Monday, May 13, 2013

Tabata 101

The Tabata drills we've been adding into classes and private sessions lately elicit a lot of "OMGs" and "holy cows!" (or words to that effect). So while we're adding them to our sessions, clients are still wondering things like if I'm saying ciabatta, or if Tabata is pronounced like Tabitha without the "th". So I said I'd write up a little Tabata 101 low down to give everyone some background. Here we go!

OK, wait a minute, I better back up even further and talk about cardiovascular fitness, interval training and steady state training.

Cardio programs--walking, long distance running, biking, swimming etc-- are designed to improve cardiovascular endurance and if combined with a proper diet can help you lose weight. These methods are called steady state exercise or moderate intensity training because they can be sustained at the same pace for 30 minutes or more. Think aerobics classes and the dreaded treadmill. You burn calories during these activities, but there is little "after burn", i.e. increased caloric burn after the activity is finished.

Interval training requires you to move at a more challenging pace for brief periods, generally from 30 seconds to 3 minutes of time, and then reducing your pace back to a sustainable level. Imagine jogging, then running a flight of stairs at Mt Tabor, then walking, then repeating that again. You generally burn more calories in the same amount of time as a steady state activity, and there is an increase in the "after burn".

Got all that? Good. Let's move on.

True Tabata training is a method of interval training developed by Japanese researcher, Izumi Tabata (pronounced tab-BAH-tah) at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan.  Tabata conducted a study to compare moderate intensity training with high intensity training. A lot of folks are talking about Tabata training these days, but in all honesty they aren't really doing True Tabata Training. The athletes in Izumi's study were divided into 2 groups. One group did 1-hour-long, moderate intensity workouts (70% of VO2max), 5 days a week x 6 weeks. Group TWO did the high intensity workouts, 4 days a week x 6 weeks. But each session was only 4 minutes total broken down into 8 segments of 20 seconds of intense training (170% VO2max) and 10 seconds of rest. Long story short, both groups showed improvement in their cardiovascular systems, but group TWO showed significant improvement with their anaerobic systems. 

So let's back up again. If you noticed, group TWO worked at 170% of their VO2max. Yeah, not a lot of people are capable of this intensity. So when people say they do Tabata training, know that they are probably not doing True Tabata. But the point is, if you are challenging yourself beyond your regular workouts, you will reap some nice returns. But the key is that the interval has to be challenging enough to make you feel that 20 seconds is all you can do of that activity. You're aiming to get your heart rate up and feel that lactic acid burn in your muscles. (No, lactic acid is not what makes you sore. It's just that your muscles have run out of oxygen at the moment to perform the activity and the waste product is lactic acid. But that's a whole other topic…) Anyhoo, what is challenging to you might be easy to me, and vice versa, depending on our current fitness levels. Just remember, we are doing intervals for short by intense periods of time. Hard enough to leave us breathless and with that lactic acid burn in our working muscles that require us to say "uncle!" at the end of the 20 second interval. 

If you're wondering how long the intervals are, let me describe what I do. I'm certified by Tabata Bootcamp and we have 3 methods of "Tabata" Training. 
True Tabata, as described above, though not quite as intense, doing 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 4 minutes/8 cycles total.
Tabata Type follows the 20:10 interval but you can add variety to the moves, so I might have a client jump rope for two intervals then jump rope on one foot, then the other foot for the last interval.
And lastly, Tabata Timing, where basic exercises are done in series of hard, harder, hardest in intervals of 40:20, 30:15, 20:10 respectively. 

Still wondering about this "after burn"? It's also termed Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. You can read more about it here.

So that's a brief lesson on Tabata training. Really, it's just another method of interval training, but since the intervals are so short, you can really push yourself, since you only have to do it for 20 seconds at a time, right?

Is this method safe for anyone? Well, that depends. If you are a long term couch potato and go to a hardcore gym where trainers are like drill sergeants, yell in your face, and expect everyone to do 8 cycles of burpees, absolutely not! But if your trainer can show you ways to incorporate low impact modifications, and not expect you to go full bore, but get you to do more than sitting on the couch, then maybe so. Best to talk to your doctor first. Well, actually I'm supposed to say that, but a lot of doctors don't know crap about exercise programs. They just want you to exercise but don't give specifics, so get clearance to exercise from him/her and then talk to a professional trainer who can help you listen to your body and start off on the right foot.

Hope that all makes sense. If not, feel free to ask questions! That's what I'm here for…

I'll be designing a new Tabata Bootcamp workout plan, that incorporates nutritional help, DIY morning videos to kick start your day and weekly healthy-lifestyle homework, so stay tuned!

1 comment:

tabatafan said...

That was an excellent summary of the benefits of a tabata style workout routine. We also can't underestimate the after burn effect of this style of routine. 4 minutes of work and your body continually burns long after more than most traditional exercises.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...