Tabata who?

A 24-minute workout routine for maximum results

Fenton performing her Tabata workout.
Photo: 

Tabata is one of those fitness culture words that some of us are throwing around now — but have you ever stopped to wonder where it comes from?

Tabata workouts get their name from Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese physician who specialized in fitness research. He conducted a study to determine the efficiency of interval training versus traditional steady-state exercise, which led to the birth of the Tabata trend.

The original ‘Tabata experiment’ involved two groups, which each took part in a six-week exercise program. One group did one hour of moderate intensity exercise five days a week. The other group did high intensity training. This second group performed workouts that involved going at maximum effort for 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second rest, repeated eight times for a total workout of four minutes.

The first group, the steady state group, showed an increase in aerobic capacity, but not in anaerobic capacity. Meanwhile, the second group, the Tabata group, improved both capacities, while spending ,much less time working out.

Another benefit of Tabata workouts is that they can be done using body-weight moves, so on busy days, you don’t even have to drag your butt to the gym (it also means that you can’t use the excuse of, “all the machines were taken”). They’re also super fun to do outside; just this past week I walked past two girls doing burpees in Vic Park together and thought: they know what’s up. Get outside and bring a buddy for motivation!

You can time your Tabata workout on your phone, or you can download a free Tabata timer that will count you down into your intervals.

Since I believe you can all fit more than just four minutes of exercise into your day, the Tabata workout below is 24 minutes long — still way more efficient that a boring hour on the elliptical, right?

Round #1

20 seconds burpees

10 seconds break

20 seconds jump squats

10 seconds break

*Repeat four times for a total of four minutes

Round #2

20 seconds sprint

10 seconds break

20 seconds pushups

10 seconds break

*Repeat four times for a total of four minutes

Round #3

20 seconds jumping rope (yes, it can be an imaginary rope)

10 seconds break

20 seconds ab bicycle

10 seconds break

*Repeat four times for a total of four minutes

Then go back to round #1 and do it all over again!

Once you have the basic formula down, Tabata workouts are easy to vary for diversity to keep you interested and your muscles guessing what’s next. For inspiration, here are some other good Tabata moves:

Jump lunges (jumping from one leg to another in a lunge position)

Mountain climbers (assume a plank position and rotate your legs up towards your chest)

Tricep dips (can be done off of a bench, fountain, step or statue)

Russian twists (Balancing on your butt with your feet off the ground, moving your arms side to side)

High knees

Butt kicks 

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