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Tabata Training For Beginners

What is Tabata?
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Tabata training is a form of high intensity interval training based around a 4 minute block comprised of 8 rounds (20 seconds all out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest per round).
In 1996, Dr. Izumi Tabata conducted a study and published a paper concluding that short, intense bursts of exercise – known as HIIT or high intensity interval training is far more effective for both aerobic and anerobic conditioning than the typical steady state cardio.

The aforementioned cardio comparison lasted 6 weeks.

One group trained at a moderate intensity for 1 hour, 5 times per week.

The other group followed what is now deemed the Tabata protocol and completed a 4 minute Tabata (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest for 8 rounds) 4 times per week.

Tabata Training For Fat Loss

When performing a cutting phase, whether it’s for a photoshoot or just in preparation for the summer months I always incorporate Tabata training.
It’s simple, effective and time saving – what’s not to love?

When it comes to Tabata training and fat loss this is where things get a bit shady…

Fitness magazines, personal trainers and workout programs are preaching and advertising Tabata as a 4 minute fat burner.

“Do this one crazy 4 minute fat burning workout and watch the fat just melt off!”

If your diet is terrible and you’re only doing 4 minutes of exercise a few times a week, or even every day for that matter you’re going to get nowhere.

Tabata training is an intense calorie burning workout, however fat loss comes down entirely to the number of calories you’re consuming vs. the number of calories your body is burning.

If your body is not in a caloric deficit, or if you’re not burning enough calories to place your body into a caloric deficit via your Tabata training then don’t be surprised when the number you’re seeing on the scales never moves.

When coupled with a well calculated diet, Tabata training is a godsend – there’s literally no reason  to chain yourself to the treadmill for hours when you can get that same workout in one or more efficient, intense 4 minute blocks.

Choosing The Right Exercise For Your Tabata Workout

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Tabata training is a protocol, it isn’t tied to a particular exercise or series of exercises… however when it comes to selecting or building a Tabata workout this is where most people go wrong.
The exercise you select for your Tabata workout needs to meet the following criteria:

Be a compound movement that requires effort

Small movements like bicep curls or leg extensions are an isolation exercise which won’t burn as many calories or get your heart rate up like a compound exercise.
Exercises such as burpees, mountain climbers, jump rope and thrusters are all examples of exercises that work multiple muscle groups, can be performed at a relatively fast speed and elevate the heart rate while doing so.

Able to be performed intensely without compromising form

Snatches, deadlift, the bench press or any other Olympic based lift should not be used for Tabata training.
Keeping strict form while trying to give all out effort for a number of intervals with minimal rest is a recipe for an injury.

I recommend selecting a bodyweight or cardio based exercise for your Tabata workout, if opting for a barbell exercise such as the thruster the weight being used must be heavy enough to require exertion, however not in the upper range of your lifting limits as form must not be compromised during the relatively high volume you’re going to perform during your Tabata workout.

Tabata Training Workouts

Give the following Tabata workouts a go, courtesy of FitMik.com 

Sample Tabata Workout 1

Rowing machine

  • 8 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Total circuit time: 4 minutes

Sample Tabata Workout 2

Squat jumps

  • 2 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Burpees

  • 2 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Medicine ball slams

  • 2 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Kettlebell swings

  • 2 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Total circuit time: 4 minutes

Sample Tabata Workout 3

Kettlebell push press (right arm)

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Kettlebell push press (left arm)

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Box jumps

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Battle ropes

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Mountain climbers

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Plyometric pushups

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Tuck jumps

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Lateral box jumps

  • 1 x 20 seconds of max intensity, 10 seconds rest

Tabata Training Tips

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The following tips are based on my experience in performing and teaching others the Tabata training protocol for cardio.

Use a timer

When it comes to performing a Tabata workout there’s no room for guesswork.
When you’re performing your usual heavy compound exercises for building strength and muscle mass it’s common to estimate your rest periods between set – however the entire principle of Tabata is based around the strict 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, be precise and use a timer to ensure you’re hitting your rounds correctly.

Use music

Don’t have a timer or prefer listening to music while you’re training? No problems, there’s specific Tabata songs out there that time your work and rest intervals for you.
You can check them out on iTunes or YouTube as per below.

Perform upper body – lower body

During my last cutting phase I performed 4 blocks of Tabata (16 minutes) of cardio a couple of times per week, I found alternating between an upper body movement and a lower body movement for each 4 minute Tabata (1 upper body for 4 minutes, 1 lower body for 4 minutes before repeating) allowed me to give maximum effort, in turn burning more calories.

If you’re struggling master the 30:30 intervals first

Tabata training is tough, if you’re completely new to fitness or find yourself struggling hard in the cardio department I recommend starting off with a slightly more basic interval structure.
Choose an exercise, whether it be jump rope, squats, the x-trainer… whatever takes your preference and perform 10 rounds alternating 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow.

Perform the above HIIT workout until you’re able to endure 10 rounds giving it your all for 30 seconds out of every minute before you progress to the Tabata protocol.

What’s your take on Tabata training? Let me know in the comments below!

Scott J.
Scott J.https://ignorelimits.com
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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