Tabata Workouts for Better WellBeing

Tabata workouts are the type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that may be completed in as little as four minutes. In fact, evidence shows that this type of HIIT may be more helpful for building aerobic capacity than three 30-minute treadmill sessions. It might be challenging to get in a 30- to 60-minute workout when time is limited.

An experiment for Tabata Workouts

For a 16-week fitness program, researchers divided 55 healthy, young male participants into three training groups:

HIIT-T (High-intensity interval training on a treadmill): Seventeen participants performed a Tabata protocol on a treadmill.

They ran at a velocity associated with 130% of VO2max for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest, and repeated this pattern for eight cycles for a total of four minutes.

HIIT-WB (High-intensity interval training with whole-body exercises): Nineteen participants conducted Tabata intervals using body-weight movements including burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks and squat thrusts with 3-kg kettlebells.

Tabata workouts
Tabata workouts

MICT (Moderate-intensity continuous training): Nineteen participants ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes at an intensity associated with 90% of the heart rate at the second ventilatory threshold (VT2), a training intensity associated with an increase in breathing rate and an inability to talk comfortably while exercising.

The HITT-T group completed a four-minute treadmill warm-up, the HIIT-WB group did the identical body-weight exercises but at a considerably slower rate for four minutes, and the MICT group steadily increased running tempo.

Each group increased their fitness levels by the conclusion of the 16-week training program, as measured by the time to achieve VT2 and the time to exhaustion.

The HIIT-T group outperformed the HIIT-WB and MICT groups, proving that HIIT is a time-saving training option.

This is fantastic news for those days when time is limited and a gym workout is just not an option. In other words, if time is limited, a four-minute Tabata workout may be enough to maintain your current fitness level.

How to apply Tabata workouts:

Here are two options for applying this research to your own Tabata workouts:

At a health club, use a rowing machine to complete a four­-minute Tabata consisting of 20 seconds of sprinting followed by 10 seconds of resting while standing on the side rails. Repeat this pattern eight times. (A rowing machine is recommended because it involves both the arms and legs working together and does not place additional stress on the knee or back joints.)

Use body-weight exercises for a Tabata, which can be perfect on those days when your schedule doesn’t allow time for a trip to a gym or when you’re traveling and are stuck in a hotel. The following circuit (patterned after the one used in the study) is ideal. If you don’t have weights available, replace the squat thrusts with ice skaters (hopping laterally from one foot to the other).

1. Burpees

2. Mountain climbers

3. Squat thrusts or ice skaters

4. Jumping jacks


The entire workout should take about 12 minutes because you should allow some time for a warm-up and cool-down with stretching for the involved muscles. For the warm-ups, follow the workout protocols from the research study outlined above.

How to perform body-weight exercises

Here are some general guidelines when performing the body-weight exercises:

>Keep your spine long. When your spine is extended, you use more of your hips.

>Move from your hips. Whether you are hinging forward or rotating, make sure that the movement comes from your hips, not your spine.

>To increase activation of your core muscles, press your feet and hands firmly into the floor when they make contact. Imagine you are trying to push the floor away from you. It can help improve activation of your deep core muscles.

While it’s always nice to have a long, stress-reducing workout session, there will be days when time really is a factor. For this reason, it’s nice to know that time-efficient Tabata-style workouts really do work and produce results.

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