A recent study conducted by Michele Olson, PhD of Auburn University and presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's 2013 World Conference on Exercise examined how many calories subjects burn during and after a Tabata training session. Using 15 physically fit subjects who performed basic squat jumps according to the Tabata protocol, Dr. Olson found that this 4-minute Tabata routine burned a whopping 13.5 calories per minute and doubled the subjects' metabolic rate for 30 minutes after the workout ended. "It would take five times the amount of typical cardio exercise, like a 20-minute brisk walk, to shed the same number of calories that result from a 4-minute Tabata!" Dr. Olson commented.
While a number of research studies have explored Dr. Tabata's 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off interval training format for cycling and running activities, fitness professionals, athletes and casual exercisers are now applying the Tabata training concept to all kinds of different exercises, including weight lifting, swimming, athletic drills and more. Unlike other intervals where you just want to "work harder," by definition, Tabata training is working at an intensity level that is as hard and as fast as you can physically go—generally an anaerobic effort.
Should You Try Tabata Training?
Tabata training promises big results in little time, but true Tabata training requires participants to push themselves to the max—and that level of intensity is definitely not for everyone. Working out at such a high intensity is only appropriate for healthy, intermediate to advanced exercisers who have experience and knowledge in the type of exercise(s) they're doing. Tabata training takes your body to the extreme, so it's best if you've been working out regularly and are very comfortable with the exercises you'll be doing (more on that later). This ensures that you have better awareness of how hard to push your body (or when to back off) and that you have the know-how to maintain form (or modify your weight or exercise) when your body tires as you go through the intervals.
With that said, beginners can try Tabata-inspired intervals at a lower intensity that's more appropriate for their fitness level. However, anything less than maximum effort won't get the true Tabata training results. As always, if you're trying Tabata—or any new exercise—for the first time, it's a good idea to get it approved by your doctor and work with a fitness professional until you feel comfortable doing it on your own.
How Can I Incorporate Tabata Training into My Workouts?