Brief Review: Tabata Training

I have been approached about my thoughts on Tabata training a few times…and I have good news–it has definitely been proven EFFECTIVE. 

Tabata training–a protocol in which 20 seconds of high-intensity activity are followed by 10 seconds of rest, with that cycle repeating for 4 minutes–could be considered one of the earlier versions of high-intensity interval training. Researchers from Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, recently looked at Tabata training to determine its effectiveness. 

The small study was led by Michele Olson, PhD, FACSM, professor of Exercise Science at the university. It involved 15 individuals (12 women, 3 men) whose caloric expenditure was measured before, during and 30 minutes after a Tabata workout. Results showed that participants burned 13.5 calories per minute. Olson also discovered that at the 30-minute mark, each individual’s metabolic rate was double what it had been before the workout.

This style of interval training clearly has profound effects even on short-term, post-exercise metabolism. It would take 5 times the amount of typical cardio exercise, such as a 20-minute brisk walk, to shed the same number of calories that are burned in a 4-minute Tabata. 

Tips for a safe and successful Tabata workout:

– Be sure you are sufficiently warmed up (this means being near the onset of having a sweat)

– Use exercises or equipment that rely on large muscle groups (i.e. jump squats, airdyne bike)

– Use modifications if you or your client are less fit individuals at this point (i.e. body weight squats, treadmill walking at  brisk pace)

– If you or your client are new to Tabata, start with four or six rounds, working up to the full eight

This research was presented at the 60th annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the fourth annual World Conference on Exercise. An abstract was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 


Tabata on, 



Move to the beat of your own drum


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