It’s called the Tabata Sprint, named after a Japanese Researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata.
- It takes a fraction of the time of the usual gym workout.
- It works your body aerobically and anaerobically, meaning it increases both your endurance and strength.
- It raises testosterone to help build muscle.
- It requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.
- Some claim it’s one of the best fat burning exercise around.
Better yet, for something that sounds too good to be true, there is very compelling science behind it.
In a ground breaking 1996 study done by Dr. Tabata and his colleagues, what we now call "Tabata" sprints (high intensity interval training done in bursts of 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest) lead to a significant increase in both aerobic and anaerobic capacity. This six week study was inspired by the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating team who had great success with interval training.
A more recent study at the University of Wisconsin confirmed the potential of Tabata training. In this study the Tabata routines elevated Aerobic and Anaerobic markers to those consistent with exercises that have proven effective at building endurance and strength. The exciting part was that the Tabata training achieved this double positive effect in only 20 minutes of training – a very efficient way to exercise.
In short, you get the best of both worlds, aerobic exercise and strength training, in one relatively brief training routine.
How To Incorporate Tabata Training into Your Routine
First, always check with a physician to make sure you are ready for an intense interval training routine. To make Tabata sprints work you have to train very hard over short periods of time. Because of this intensity, many personal trainers recommend easing into it. Start with fewer rounds or fewer reps for the first weeks and work up to 8 rounds of a single exercise like sprinting. Even though they’re called Tabata “sprints,” other non-running exercises can be substituted. But running is an excellent way to start. You can do this in a park or at your local high school track. The idea is to exercise at near full capacity for that 20 seconds. Then rest completely for ten seconds. As you get stronger you can eventually work up to four different rounds of 8 Tabata reps using different exercises while resting one minute in between each full round. This takes a total of 20 minutes. There are many Tabata apps available that make it easy for you to incorporate this type of exercise into your day.
Sample Tabata Sprint Routine
5 Minute warm up (jumping jacks or a mild jog etc.)
Sprint hard for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
Rest for one minute
Push ups, as many as you can do in 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
Rest for one minute
Burpees, as many as you can do in 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
Rest for one minute
Lunges, as many as you can do in 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
Do this routine 3 times a week with at least one rest day in between each session. Again, start small and work your way up to this. When done right Tabata Sprints are very taxing, which is why they work so well!
Over time, you might want to change up the exercises for each sequence of 8. Try substituting new exercises like jumping rope, riding a bike or Russian Twists. Switching things up can keep it more interesting and make sure you don’t over train specific muscle groups. Body weight exercises are usually good choices.
Some critique the enthusiasm over Tabata sprints as being misleading because many who try Tabata sprints don’t train as hard as is necessary to reap the full benefits. While this may be a legitimate concern for some, the science has shown that Tabata Sprints have very real benefits that few exercise protocols can achieve as efficiently. If you had to choose only one simple, inexpensive, brief workout that builds endurance, strength and muscle Tabata Sprints would be an excellent choice.