Have a busy lifestyle? Introducing the 4-minute Tabata workout
By Liam Scopes
By Liam Scopes
Got 4 minutes? Then you’ve got time for a workout. With a consistent commitment a few times a week, this protocol will bring you great results.
Welcome to spring. It’s time to think about revitalising your energy levels and kicking back into a regular exercise routine (for those of us who succumbed to the cold, dark, mornings and evenings over winter). If the thought of this makes you cringe, don’t give up just yet, because we’ve got a great solution for you. We’re about to present a very efficient workout that has the potential to give even greater results than your typical trudge around the block and take less time! Introducing … Tabata training.
The Tabata protocol is a form of High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) that alternates short bursts of high intensity anaerobic training followed by even shorter recovery periods. It was originally devised by Irisawa Koichi, the head coach of the Japanese Speed Skating team in the 1990s, whose unusual training technique of short bursts with even shorter rest periods not only increased short term explosive strength but also long term endurance. Izumu Tabata, a coach under Koichi, was asked to analyse the effectiveness of the training method and published his findings in the 1996 journal “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise”. Dr Tabata found that this technique resulted in a “very fast increase in VO2 max” (which is a measure of fitness), as well as improvements in anaerobic capacity (sprint, speed and power). For whatever reason, Tabata’s name became associated with the workout, rather than Koichi, but regardless of who it’s named after, the research shows the protocol works. In fact the group of people who did a 4-minute Tabata session 5 times per week showed more improvement than a control group who did 1 hour of steady training 5 times a week, over the course of 6 weeks.
the people who did a total of 120 minutes exercise over 6 weeks had MORE improvements than those who did 1800 minutes!
The protocol for this workout is really easy: 20 seconds of maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times (for a total of 4 minutes).
The key is going hard enough in the 20 second effort, and then as easy as possible for the 10 seconds of recovery. How hard is hard? Dr Tabata explains it as “if you feel ok after the session you have not done it right! The first three sessions should be easy and the last two should feel impossibly hard.” It can also be described as a feeling of “jelly-legs” during the final couple of efforts. So basically by the time you have finished you should feel pretty shattered, but remember it’s all worth it for the efficient routine and quick results. Tabata training not only improves fitness, but also helps build muscle and enables fat burning for several hours following the workout by increasing metabolic rate. All this means the 4 minutes of training equates to more bang for your buck!
Another bonus of Tabata training is that it can be done with a number of different exercises. An indoor bike is ideal (and is how Dr Tabata conducted his research), but a rowing machine or running sprints are other options, as are weight bearing exercises such as burpees, squat jumps, skipping or star jumps.