In the today’s busy world of fitness, there are way too many fancy terms and phrases thrown around. This ends up doing a much better job of confusing instead of educating. Nobody has time for that!
Today we will take one AWESOME concept, Tabata, and break it down so it is easier to understand. You will get some ideas on how to customize Tabata sessions to keep them fun and fresh. And as a bonus, I’ll recommend a few helpful apps and tools that will make everything easier for you!
What is Tabata?
Dr. Tabata’s theory relies on precise intervals:
- 20 seconds of maximum effort
- 10 seconds of rest
- Repeat for 8 rounds = 4 minutes total
But isn’t only working out for 4 minutes too short to see any sort of real results? Well Dr. Tabata has the answer covered to that question as well:
His study involved two groups of adults. One group worked out at a moderate intensity for an hour a day. The second group worked out for 4 minutes per day following the Tabata protocol. Each group worked out 5 times per week. Results showed the Tabata group’s endurance increased by 28% compared to the control group.
That’s a 28% increase in performance working out 120 minutes in a 6 week period, compared to those who worked out for 1800 minutes in a 6 week period!
How can you start using Tabata today?
Lucky for us, Tabata is simple to do anytime, anywhere, with or without any equipment. All you need is a little space to move around and something to keep time with.
All you need to do is to pick a single movement to get started with. The ideal movements are those that hit many muscle groups and can performed at high intensity.
Here’s a list of some ideas!
- Bodyweight squats
- Jump Squats
- Push Ups
- Pull Ups
- Mountain Climbers
- Jumping Rope
Most of these are body weight movements which need no equipment, which is great! Once you become familiar with Tabata, you can throw in almost any movement you can think of. One of my favorites is barbell/dumbbell thrusters!
Once you’ve chosen a movement you’re ready to get going. We will use bodyweight squats as an example. Just hit start on your stopwatch and start doing as many squats as you can in 20 seconds. The moment the stopwatch hits 20s, you stop and rest for 10s. When you see 30s on the clock, then you start squatting again. Once the clock hits 50 seconds, you rest until it reaches the 1 minute mark. At this point you’ve already done 2 rounds and are 25% done with your workout. Just keep repeating this until you reach the 4 minute mark!
If you’re feeling creative, you can choose more than 1 movement. For example, squats and push-ups would work well! To mix these into a Tabata session, you would just do 20s of squats, 10s of rest, 20s of push-ups 10s of rest, and repeat. At the end of 4 minutes you will have completed 4 sets of squats and 4 sets of push-ups.
If you’re feeling crazy, you could even choose 8 different movements. That way every 20s set is a different movement! You can also stack Tabata sessions on top of each other. Just a minute or two of rest after you hit the 4 minute mark and then starting another 4 minute round. The limiting factor to a Tabata style workout is only your imagination.
Keep Score to Track Improvement!
If you don’t track something, how can you identify improvement? There are two ways that you can track your Tabata workouts.
- Keep track of the number of reps completed during each round. The total number of reps completed is your score!
If you do a Tabata session with 8 different movements, you will want to repeat them in the same order next time. That way you can tell if you improved.
- Keep track of the number of reps completed during each round. The round with the lowest number of reps is your score.
This method of scoring works well if you are only doing one movement for the whole Tabata session. It encourages you to try to keep your reps consistent throughout the session. Just make sure you are still pushing the pace all the way through to get the maximum benefit.
“Tabata Something Else”
If you want a real challenge, try this benchmark workout from Crossfit.com’s archives! It features 4 sessions of Tabata, back to back with no extra rest.
Complete in order:
Your final score is the total number of reps completed.
If you want to tackle this one, be sure to share you score in the comments below!
There are two tools that I have found particularly helpful when approaching Tabata.
Tool #1: GymBoss Interval Timer App (Free for Android and iOS)
The GymBoss app is an awesome interval training tool. When I downloaded it for my phone, it already had a Tabata timer option programmed in. You can choose the number of round (8 rounds =4 minutes) and away you go! The app will make a sound when each 20s/10s interval starts so you don’t have to just stare at the clock the whole time. You should definitely download this one today!
Tool #2: Tabata Songs (Not Free)
If you love to listen to music while working out, Tabata Songs has you covered. These are unique music tracks which contain cues for when to move and when to rest. You do have to pay for these, but if you want to integrate music into some of your workouts then this is a great way to do it. It ALSO prevents you from having to stare at a clock the whole time!