If you’re a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, performance is very important to you. In fact, for many of you, that first sentence is an understatement. Time is also very important to you. You simply don’t have the time to devote hours to your strength and conditioning when you also must focus on perfecting your chosen sport or physical endeavor – especially if you must juggle a job and family life as well! Fortunately, the Japanese have a solution for time crunched trainees looking to improve their return on invested training time. That’s right, in addition to giving the world sushi, ninjas, and Dragon Ball Z the Land of the Rising Sun has given us the Tabata Protocol.
The Tabata Protocol is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata who developed it back in the late nineties as a way to improve athletic performance. Dr. Tabata found that he could improve trainees anaerobic work capacity by 28% and their aerobic work capacity (VO2 Max) by 14%. This was done by utilizing intervals of high intensity work for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. The trainee would complete 7-8 intervals in this manner for a total of about 4 minutes training time. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me.
Obviously the potential of this protocol is huge. With just 4 minutes a day 4-5 times a week anyone can significantly improve their work capacity for their chosen sport or athletic endeavor. This leaves quite a bit of room for the all important task of skill development training in one’s schedule. Now, Tabatas won’t completely replace the need to train specifically for the time constraints of your sport (for example the time length of rounds in MMA or boxing). However, Tabatas will keep you in condition – and could improve your conditioning – during those periods when you simply have trouble fitting your conditioning into your training schedule.
You could use virtually any training modality to work your Tabatas – should you choose to implement them into your training. However, some exercises simply work better than others. The original Tabata study was conducted using a recumbent bike but any piece of standard cardio equipment will work just fine. Dumbbell thrusters, various explosive kettlebell drills, squat thrusts and Burpees, Heavy Bag punch-outs, running in place, medicine ball slams, and jumping rope are all great ways to perform the Tabata Protocol. You just have to remember that you must select an exercise that will allow you work at a significant intensity for a full 20 seconds. You want to get your heart rate to 170% of you VO2 Max during the Tabata and you don’t want to burn out half way through your 4 minutes. So, be smart when picking exercises.
One of my favorite exercises to use for a Tabata workout is the Squat Thrust. A squat thrust is a simple bodyweight drill that is done by simple squatting down, placing your hands on the ground and kicking your feet back behind you (like the top of a pushup), bringing them back to the squatting position, and simply standing back up. I like the squat thrust because you can do them anywhere and most healthy people can do them at the correct intensity on their first session without getting burned out too soon. To do Tabata Squat Thrusts you will a timer of some sort (stop watch, analog clock with a second hand, or preset Tabata recording – one can be found on YouTube). Simply start off with a decent warm up and end your session with a light cool down and stretching session.
Sample Squat Thrust Tabata Workout –
– 5 minute warm up
– 20 seconds of Squat Thrusts at maximum speed followed by 10 seconds rest. Repeat 8 times.
– 5-10 minutes of walking and stretching.
– Enjoy the pain and train hard!
1. ” Effects of moderate-intensity and high intensity intermittent training anaerobic capacity and VO2-Max.”Dr. Izumi Tabata http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392
2. “Tabata Intervals”, Ross Enamait. http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/tabataintervals.html