How it Works
Tabata has been around since the ‘90s, but in case you’re not familiar, here’s your primer: Tabata workouts include 20 seconds of high-intensity cardio exercises (like burpees, lunges, or jumping jacks) with 10 seconds of rest between each move. That’s one rep, and typical Tabatas consist of eight intervals for a total of four minutes.
For the study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, recruited 16 fit students to try a 20-minute Tabata-style workout—they did a 5-minute warm-up and four rounds of Tabata. Participants’ heart rate and VO2 max (breathing capacity) levels after the workout met the industry standards for improving cardio fitness and changing body composition, and the average calorie burn (15 cals per minute) met the guidelines for improving health and losing weight. Translation: Tabata is a quick, effective way to work out.
Who It's For
Here’s the catch: Tabata-style workouts aren’t for newbies. “It’s an advanced workout that people shouldn’t do if they’re not physically ready,” says Mike Wunsch, a National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified personal trainer in California, who was not part of the study. “You need to master good form and increase your strength before you attempt a Tabata.”
But on the flip side: “If you’re in good shape and you’re limited on time, you can definitely maintain your fitness,” says John Porcari, Ph.D., head of the Clinical Exercise Physiology Program at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, in a statement from the ACE. “It’s just another trick in the arsenal of helping people get and stay in shape.”
How to Do It
So are you ready to tackle Tabata workout? The good news is that you can do it with almost any exercise. “The original Tabata study was done on a bicycle, “ says Porcari, “but people are now doing that 20-second/10-second format with resistance training, plyometrics, calisthenics…with almost anything.”
First, remember that the key is to go as fast as your body with allow. Take squats, for example: Do as many as you can for 20 seconds, and then take a 10-second rest. Do another set of intense squatting for 20 seconds followed by a 10-second break. That’s two intervals in one minute. Try a different move for the other intervals to make it harder.