4 November 2020

What Does Tabata Mean?

“A relenting and brutally hard exercise that should leave you gasping for air like Darth Vader,” says a personal trainer in a fitness studio in London.

You’ve also probably seen the headlines on health magazines and fitness journals talking up a workout program that gets you fit in four minutes. Yes, we are talking about the famedTabata workout. A workout that should suit any gym-shy person who doesn’t want to spend hours trying to eliminate those stubborn love handles.

So what does Tabata stand for? Is it a fad workout, and is 20 minutes of Tabata enough?

What Does Tabata Stand For?

Tabata refers to a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program developed by Irisawa Koichi, a head coach of the Japanese Olympic speed skating team. Dr Izumi Tabata, a Japanese professor, later popularized it in 1996 – hence the name Tabata – by conducting research that showed its efficiency in improving aerobic and aerobic fitness among trained athletes.

The workout plan is characterized by short bursts of high-intensity workout followed by short rest periods, hence why it is considered a type of HIIT program.

However, unlike most HIIT workouts that alternate between high and low-intensity exercises, you maintain a high intensity when following a Tabata workout. Besides, Tabata has a shorter rest period lasting only 10 seconds.

The original Tabata training research by Dr Tabata involved a four-minute workout done 4 days a week for 6 weeks. The workout was made up of 7-8 sets of exhaustive training bursts, each lasting only 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest.

They found that maintaining a high intensity (about 170% of VO2max) during the workout improves your anaerobic and aerobic energy capacity by over 28%.

This shows a 4-minute Tabata routine will give you similar results to what you would get by doing a moderate cardio routine lasting 30 to 60 minutes.

Is 20 minutes of Tabata Enough?

The simple answer is yes. While athletes in the original Tabata research did 4 minutes to see the stated benefits, doing 20 minutes should be more than enough. What’s key is maintaining the high intensity and pushing yourself at more than 110 percent effort throughout the workout.

In fact, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted a study on 16 fit men and women who performed a 20-minute Tabata workout involving 4 rounds of various exercises such as burpees, high knees, squats and line jumps, among others. There was a marked improvement in the participants’ cardio fitness and body composition.

What’s more, they were burning 15 calories per minute. Besides, Tabata has strong excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effects. Hence it boosts your metabolism – increasing the total calories burnt by about 10%.

You can check out ACE’s 20-minute Tabata protocol here for a round by round guide on the exercises you should perform.

That said, rest is key to this routine’s success. Researchers recommend you perform the routine 2 to 3 times a week with rest periods of about 2-3 days.

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