Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tabata: What is it and why should you do it

We've all heard of the Tabata, but what exactly is it?  The Tabata is named for a study done by Dr. Izumi Tabata and his colleagues at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan.  Here is the abstract from PubMed:

1.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30.

Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.

Tabata INishimura KKouzaki MHirai YOgita FMiyachi MYamamoto K.


Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.


This study consists of two training experiments using a mechanically braked cycle ergometer. First, the effect of 6 wk of moderate-intensity endurance training (intensity: 70% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), 60 min.d-1, 5 d.wk-1) on the anaerobic capacity (the maximal accumulated oxygen deficit) and VO2max was evaluated. After the training, the anaerobic capacity did not increase significantly (P > 0.10), while VO2max increased from 53 +/- 5 min-1 to 58 +/- 3 (P < 0.01) (mean +/- SD). Second, to quantify the effect of high-intensity intermittent training on energy release, seven subjects performed an intermittent training exercise 5 d.wk-1 for 6 wk. The exhaustive intermittent training consisted of seven to eight sets of 20-s exercise at an intensity of about 170% of VO2max with a 10-s rest between each bout. After the training period, VO2max increased by 7, while the anaerobic capacity increased by 28%. In conclusion, this study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves the maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity and that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.

To sum it up it is 20 seconds of maximum effort on a given exercize, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  this is done for 8 cycles for a total of 4 minutes for the full cycle.  If these are done properly, as in you don't hold back(max effort means just that) the Tabata will provide one hell of an intense workout.

What I like about them is how versatile they are.  My personal favorites are doing kettlebell snatches and swings, but the options  are limitless.  You can do them running sprints, jumping rope, bicycling, with burpees, with a sledgehammer, a heavy bag, etc., etc., etc.  Get creative with them.  Put several Tabatas together with a brief rest between and do something different for each one.

I use my little Gymboss timer to keep track of the intervals, but there are also some free Mp3 downloads out there also.  There is one at that is good.

Now get out there and have fun with them.


  1. Hey, Dave! I totally agree -- Tabata Protocol exercises are awesome. I'm curious: how long do you wait before moving on to a new exercise after you're done, say, Tabata kettlebell snatches?

  2. Yeah, as you know I love Tabatas. I usually rest about 1-1.5 minutes in between. I just want to be able to catch my breath and let the muscles recover long enough that the burn leaves before starting the next.

    Nice to see you here. Aren't you about do for a new post yourself?