You’ve done a more or less regular aerobics exercise routine since high school.
You feel good about yourself, and you know you’re doing the right thing by your body every time you get yourself out of bed an hour early to go do it. It isn’t fun, exactly, and it isn’t short, but, life isn’t all fun and games. You’re more or less fit, and though you’d like to be a little more athletic, maybe, you’re glad you’re not less. Now everyone’s talking about this thing called Tabata. No one did that when you were in college, or high school, either. Is it the newest fad among people who must always be doing something different?
It certainly sounds faddish—who ever heard about an honest exercise regime that took only 4 minutes! Are those people really getting any health benefit from it?
Watching some of them, you begin to doubt it. They do their 4 minutes of exercise, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference to their sedentary lifestyle, and their non-athletic bodies remain just the same: no new muscles poking out anywhere. It’s a way for exercise instructors to get paid more; 4 minutes for a class, instead of the traditional forty minutes to an hour. Everyone’s getting lazy these days.
Wait a minute, though, there’s more to Tabata than you might think.
Here’s the history of the Tabata protocol:
A Japanese scientist and Olympic trainer named Izumi Tabata did an experiment comparing two groups of athletes doing exercise biking. One group did steady state exercise for an hour five days a week. The other group did high intensity interval training, the type that later became known under Tabata’s own name: they did their maximum possible for twenty seconds, and then they rested ten seconds; and they did this eight times over.
It made for a four-minute exercise regime, and they did this just four days a week. The other three days were rest days.
What were his results?
While that first group had made some progress in aerobic conditioning when they were tested after six weeks, they had made no improvements in anaerobic conditioning. Group two, though, the high intensity interval training ‘Tabata’ group, had attained better aerobic conditioning and had a 28% increase in anaerobic conditioning, to boot!
Remember, group one had exercised thirty hours over the course of the six weeks; and group two had done exactly two hours.
Numbers like that don’t come from the sky; there’s something going on here. The reason Tabata works is that your muscles and your cardiovascular system needs to be pushed to the limit to really improve; that’s what happens in Tabata regimens, but it doesn’t happen a whole lot in regular aerobic activity.
Aerobic Versus Anaerobic
The key to the difference is the anaerobic state that is induced through very intense movements. This results in the body being literally without oxygen, and that is the optimal state for burning body fat, improving endurance, and stamina and to increase cardiovascular conditioning. This is a key difference, because a 4 minute Tabata can yield better results than 30 minutes or even an hour of cardio or aerobic activity.
When we realize that, we can also see what’s going wrong in many so-called Tabata programs today: to make the program work, you have to really, really push yourself into high intensity work for your twenty second bursts.
If you can’t do that, you’ll fail Tabata. You’d be better off doing your traditional workout; then at least you’ll get the traditional benefit. But, remember that if you do, and you certainly can, it might take work to get there, but, if you can get there, you will reap major rewards and actually be able to workout smarter instead of longer.
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