I’m so glad you asked. Here’s the gist: sprint hard for 20 seconds; rest for 10 seconds; repeat for a total of four minutes (generally 6-8 rounds). That’s it. Sounds simple, but this short workout can burn some serious calories.
Developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata in Japan, Tabata exercise has been found to be superior to other types of exercises. In a 1996 study done by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, Dr. Tabata and his colleagues studied two groups of athletes: one group did medium-intensity exercise for long periods of time, and the other did high-intensity exercise for short periods of time.
Tabata and his team observed the athletes for six weeks, and after that time, it was found that the first group increased their aerobic capacity (how long you can run) by 9.5% and their anaerobic capacity (how long you can run at maximum effort) by 0%, while the second group increased their aerobic capacity by 14% and their anaerobic capacity by 28%.
The second group showed greater improvement in lung capacity and oxygen utilization, while the first group showed only minimal improvement, thus proving the benefits of short, high-intensity training.
How to Train for Tabata (Hint: Slowly)
The Tabata regimen was created for elite athletes as a means of improving athletic performance. If you’re like the average mama, you may need to work your way up—train so to speak—for Tabata sprints.
You can start by doing some simple interval training:
Begin with longer, less intense sprints, with a longer recovery time in between.
Instead of 20 seconds of all-out running, try 60-90 seconds of mid-intensity running, followed by one-minute break rather than ten seconds.
Every few days, increase your intensity and shorten your exercise and break times.
Start with only a couple of minutes and work your way up to four minutes, a few times a week.
5 Unique Advantages of a Tabata Workout
1. Burns Fat
Intense cardio burns calories and melts away fat. But more than that, it may affect how our bodies process glucose, a huge contributor to belly fat. One study found that “a high amount of moderate-intensity exercise alone was very effective at improving oral glucose tolerance….” Intense exercise may help how our bodies process sugars.
2. Builds Muscle
Tabata exercise allows muscles an intense workout.
3. Creates Endorphins
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.
4. Highly Portable
No fancy equipment or special place needed for this workout!
5. Short and Sweet
Get your exercise out of the way quickly … a bonus for every busy mama.
Other Tabata Variations: Not Just for Runners
Armed with Dr. Tabata’s research, you can apply the Tabata exercise principle to any workout. In fact, cycling is one of the more popular ways to utilize the method.
Other great workouts to use the Tabata principle with: (Next page)