A quick workout that’s also effective sounds too good to be true, but Tabata enthusiasts know their favorite way to get fit ticks both boxes.
A form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a Tabata round consists of eight intervals of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, totaling four minutes in length. It’s a short workout with a lot of work and good results.
“The idea behind HIIT is that you give your all out effort in quick bursts,” explains Meggan Morr, a Tabata instructor at ProMedica Wildwood Athletic Club. “This type of training increases both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. It also increases heart rate and keeps it up, burning more fat in less time.”
And the benefits don’t stop there. This type of exercise creates an “after burn effect” and helps to raise a person’s resting metabolic rate. In other words, once your workout is complete, your body continues to burn calories during recovery for up to 24 hours post workout, says Morr.
A typical Tabata class lasts between 20-40 minutes. “It is a quick workout, so many individuals are able to fit it into their schedules.”
A quick workout with great results? There’s no “catch” but there is a caveat. It doesn’t come without hard work.
“A Tabata class or workout is an advanced form of training,” Morr explains. “Before coming to a class, participants should know that it will be intense and difficult.” It’s recommended to check in with your primary care doctor before starting any workout program, but this may be especially true for those curious about high intensity workouts like Tabata.
However, that’s not to say that beginners aren’t welcome. Morr says, “Someone newer to exercise could still take a Tabata class, but would want to modify the exercises and/or exertion level based on their ability. These modifications are completely acceptable and participants can increase their exertion level and use fewer modifications as their fitness level increases.”
Whether you’re a novice or not, it’s best to start with the guidance of a professional. Tabata circuits found online may expose you to a greater risk of injury. “You want to make sure you are performing all exercises properly and getting in a complete warm up before beginning the Tabata workout,” advises Morr. “You can also minimize risk by working your way up to the intensity and duration depending on your current fitness level.
If “intense” is one word to describe Tabata, “variety” could be a close second, as every Tabata class or workout is different. Morr explains that multiple pieces of equipment — hand weights, BOSU balls, benches, ropes and kettle bells — can be utilized or, sometimes, no equipment at all. “The exercises vary from traditional body weight exercises such as push-ups to exercises using weights and multiple muscles groups such as a walking lunge with a dumbbell press,” says Morr.
This kind of variety leads to another benefit of Tabata: It keeps your mind engaged and your body constantly trying to adapt to new workouts (learn why variety means a more effective workout).
In summary, the workout is tough but the benefits are great, says Morr. “The ability to change your workout and do new exercises along with the small amount of time needed to do a Tabata workout makes this type of training a great option. It also can be done by people of all fitness levels with modifications and proper guidance.”