Origin of Tabata
Tabata is actually the last name of the professor who did the research that really sparked the Tabata movement. Professor Izumi Tabata was a Japanese scientist who was commissioned to get Japanese Olympic speed skaters in optimal performance and the best shape of their lives.
He studied all forms of training to figure out what was the best. So what Professor Tabata did was, he looked at HIIT, interval, and forms of HIIT training to develop the Tabata system.
He studied both HIIT training and steady state aerobic training (anything where you basically sustain your heart rate at a steady, consistent, 50%, 60% of maximum heart rate). Intervals was where he took elite athletes to near capacity, and then all the way to the maximum of their capacity. He found there was a zero percent increase in overall fitness when he trained these elite athletes using steady state aerobic conditioning. What he did find was that there was incredible increase in their overall fitness, both aerobically and anaerobically (without oxygen) with intervals.
Going for Max
What he found was that the athletes who trained at high intervals (like, almost puking from effort) got far better results. Then, he started playing with which interval gave them the best results. He began playing with numbers. First, he trained them three minutes on and one minute off. Then one minute hard and 3 minutes off. He kept playing with these intervals until he discovered that the absolute best results came from performing at 20 seconds of max. Did you hear me? Max intensity! Most people don’t know what max feels like.
People think they go hard for for 20 seconds, but they do not know hard! Max feels like death. There is a difference between that and just going hard for 20 seconds.
He would prod his athletes up to all kinds of equipment to measure their heart rate and oxygen consumption. Pretty much everything to determine that they were at that maximum heart rate as quickly as possible. Because think about it. If you’ve got 20 seconds, and you are doing something that takes a minute to get into it, you’ve already blown 10 seconds of it. 20 seconds goes by fast. So, there aren’t very many exercises that actually get you into your maximum anaerobic threshold immediately. By the time you get there, the time’s up!
The Math Solution
However, by taking athletes through 20-second intervals, 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off and then repeating that sequence 8 times (a total of 4 minutes.), the magic equation was born. Basically, 20 seconds on until gasping, then 10 seconds of quick rest (8 times) allowed the athletes to improve by 13%. That overall fitness includes: strength, flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic capacity. Keep in mind the zero percent increase after doing the same study with an hour of steady state aerobic conditioning, running, cycling, etc.
He also found that their anaerobic fitness increased by 28%. Now, this study was commissioned in 1996. Professor Izumi Tabata is still alive and kicking today doing his research. And these studies still hold up! Plenty have tried to debunk them, but the studies still show up. Furthermore, there was an increase in the post exercise oxygen consumption levels of all the athletes. What does that mean? They improved even after their workout. They burned calories at a higher rate for up to 12 hours after a Tabata session.
What do you Do?
Number one, you need to know what it means to be at your max capacity. Doing something for 20 seconds does not equal Tabata training. Doing jumping jacks for 20 seconds is not Tabata. Can you do jumping jacks for a minute? If the answer is yes, then that’s not a Tabata.
Your intensity must be so high, you could not do it for more than 20 seconds. Are we clear? Now, the other really interesting data found is that people actually burn additional calories for up to 12 hours! This holds true for not just Tabata workouts, but actually HIIT workout too. So, this is where HIIT training comes into play too. (The differences will be explained in a second). But, bar none, Tabata training reigns superior. Thje problem is, most people just don’t know how to get there. Most people are doing an interval of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off without reaching maximum heart rate. So it can’t be considered a Tabata. It’s simply considered an interval.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Okay, so we know that Tabata is superior, so why wouldn’t we do Tabata every single day? Well, some people can and if they are, they are probably not doing it correctly and not getting the kind of results they’d like. If you are doing a Tabata all out and putting your body and all of your systems under maximum stress, it’s impossible to do that daily and repair enough to get results.
Exercise is a stress, but it’s a healthy stress with proper rest. So in order to tax the body as much as you truly need to to get a legitimate Tabata workout, that means you need adequate rest for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.
To get optimal results, you should not be doing Tabata more than two, maybe three times a week as long as you have adequate rest in between. Could somebody do a Tabata every other day? Possibly. Now if you just beat yourself up seven days a week, you are going to keep beating yourself up, and may wonder, “how can I go any harder?” And the truth is, what you really need is more rest. You need more restorative workouts.
PiYo is a fantastic example of steady state conditioning. We don’t work in intervals in PiYo except in a couple of the workouts, but the majority of the workouts are considered steady state body weight training. Now, the workouts that Professor Izumi Tabata studied in 1996 were just on a stationary bike so he could hook them up to machines. But, he’s done countless studies using body weight training and equipment, and the results continued to speak for themselves. The methodology has really caught on!
HIIT & Tabata Difference
The difference between Tabata and HIIT training is this: Tabata is a form of very specific intervals of max intensity with short rest. A HIIT workout isn’t at complete max, and the time periods are flexible. For example, you could do one minute of push-ups, and then one minute of air Jacks, and then recover for 2 minutes. Not all HIIT workouts are built the same. Some HIIT workouts are more effective than others. The bottom line is, what is your goal? I hope it’s longevity, to feel happier, nicer, kinder and to live longer.
I hope your goal is not to look better than everybody else. Or that you don’t think that losing body fat will somehow make you a better person. Maybe you’ll be a happier person, but it won’t be because of your body. It will be because you are taking care of yourself and showing the world you matter. Amazing things happen when you find a workout you love! But losing weight doesn’t make you happy.
Meet somebody struggling with an eating disorder and they will tell you, losing weight does not make you happy. It does not make you better or more likable, or more fun to be around. Taking care of yourself is what makes you happier, which makes you a better person, which makes you a better mom, which makes you a better everything. But if you do it so that you can be better looking than somebody else, or so people see you as worthy because finally you can see your abs, you’ll feel empty. Do you know how low the average woman has to get her body fat in order to see her abs? So low that she risks losing the ability to menstruate.
Tabata = interval training developed by professor Izumi Tabata in Japan, commissioned in 1996 to get Elite Olympic speed skaters in the most optimal level of fitness possible. He increased their overall fitness rate by just doing four minutes a day of highest maximum capacity training intervals. 20 seconds at max capacity, 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. That totals four minutes.
They increased their overall fitness by 13%. The study has been repeated countless times (check YouTube!). He is still in the lab studying. It also increases your anaerobic threshold which increases your aerobic threshold by 28%. That’s crazy! And here is what I love about Tabata training…if you are just getting back into fitness or you are short on time (which who isn’t) anyone can fit in 4 minutes. The question is, will you go hard enough in those 20 seconds for it to legitimately be considered a Tabata? That’s the question.
The next takeaway is that you should always be changing it up. You can’t do Tabata every day. Your body needs rest. Rest repairs the body. It’s when we make progress. We don’t make progress while beating ourselves up. We only make progress during our rest phases. Sometimes you can rest and still exercise. A slow bike ride on a Recumbent bike while checking your social media channels counts!
Doing very low intensity PiYo or yoga, or just doing any workout at a very low intensity just so that you clear your brain, counts towards restoration. Take a day off! Walk with a friend. You know, sometimes life just serves you up a day off when you don’t expect it. Don’t be mad about it. Say, oh cool, this is God’s way of saying, “Make some progress today because when you take a day off, you will make progress.” Just say, “Thank you God for ruining my plans to exercise today. You must know that I need rest.” He always knows what’s best for you. Thanks for being here, thanks for putting up with me. I love you guys. God bless!