As an athlete, I always find a smart way to push myself to the next level – which is why I'm a big fan of High Intensity Interval Training. And that extends to a different style of HIIT known as Tabata training. I know what you 're thinking, Tah-what-ah? It is Tabata training, and you're gonna love it.
If you haven't heard of Tabata, perfect. I'll break it down for you. Tabata is named after Izumi Tabata, a researcher with the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan. Today, Tabata is popping up all over America in gyms, classes, boot camps and more. I first discovered it about seven years ago in a workshop I attended. Oh man, was it thrilling, extremely hard and rewarding – and it went by so fast.
How Does It Work?
Super easy. Well, actually not easy at all, but the formula is pretty simple. The Tabata Training Method is an advanced form of exercise and requires you to be both fit and mentally strong. (You'll see what I mean once you get started!) The method is designed to last four minutes, and during that time you have to go through eight intervals. Each interval lasts 20 seconds at a very high intensity. You train as hard as you possibly can during those 20 second intervals. It's a very intense interval workout, and that's why it only lasts four minutes.
So remember: 20 seconds of high-intensity training, plus 10 seconds of rest, and you do it eight times for a total of four minutes. It's very important to make sure you warm up before diving into it. Also, beginners shouldn't try this. Only introduce Tabata to your training when you're used to getting your heart rate up high. Do not go over your max heart rate. I recommend starting very slowly at first and maybe not doing all sets of eight. I also recommend checking with your doctor before trying Tabata, just to play it safe.
To Get Started:
You'll need a counter or stop watch, unless you have someone counting for you. It's very hard to mentally push yourself and count at the same time, so make sure you're covered with a timer or someone else to count for you.
This is not a daily workout. If you can do this every day, you're doing it wrong. Some people try it once a week, but most end up doing Tabata a few times a month. Nonetheless, it produces remarkable results for those brave enough to use it. You got this!
The easiest way – with no fancy equipment needed – is to start with just your legs. For example: You can sprint for 20 seconds; stop or walk for 10 seconds; sprint for 20 seconds; stop or walk for 10 seconds. Do this eight times and you're all done! You'll never look at four minutes the same way again.
My favorite way to do this style of high intensity interval training is in a spin class or running stairs. It's so hard during one of these activities, but there's such a great reward after – you feel like a superstar when you're done. You can also do Tabata with a bicycle, treadmill, elliptical, circuit workouts, kettle-bells, TRX or sliders, while using a jump rope, and so on. You get the picture.
Why You Should Use It:
Time: Get more done in less time. This will also keep you from overtraining and overuse injuries.
Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning: You'll improve both – not just aerobic. It's all about getting fitter, faster and stronger. Plus, if you're in a fitness rut, this might be just what you need to switch up your workout routine and confuse your body.
Rev up metabolism: Your metabolism will stay high both during and after your workout. Bonus! Same as above, you want to keep your body guessing.
Some Facts About Tabata:
• Fourteen percent of athletes increase in v02 max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during a workout, which is a marker of aerobic fitness) after six weeks of Tabata training.
• On average, you can burn 53 calories in just one four-minute circuit. That's a super deal.
Give it a go on your next workout. Start off small, be smart, work hard and most importantly, have fun.
I would love to hear from you. Have you tried Tabata?
[Read: 4 Exercises Trainers Hate.]
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Monica Nelson, or "Moni" to her friends and clients, is a personal trainer, healthy foods chef, accomplished athlete, model and well-respected health and fitness expert. She works with celebrities and has been featured in publications such as SHAPE and Fitness. She's been a competitive snowboarder and is a true fitness fanatic. Moni's motto in life is "EAT WELL.STAY FIT. FEEL GREAT." Another one of her greatest passions and talents is cooking and baking. She runs a healthy recipe blog where she has created more than 350 healthy and decadent meals to enjoy. You can connect with Moni on Facebook and follow @monimealfitness on Twitter and Instagram. Grab a recipe or two at www.monimeals.com then head over for a workout and get her latest tips at www.monicanelsonfitness.com. Moni lives in Los Angeles with her wonderful husband Mark, who is also a trainer, and their incredible English bulldog Eddie.