Exercise

Tabata or not Tabata? Take care with this intense fitness trend

 

Tabata basics

Remember the basic Tabata rules: 20 seconds at intensity as hard as you can imagine, then 10 seconds resting. Repeat eight times.

Allow time for a warm-up and cool-down.

Here are sample workouts:

Cycling: Use a resistance gear that’s tough, but in which your leg speed will be in control. Pedal as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then go to an easier gear for 10. Repeat eight times.

Elliptical trainer: Crank up the level of intensity so it’s really hard for 20 seconds; back off for 10. Running: Run as hard as you can for 20 seconds, walk for 10, go as hard as you can for 20.

You can get a phone app for a Tabata timer. This is helpful, as it keeps you from counting one-Mississippi while trying to execute the exercises.


The Dallas Morning News

Before we talk about what Tabata is, perhaps it’s prudent to tell what the popular, four-minutes-to-fitness workout regimen is not.

It is 20 seconds — not 30 or 45 or 60 — of all-out exercise, followed by 10 seconds — not 30 or 45 — of rest. It is not strength-training based: no push-ups, squats, biceps curls. Only cardiovascular work, please.

“It got to be trendy because it got some really interesting results,’’ says Lucy Waite, group exercise fitness coordinator at Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas. “People started putting it into classes: ‘We’re going to do a set of Tabata — 30 seconds on and 30 off.’

“That’s not Tabata. Call it high-intensity interval training, but to use the term Tabata is not an accurate representation of what’s going on.’’

True Tabata, named for Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata, is a specific form of workout. His research in 1996 concluded that specific increments of time — 20 seconds on, 10 off for four minutes — significantly increased aerobic and anaerobic energy systems in participants. The trick is going all-out during those 20 seconds.

“It’s not for someone just starting out, but you can do these at any level,’’ says Paul McDonough, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas at Arlington. “You get really good results in a very short period of time. That’s the real selling point.’’

A lot of athletes like its time-minimizing, results-maximizing effects, says McDonough, who trains in sports jujitsu and is himself a Tabata devotee. “But it’s pretty tough, and that’s why people don’t do it.’’

Tabata works by allowing you to exercise at a higher workload or intensity than you normally would, he says. “You increase aerobic capacity and the ability to withstand lactic acid, which is what builds up in the muscles. That’s what makes people stop. It hurts.’’

Twenty seconds means all-out, Waite stresses. “It’s not like 20 seconds of hard and then 10 of moderate. It’s 20 max, 10 rest, 20 max.’’

Actress and exercise buff Kyra Sedgwick is quoted in Shape magazine as calling it “the hardest exercise you’ll ever do in your life.’’

Jonathan Pylant includes Tabata moves when he teaches Camp Gladiator boot camps.

“It amps up that heart rate,’’ says the camp’s director for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “The break allows it to come down a little.

Ramp up, ramp down. Instead of holding a nice steady heart rate if you’re running six to eight miles, this varies it.’’

Adding Tabata every day would be too much, says McDonough. But a couple of times week, as he does, helps to improve an athlete’s ability to release energy. That can be the difference between winning and losing in a race, when you want to “bump up intensity as quickly as you can,’’ McDonough says.

Dallas personal trainer Norbert Motte agrees that a Tabata workout would be appropriate for a lot of people. But he doesn’t make it part of his clients’ training.

“One thing a trainer needs to do is weigh risks and benefits,“ says Motte, who is 52 and training for his 12th Ironman competition. “I’d suggest most people are waiting for an injury to happen if they do threshold training.“

He first heard about Tabata training several years ago but was skeptical.

”I’m kind of a science nerd,“ Motte says. ”As soon as I hear about something, I want clinical trials. I could be easily corrected, but I didn’t see anything in terms of peer review. It’s a number of college physiologists using college students, primarily males. So 18- to 22-year-olds can do this. That’s fine and dandy, but am I throwing my 40-year-old female who sits at a desk all day under the bus?

“I do question specific things, like the four minutes,” he says. “It’s kind of like that six-minutes-to-great-abs thing. Good luck there!”

For the most part, Tabata should be used as part of a well-rounded regimen that includes cardiovascular, strength and flexibility workouts. “Four minutes twice a week is better than zero minutes zero times a week,” Waite says.

Read more Health stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category