Tabata – What Does It Involve and What Effects Does It Have?

Can you really lose weight quickly with just four minutes of exercise? This is exactly what tabata trainers promise. This form of high-intensity interval training can be encountered in any fitness club. Is tabata really a miracle way to lose excess weight?

Tabata – a bit of history

What we know as tabata is due to a Japanese scientist who was looking for a method to increase the maximal oxygen uptake in professional athletes. Dr Izumi Tabata – then an employee of the National Institute for Health and Nutrition in Tokyo and a member of the coaching staff of Japanese speed skaters – developed, in 1996, the research findings that underpinned the training formally known since 2013 as the “Tabata Protocol”. Tabata, like its creator, has become hugely popular around the world. Today, you will find this type of class in every fitness club, although it differs significantly from its prototype.

Tabata – what is it about?

Technically speaking, tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Short, maximally intense training units are designed to improve the athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic capacity. The original Tabata Protocol is based on significantly shortened training units, performed at extreme intensity – at 170% of the maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max). It lasts for six weeks and the plan is as follows:

  • 4 interval workouts consisting of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest with an intensity of 170% VO2max – you repeat the training block 7-8 times;
  • 1 workout – 30 minutes at 70% VO2max, followed by 4 blocks of 20/10 s intervals at 170% intensity.

Sounds frightening? Don’t forget that the original Tabata Protocol was developed with professional athletes in mind. For this reason, the fitness version of tabata does not involve as extreme an effort, but instead the training session lasts longer – consisting, for example, of several four-minute rounds plus a warm-up and stretching. There is a good reason for this – longer running time allows more calories to be burned, and the intensity, lowered to around 115% VO2max, makes the workout accessible and feasible for more people.