If you hang around any gym long enough, you’ll hear the word “tabata” mentioned with both fear and reverence. Originally developed by researchers to study the effects of short, intense bouts of activity on cardiovascular fitness, the tabata has become a trendy and challenging way to quickly get conditioned.
Research has found that when done correctly, tabatas can improve your cardiovascular fitness and burn more calories than steady-state cardio but in a fraction of the time. Here is how to perform a tabata:
Perform one cardiovascular exercise as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat for 8 rounds, totalling 4 minutes of work.
While it is true that only 4 minutes of work can lead to some big changes in fitness, it is imperative that you go ALL OUT during the 20 second work periods. Anything short of 100% effort won’t get you the results that made the tabata famous.
The classic way to perform a tabata is on an exercise bike set to a high resistance. Sled pushes, squat thrusts, or an airdyne bike can be just as effective and brutal.
Lasting only 4 minutes, tabatas can be done as a finisher after your strength work, to condition on off days, or when you are short on time but highly motivated. Because the tabata must be performed with 100% intensity, it is not recommended for beginners or untrained individuals.