What is Tabata?
Tabata is a clinically proven way to get fit in just four minutes. The Tabata™ Protocol consists of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. It’s scientifically proven to be a highly effective way to increase both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
The protocol is now being adapted into a group exercise format, and is ideal for small group training.
Where did the idea come from?
The system was developed by a Japanese scientist, professor Tabata, while he was working as an advisor for the Japanese Olympic speed skating team in the early 1990s. The head coach had developed a training technique that involved the athletes exercising in short bursts of high intensity; professor Tabata was asked to analyse the effectiveness of this training regime. He compared various HIT (high-intensity interval training) systems and found this technique to be the best at improving fitness levels.
What is the science behind it?
Research suggests that just one four-minute Tabata workout gets you fitter than an hour’s moderate workout on an exercise bike.
Professor Tabata’s original research involved two different trials. The first was conducted among moderately fit young students majoring in physical education and playing university sport. One group cycled at a moderate speed for an hour: 70 RPM and at 70 per cent of their VO2 max. Another group took part in the so-called Tabata Protocol: 20 seconds of high intensity exercise, then 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times and lasting a total of four minutes. This group cycled at 170 per cent of their VO2 max. Both groups carried out their routines five times a week.
What were the results?
By the end of the six-week trial, fitness levels in the four-minute group had improved more markedly than in the hour-long group. Both groups saw an improvement in aerobic fitness: VO2 max in the four-minute group improved by 7ml.kg-1 min-1, compared to 5ml.kg-1 min-1 in the hour-long group. However, while the hour-long group saw no improvement in anaerobic fitness levels, this went up by 28 per cent in the four-minute group.
Professor Tabata then conducted a second experiment comparing the Tabata Protocol with another form of HIT that involved 30 seconds of even higher intensity – 200 per cent of VO2 max – with two minutes’ rest in between. Again, the Tabata Protocol improved both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, whereas the other HIT system saw no significant improvement in either measure: subjects only reached 67 per cent of their anaerobic capacity.
What is the main appeal?
Tabata is fast, effective and credible, hence our key message: ‘Four-minute fitness, scientifically proven.’ In a time-pressured society, that’s a great hook to get people interested.