All You Need to Know: Tabata
By Circle Editorial Team
Time is a precious commodity that we as a society struggle to keep up with. Work and life commitments all sap away at what little time we have left for ourselves. With most gym sessions using hours as their unit of time, some may end up being put off because they just can’t afford to make that level of commitment.
No longer! Introducing Tabata, a fellow 90s baby that is all the rage right now in the fitness industry. It is perfect for the busy individual, and best of all, it doesn’t require any equipment! Go get your start now with any of our Tabata lessons on Watch now!
But wait! Before you take that plunge, learn all you need to know about this workout and how to do it safely and effectively?
What is Tabata?
Tabata training is a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) comprising eight sets of fast-paced exercises each performed for 20 seconds interspersed with a brief rest of 10 seconds.
This form of HIIT was named after Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata. Back in the early 1990s, he led a research team that sought to find out if short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by shorter rests might condition the body better than a continuous moderate-intensity exercise.
The study revealed that moderate-intensity workouts, while improving the aerobic fitness of test subjects, did little for anaerobic fitness. In contrast, high-intensity workouts benefitted the test subjects more significantly both aerobically and anaerobically.
The imbalance between exercise and rest time was surmised to force the body to work at its maximum physiological capacity without a chance to fully recover. This causes an increase in one’s metabolism and heart rate.
All it takes is four minutes of pushing to the absolute limit about twice a week to build endurance, muscle, and burn lots of calories. That’s around the duration of a typical song! No wonder Tabata is so popular nowadays.
How to Tabata (safely)?
Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? However, Tabata is labelled as a form of HIIT for a reason. Beginners looking for immediate results risk serious injuries if they were to jump straight into the deep end.
Fortunately, mounting that steep acclimatisation curve doesn’t have to be hard, so long as one practise the following safety procedures.
Beginners who are accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle will find a Tabata workout too taxing initially. Therefore, there is a need to prepare your body to be able to endure such intensive exercises. To minimize the risk of sudden overexertion, one is recommended to reach a baseline level of strength and cardio capacity before embarking on Tabata. A combination of 20 to 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercises and attention to all the major muscle groups would be ideal.
As with any form of exercise, adequate warming up is necessary prior to the start of a Tabata workout. If you compare the preparation of your body to the building up of money in your bank accounts, warming up would be akin to putting that money into your wallet/card/phone so that you are ready to spend. By doing so, you prime those muscles of yours, reducing the risk of cramps and sprains.
The Tabata workout focuses on pushing yourself to the limit in a combination of speed and quantity. As such, it can be easy to neglect the execution quality of those exercises, i.e. proper form and technique. Prolonged exercise in such a state fatigues your body and increases the likelihood of picking up an injury. Therefore, there is a need to maintain good form and posture so that you are actually working out the proper muscle groups as intended.
The original Tabata protocol was conducted four times per week over a six-week period with high-level athletes. But not everyone is an elite athlete with a sumptuous body physique. If you are reading this article, odds are, you aren’t one either. The extremely intense Tabata workouts can quickly become too stressful for your body when overdone. While you may see “eye-candy” results in the best-case scenario, you are more likely to burn yourself out before you reach that point.
This is why it is a common recommendation to have Tabata workouts twice a week so that every muscle group has 48 to 72 hours of rest before the next session. Don’t fret about the session count. If you're doing true Tabata, you will still see the results you want (provided your diet and the rest of your workout schedule is efficient, of course).
If you enjoyed the 4 minutes spent reading this article, why not spend 4 more on Watch? There is a wide variety of lessons on offer, whether it is to get your body ready and/or for Tabata proper!