Fitness Articles

Tabata Training 101

Does This 4-Minute Fitness Technique Deliver?

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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?
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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).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • 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
  • Just tried this- not a full Tabata workout as described, but adding 3 intervals of it in the middle of my stationary bike routine. Definitely added a higher intensity to the entire 2nd half of the workout. I've liked adding HIIT to my routine in the past (did really well for about 16 weeks of Body For Life), but I eventually found I was dreading the 1 minute at highest intensity, which made it really easy to skip. 20 seconds is much more do-able :) - 10/18/2012 4:59:35 PM
  • This sounds like a good workout, I plan to try this? - 7/31/2012 8:47:23 PM
  • I bought a Tabata training track to help with keep up with timing. I alternated planks & lunges to spice up my workout. - 7/18/2012 3:36:20 PM
  • So basicly you are still doing 25 minutes of cardio with the warm up and cool down. This article is misleading. It makes people think they can get a workout in in 4 minutes. Tabata training IS effective. I;m just saying you could have left out the 4 minute time and just explained the concept. - 7/18/2012 12:51:05 PM
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