modified Tabata intervals can work to increase performance.

To say these workouts are difficult would be like saying racing the Ironman in 100% humidity is difficult. Give these workouts serious try and see how you like it. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it does get results.


1. Start off with the basic Tabata protocol of 4-minute bouts of exercise divided into work sets of 20 seconds and rest periods of 10 seconds. If you do a decent job this should put you on the floor as your try to breathe.

2. Start with only 2 Tabata Intervals workouts per week and build up to 3 to 4 times per week. Make sure you have one day of rest between workouts (ie: workout Monday, rest Tuesday, workout Wednesday, etc.).

3. Go slow at first. Where a heart rate monitor (if possible) and watch your heart rate doesn’t go too high in your first few Tabata workouts. Ideally you will approach a maximal heart rate and be very spent following a workout but this should not be the goal when you are just starting these workouts. Be safe and keep the intensity (and heart rate) at a tolerable level.

4. I suggest performing these intervals either first thing in the morning to stimulate fat burning for the rest of the day, or an hour before bed to burn fat while you sleep. NOTE: Some people may not be able to recover and then get to bed if you do a hard workout before bed so use a trial and error method to see how you tolerate this plan.

5. Pick full body exercises that give you the biggest bang for the buck such as KB front squats, KB snatches, KB squat & press, KB squat pulls, KB swings, sprinting or sprinting intervals on an exercise bike (as the original study performed). This targets a wide range of muscles and causes the body to respond to the recover by increasing the metabolism.


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