If you think you don’t have enough time to exercise, then you’ve never tried Tabata training. With 20 minute workouts, exercisers are experiencing greater fitness benefits than jogging for an hour on the treadmill, making Tabata training one of the most popular trends in the fitness industry.
This interval training regime was developed in the 1970s by a Japanese Olympic speed skating coach named Izumi Tabata who used it to increase his athletes’ physical performance. The “Tabata protocol” as it’s called, consists of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest and can feature both cardio and strength training exercises.
The 20-seconds-on / 10-seconds-rest sequence is repeated eight times totaling a four-minute cycle. Most Tabata workouts feature four, four-minute cycles with one minute of rest in between creating a effective 20-minute workout that improves cardio performance, increases muscle definition and keeps boredom at bay. One study showed exercisers can burn 15 calories per minute with Tabata training and rev their metabolism to burn calories long after the workout is over.
Seattle fitness trainer Tricia Murphy Madden shared an equipment-free tabata workout that anyone can try at home. Madden’s Seattle Tabata classes frequently sell out, and she says one reason the workout is so popular is because intensity is the new fitness craze.
“Whether pulsing, pedaling or doing exercise in extremes (heat, cold, heights), people are trying to find the next positive mood shift from exercise,” said Madden, who is also Director of Group Fitness at Denali Fitness and Community Fitness
Along with teaching fitness classes in Seattle, Madden has also created workout programs including Urban Striptease, Puma Kick, My Best Friends Workout and Barre Basics. Since 2002 she has starred in 16 DVDs which have sold over 70,000 copies. Madden is also a highly sought after master trainer for several fitness industry favorites including Savvier, Body Bar, Gymstick, and Barre Basics and presents at numerous educational conventions each year.
While Tabata training is intense, Madden’s philosophy is to make the workout inclusive and unintimidating.
“Whether you are a first-time exerciser or industry vet I want to make sure you feel successful,” she said. “In my classes I strive to show participants how they can find intensity with range of motion, speed and creating distance between you and the floor.”
Anyone who is healthy and injury free can do a Tabata workout, but since the workout features high intensity moves it is important to know where you are in your fitness journey. If you are just beginning a fitness regime, pay close attentions to modifications from your instructor. And, Madden adds, that intensity doesn’t necessarily need to come from high impact movements.
“Range of motion and speed can play a strong role in making the exercise high intensity without damage to the joints,” she said.
If you are already in good physical health then Tabata training can help you improve cardiovascular strength and muscle ability. Tabata is also great for those who are high fitness level performance athletes and are looking to push their body to the next level.
“In short, Tabata is great for everyone as long as they know what their goals are and they feel safe to participate,” said Madden.
Since Tabata workouts are high intensity exercise they should not be done every day, so schedule rest days or choose lower intensity activities like yoga between workouts.
“Recovery and rest is a key component and without it the body cannot achieve optimal health,” says Madden.
If you would like to try adding Tabata training to your exercise routine, below is an equipment free workout from Madden you can do in the comfort of your own living room. It combines cardio and strength moves for a full body workout. And Madden stresses using modifications for the exercises whenever you feel it is necessary. Beginners can modify each move by reducing speed and range of motion, while more advanced exercisers can add intensity by increasing speed and range of motion.
Instructions: Perform each exercise for 20 seconds then rest for 10 seconds, repeat back and fourth for eight rounds or four minutes. Rest for one minute before moving onto the next set of two exercises. Make sure you warm up for with 5-10 minutes of light activity and follow the workout with a five-minute cool down and stretch.
1a: Squat to squat jump: Start in a squat position with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart, your core engaged and weight in your heels. Power up and extend to a jump, then land softly back in the squat position. Modify by replacing the jump with a standing extension up onto your toes.
1b: Side tap lunge: start in a standing position then step your right leg out to the side keeping your toe pointed forward and weight back. Contract your core and reach your left hand across to tout your right foot. Power up to stand again and repeat on the other side.
2a: Alternating lunges back: Start in a standing position, then lunge back with your right leg. Stay low and switch to lunge back with your left leg. To modify, slow down your speed and avoid sitting too low in the lunge.
2b: Skaters side to side: Start in a standing position then jump to the right as you cross your left leg behind and slightly lean forward. Jump out to the left and cross the right leg behind like a speed skater. Repeat back and forth.
3a: Mountain climbers: Start in a pushup position with your shoulders above your wrists. Contract your core and pull your right knee in, then jump switch and bring your left knee in and right leg back. To modify step your knees in as oppose to jumping.
3b: Pushups: Start in a pushup position with your shoulders above your wrists. To modify drop to your knees. Slowly lower down while keeping your core contracted, then slowly return to the starting position.
4a: Up-down plank: Start in pushup position (modify by dropping to your knees), come down on you right elbow then your left elbow. Then, one arm at a time, come back up to pushup position. Focus on keeping your core contracted and your hips still.
4b: Toe tap core exercise: Start lying on the floor on your back, feet extended out in front of you and arm extended behind you. Contact your abs as you lift up and bring your left hand to touch your right toe, and then lie back down. Repeat on the other side.
Tabata training is a great addition to any workout program and can be a nice option for anyone who is short on time. Just remember to be mindful of your fitness level. As Madden said intensity can come from range of motion and speed along with plyometric jumps, so feel free to modify whenever needed.