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What Is Tabata, Plus Beginner's Workout

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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One of the most effective HIIT workout sessions is called “Tabata,” and it’s a great one to incorporate into your routine. In this article, you’ll learn about Tabata and how to perform a super effective and fast workout at home.

Before we get into what Tabata is, and how to do it, let’s define HIIT training. HIIT is an acronym for high intensity interval training, one of the most effective and well-known styles of training that’s become popular in recent years. But why is it so effective? If your goal is to lose body fat, than HIIT is your answer. Our bodies continue to burn calories after the workout is over, which we call the afterburn effect. It’s kind of like your car cooling down after a long drive––it continues to emit heat for some time after the drive ends.

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This afterburn effect is known as excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or oxygen debt. EPOC describes the process that uses the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function (called homeostasis). In other words, your body requires more energy (i.e. calories) to repair itself after your intense workout.

A study performed by Jeffrey W. King of East Tennessee State University showed that HIIT increases the resting metabolic rate for the  24 hours following a workout. Another study, conducted by researchers at Laval University in Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada, found that a group who followed a HIIT program for 15 weeks lost significantly more body fat than a group performing steady state cardio. Wondering why you’re not seeing the results you want, even when you’re spending an hour on the treadmill a few times per week? This research shows why.

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Another benefit of HIIT training is that it can be modified for any fitness level, and at any level, interval workouts will improve your aerobic fitness and anaerobic capacity. Additional health benefits include improved blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity for better use of energy, cholesterol profiles and maintenance of muscle mass. That last benefit is important; you want to preserve hard-earned muscles – muscles are fat-burning machines. Muscle catabolism, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue, can sometimes last up to 7 days after the endurance activity takes place, but that’s not the case with HIIT. The proof is in the pudding there – compare the physique of a marathon runner to a sprinter and you’ll see a distinct difference in their muscle structure.

So, what is Tabata?

The Tabata protocol was created by Japanese professor Dr. Izumi Tabata, who researched how to efficiently train their Olympic speed skating team. Here’s the very scientific background: in 1996, Tabata and his colleagues conducted a study that compared moderate-intensity continuous training at 70% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) for 60 minutes, with HIIT conducted at 170% of VO2max. HIIT consisted of eight, 20-second all-out exercise bouts followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 4 minutes of exercise. The study found that HIIT improved aerobic capacity to a similar degree as moderate-intensity continuous training, but also resulted in a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity. In laymen’s terms: Basically, this exercise strategy both strengthens your muscles and improves your cardiovascular system.

If you’re doing the Tabata intervals correctly with maximal intensity, those 4 minutes will seem like the longest 4 minutes of your life. The best part is that you’ll be burning fat long after the four-minute of Tabata session is over.

Tabata workout for beginners

Now that you understand how Tabata works, you know it’s going to be a challenge, but it will be well worth it. Go all-out! It’s only 20 seconds.

Here’s a quick Tabata workout you can do in the comfort of your own home and easily skip the gym.

The Tabata

Exercise 1(repeat 8 times)

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Rest for 1 minute
Exercise 2(repeat 8 times)

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Mountain Climbers
Success! You burned 336 calories.

This home Tabata workout requires no equipment and has only 2 exercises. You’ll perform 20 seconds of the first exercise with 10 second rests in between for 8 rounds. Then, after a 60 second break, you’ll do 8 20-second rounds of the second exercise with the same 10-second breaks. It’s normal to start to fatigue around the 4th round, or to run out of steam towards the end. It’s more important to execute the exercises with quality form, not quantity and speed. Again, that’s quality over quantity. It’s ok if you slow down in the last few rounds, but do not stop. It’s only 20 seconds, and you can do anything for 20 seconds.

  • The first exercise is squats. Squats utilize the largest muscle groups and help to build shapely glutes.

  • The second and final exercise is mountain climbers. You’ll be performing these quickly to get your heart rate up while sculpting your abs and shoulders, too.

Throughout the entire workout, don’t forget to engage your core by pulling your belly button into your spine. This will help protect your lower back and strengthen your abdominal muscles. When performing both exercise, also be mindful of keeping your neck in line with your spine with shoulders back and down.

How to perform squats

To perform squats, follow these steps:

  1. Feet are separated between hip-width and shoulder-width apart, with toes facing forward or slightly turned out.

  2. Feet are anchored to the ground with weight in your heels.

  3. Keep a proud chest and as you descend by hinging at the hips. Sit back and down while angling your knees slightly outward so that your knees are aligned with your ankles and do not collapse inwards.

  4. escend as low as possible while maintaining proper form.

  5. Drive weight into your heels as you stand up, squeezing your glutes at the top.

  6. Keep repeating for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat for 8 rounds.

How to perform mountain climbers

To perform mountain climbers, follow these steps:

  1. Begin on all fours with your hands on the ground directly under your shoulders.

  2. Come into a plank position by extending your legs behind you with toes curled under and hips lifted. Tense every muscle to keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels.

  3. Keep your left foot straight behind as you pull your right knee in towards your chest.

  4. Repeat on the other side by immediately placing your right foot back down behind you and pull your left knee in towards your chest. Think: It’s like performing high knees with your hands down.

  5. Keep alternating legs and repeat quickly in succession for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat for 8 rounds.

Want more? Try these full-body Tabata exercises.

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