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In the world of fitness, one of the biggest crazes that has been going around is high intensity interval training, or HIIT, for short. There are a lot of different methods for HIIT, but one that has become perhaps the most popular is the Tabata regimen. This type of training started only 20 years ago, and has been rising in popularity ever since. Since HIIT is a cardio method that is designed to burn the maximum amount of calories, it’s a great way of getting slim in a hurry.

But why has the Tabata method gained so much traction in the past two decades? Does it have better results than other forms of interval training? Let’s take a look inside the Tabata method to see how you can incorporate it into your workout schedule and see some great weight loss results.

Behind the Tabata Workout

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In 1996, Japanese professor Izumi Tabata came up with a study that involved his training of the Japanese national speed skating team. Tabata measured the effects of interval training with athletes pushing themselves to the absolute max while taking short periods of rest. The studies of his method were published and have basically become gospel in the fitness community.

Hundreds of fitness books have cited Tabata’s work that was published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise”. The Tabata method is broken down into a total of eight cycles that last for just four minutes of working out. It might not seem like a lot, but it can be difficult to get through.

The Tabata method begins with 20 seconds of intense exercise where you are operating at 170 percent of your maximum oxygen consumption. In running, this is basically a flat out sprint to the point where you feel like you’re going to fall forward. Once the 20 seconds is over, you completely stop for 10 seconds of rest. You then repeat this process seven more times to create the four minute cycle.

The study that Tabata conducted showed the effect of his method on athletes that performed this cycle four times per week, while also having one day of training at a 70 percent oxygen capacity, which basically translates into a steady jog. The findings were that the anaerobic capacity for Tabata’s subjects were higher, allowing them to get higher short bursts and build muscle easier.

Now, exercising for four minutes per day like this might help your cardiovascular system, but it’s not going to burn all that many calories. To get the maximum effectiveness, you either need to add Tabata training to your normal workout schedule, or create a full workout of Tabata exercises. It can be tough to get through, but your workouts can still be less than half an hour while being effective.

Tabata Workouts

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The best part about the Tabata method is the variety of workouts that you can do. While the original method was on a stationary bicycle of at least 85 revolutions per minute, you can practically do any workout that you want, as long as you’re pushing yourself. After all, a lot of us aren’t training to be professional athletes, so your maximum limit for 20 seconds doesn’t necessarily have to be Olympic-style training.

Some of the most popular Tabata workouts include:

  • Lunges
  • Crunches
  • Burpees
  • Planks
  • Leg Lifts
  • Squats
  • Mountain Climbers

Those are just a few of the great exercises that you can incorporate, and most of them use your own bodyweight. If you are using free weights, it might not be as effective as pushing yourself to the max might only result in one rep over that 20 second span. The recommendation is that you perform the Tabata regimen three or four times per week, and anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes with additional light exercise in your other days. Here is what a standard Tabata workout schedule might look like for you:

Day One

  • Plank (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Burpees (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Rest (One minute)
  • Jumping jacks (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Side skaters (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Rest (One minute)
  • Push-ups (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Squats (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)

Day Two

  • Lunges (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Reverse plank (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Rest (One minute)
  • Tricep dips (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Leg lifts (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Rest (One minute)
  • Crunches (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Wall sit (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)

Day Three

  • Mountain climbers (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Burpees (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Rest (One minute)
  • Squats (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Reverse lunges (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Rest (One minute)
  • Push-ups (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)
  • Jumping jacks (20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat four times)

You will likely be sucking wind when you head into the one minute rest periods, so make sure to use the most of that time. Don’t move around too much and remember to drink plenty of water, as you’ll also be sweating a lot. All in all, these workouts are 26 minutes long and only a suggestion. Feel free to add more or take away some of the workouts depending on your fitness level.

What to Know About the Tabata Regimen

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Speaking of fitness levels, that’s the first thing that you need to know about when it comes to the Tabata regimen. If you are not already in good cardio shape, then you might have a tough time getting through a full workout like the ones from the schedule. Speak with your doctor first to make sure that your heart is healthy enough for a high intensity interval workout.

If you are a beginner, don’t feel bad about incorporating one Tabata workout into your routine. Allow your heart plenty of time to get acclimated to interval workouts, as the stress can be overbearing at times. The best way for a beginner to do that is by adding other cardio exercise such as fast walking or light jogging at first before diving into a full Tabata regimen. After all, just adding one of the four minute workouts a few times per week is going to really help your heart, so you’ll be able to build up slowly but surely.

Summing it Up

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The main reason that people are getting into HIIT workouts like the Tabata method is because of how good it is for weight loss. Your body will be producing more energy even when not working out, which will boost your metabolism and allow you to burn more calories throughout the day. Along with that comes a heart that works more efficiently, increasing your cardio health and lowering your heart rate to a more normal (or even above normal) resting level.

It is also very time efficient, as the Tabata method isn’t as nearly as time consuming as an hour-long walk or 45 minutes jogging or on the elliptical machine. If you have not done interval training ever in your life, you might see some quick weight loss. If that’s the case, make sure that you are drinking enough water during your workouts as they can be very dehydrating.

Whether you want to be a more efficient runner or build strength, you can do the Tabata method without a gym membership or any free weights, which makes for a great exercise. As long as you have a timer (which you probably do on your cell phone), then there aren’t any expenses for this method. That’s a nice change of pace from some of the other workout methods that we have reviewed so far, but it’s not going to be the easiest to dive into. Just pace yourself and have fun, as it’s a very rewarding type of exercise.


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