Makes ‘Even A Fit Person Exhausted’

What — or who — is Tabata? What is a Tabata exercise? How do we perform a Tabata workout? And how can Tabata help improve our overall health, fitness, and wellbeing?

First, the basics.

Tabata (pronounced tuh-BAH-dah) is a high-intensity interval training regimen (HIIT) named after Dr. Izumi Tabata. He is now dean of the Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Sport and Health Science in Kyoto, Japan. Formerly, he worked with Japan’s National Institute for Health and Nutrition as well as the Japanese national speedskating team.

The Tabata workout consists of a repeating pattern of 20 seconds of high-intensity exercises followed by 10 seconds of rest. The original Tabata study that led to the workouts we know today, titled “Metabolic profile of high-intensity intermittent exercises,” focused on that pattern repeated continuously for four minutes (eight cycles total). The study was performed using a mechanically braked cycle ergometer.

Tabata Then

Tabata credits Japanese speedskating coach Irisawa Koichi for inspiring the study and pioneering the technique.

“During my time working with the Japanese speedskating team,” Tabata says, “the head coach, Mr. Irisawa Koichi, had me analyze the effectiveness of his training regime that involved a rotation of short bursts of maximum effort followed by short periods of rest. Although Coach Irisawa pioneered the idea, somehow it became named after me. … Excluding warming up and cooling down, the exercise can be completed in only four minutes if repeated eight times, more than enough to make even a fit person exhausted.”

Tabata Now

As puts it, “Each exercise in a given Tabata workout lasts only four minutes, but it’s likely to be one of the longest four minutes you’ve ever endured. … You can do pretty much any exercise you wish. You can do squats, push-ups, burpees or any other exercise that works your large muscle groups. Kettlebell exercises work great, too.”

Thus, one can design and implement a personalized regimen of Tabata exercises. Keep in mind, however, that — just as Dr. Tabata says — this workout is enough to make “even a fit person exhausted.” So be sure to speak with your doctor to make sure you’re ready for this type of training.

Getting (And Staying) In Shape

Think about New Year’s resolutions. Many people approach January 1 with the goal of losing weight, getting shape, and staying fit and trim.

One can find all kinds of information about losing weight online right now. But does it all work?

Some folks swear by HIIT training in general and Tabata specifically. But at WeightWise, we tend to take a different approach.

Generally, WeightWise discourages high-intensity interval training.

Why? Because high-intensity training results in the burning of glycogen to fuel the workout. However, if you had bariatric surgery you should not consume anything that contains glycogen. This means you will start craving those items because your body needs them to “refuel” after using said glycogen for the high-intensity workout.

As referenced above, Tabata training and other forms of HIIT may work for those who are already fit or are close to being fit, but it’s not necessarily safe or effective for people who are just starting out.

Performing Tabata At Home

Tabata workouts at home may help those who are fit enough to perform the routines improve their cardiovascular performance and their strength.

The studies involving Tabata exercises showed that people who just did cardio at lower intensities showed improvement with their cardiovascular system. These participants showed fewer gains in their muscular system, however.

People who did these exercises showed improvements in both cardiovascular and muscular systems.

An example of a Tabata workout at home would include exercises based around the basic Tabata regimen: 20 seconds of hard work followed by 10 seconds of recovery totaling eight rounds (and thus four minutes) per exercise.

An example of a home Tabata exercise routine might include:

  1. Squats
  2. High-knees
  3. Climbing stairs
  4. Rowing

That’s just to name a few exercises. There’s lots of room for variety. For example, during the 20 seconds of hard work, one might push through a run or a brisk walk. Start at whatever point or exercise you feel most comfortable with. Just remember to speak with your doctor or exercise physiologist before beginning any training regimen!

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