Fitness Articles

Tabata Training 101

Does This 4-Minute Fitness Technique Deliver?

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Would you like to swap your usual workout out for one that's just four minutes long? Of course you would! Well, that's the allure of Tabata training, a type of super high-intensity interval training that is becoming more and more popular.

Said to deliver big results such as improved aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, muscular endurance and fat burning, Tabata training is all the rage these days. But what is Tabata training, exactly? Maybe more importantly, does it live up to the hype and is it really right—and safe—for you? Let's tackle some Tabata training questions one by one!

What Is Tabata Training? What Are the Benefits of Tabata Training?
While it may seem like Tabata training is the latest workout trend that's sweeping gyms everywhere, it's not exactly a brand new concept. In fact, it originated from the exercise research of Dr. Izumi Tabata. Dr. Tabata used a very specific method of interval training for his 1996 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. In the study, he had cyclists perform 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest. The participants repeated seven to eight sets of the exertion-rest intervals, equaling just about 4 minutes of actual workout time. The results were so striking that this type of training was named after its creator, hence "Tabata" training.
 
Subjects who performed Tabata training five days a week for six weeks (a total of 120 minutes of exercise over the month and a half) improved both their aerobic and anaerobic endurance. In fact, subject's anaerobic fitness increased by a whopping 28%. The control group exercised the same number of days, but for a full hour per session at a moderate intensity (for a total of 1,800 minutes over the study period). They also saw fitness improvements—but only in aerobic fitness—and it took them much, much more time exercising to achieve those gains.

Does It Really Work?
A number of studies have suggested that Tabata training does, in fact, work. Further studies have also made a case for Tabata training and other variations of high intensity interval training. A 2007 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that seven sessions of high intensity interval training over two weeks resulted in marked increases in whole body and skeletal muscle capacity for fatty acid oxidation during exercise in moderately active women. A 2009 study from the same journal found that young men cycling to maximum effort for four bouts of 30 seconds with four minutes of rest doubled their metabolic rate for three full hours after training. Also, a 2008 study in the Journal of Physiology found that these short, yet intense types of interval workouts can be a time-efficient way to get in shape and may help participants achieve fitness improvements comparable to longer, less-intense workouts.
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

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Member Comments

  • I usually do intervals on my elliptical, but until today had not tried Tabata. I managed 2-1/2 minutes, then I just continued until I reached 15 minutes. I threw 2 more intervals in for good measure, but not the 20/10 consecutive seconds. - 7/7/2015 7:50:27 PM
  • I've just started back with some interval areas on the recumbent bike. If I tried Tabata, I would either end up in the hospital or the morgue. Not for me. - 4/16/2015 10:47:13 AM
  • It would be great if sparkpeople could list tabata workouts in the fitness tracker! - 4/12/2015 10:05:15 AM
  • Sorry, there used to be a a way to save articles for later, without having to post to an external site. Where has that function gone? I'd like to revisit this article this week! - 2/20/2015 10:47:07 AM
  • 10 minutes of warm up, 4 minutes of cardio, 10 minutes to cool down. that is closer to 25 minutes of work out than 4 minutes as stated. - 8/11/2014 1:25:20 PM
  • Does SparkPeople have any of these Tabata workouts in the videos on this site? - 8/8/2014 10:03:12 PM
  • Sounds great for the already fit. If you are just beginning on your journey, just ramping up the effort for short bursts will be plenty. Don't go beyond your ability level. - 7/27/2014 10:17:38 AM
  • MARYO125
    Tabata is a great workout that you can do at home with little to no equipment. I use the 'Tabata Coach' album of coached workouts by Motion Traxx. They have a certified fitness instructor guiding you through your Tabata routine. AMAZING!! Itís on my iPod so I can use it anywhere, anytime: http://bit.ly/Tab
    ataCoach_iTunes. - 3/7/2014 5:03:37 PM
  • HEATHERL2011
    I think I will try this today as part of my work out and see how it goes:-) - 9/21/2013 9:17:18 AM
  • I might think about it. - 9/13/2013 9:23:21 PM
  • I've done a Tabata class several times and hated it in the most loving way possible. :) It was a GREAT workout, and such a different format from anything else that I have done, hence the loving it. Hated it only because I worked myself hard, I was tired, sweaty, sore (in the good way), and just done when it was over. :) Just wish that it was on the fitness tracker so that I could properly put in my workout. I try to remember each exercise that we do, but when I put all in it says that I've burned maybe 100 calories total, when I know it was so much more than that. - 4/5/2013 9:30:29 AM
  • This is how karate is often practiced, and it's a very good exercise because it gets the whole body, and concentrates on the midsection (because everything starts from the center). I built a karate dummy out of old tires a few decades ago that I beat up with my hands and feet, baseball bats, and other things. The effort is always full speed and full power. It's an excellent workout, and good self defense training at the same time, so you get added value for the time you invest. - 3/26/2013 12:35:20 PM
  • I just worry that people will use this as one more excuse...and not use it properly..well they do Tabata training..... - 3/26/2013 12:32:35 PM
  • tried my first Tabata class last week. BEST. WORKOUT. EVER.

    by the end of the class, I had nothing left. I was drenched, worn out and exhilarated.

    This is my kind of workout. I'll be at that class everytime I can possibly get there! - 3/26/2013 2:41:41 AM
  • I think it might be a better idea to try more moderate interval training before even attempting Tabata training if you're an interval newbie.

    just my opinion. - 1/19/2013 3:18:31 PM

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