Tabata Training, Taking Cardio to the Next Level

http://www.sixpackfactory.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/tabata-workout-280x220.jpgIn the beginning we were taught that doing some kind of cardiovascular exercise for a long duration of time will help us tap into our fat and keep our heart healthy.  A few years later, we were introduced to a new form of cardio called HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. This soon became the new and most powerful form of cardio helping us burn more calories in less time than the slow or steady state approach.
And now the bar has been raised again with the introduction of HIIT Time Protocols. The word TIME PROTOCOL simply refers to the fact that scientists and fitness experts alike have created a new protocol based on the length of TIME you spend performing the high intensity and the low intensity period of your HIIT workout. The normal ratios for a HIIT workout is 1:2, so for every 30 seconds you spend doing the high intensity interval you will have an active recovery or rest period of 60 seconds.
However, over the last few years researchers have been testing and experimenting with a number of different Time Protocols to try and create HIIT workouts that will help athletes get greater results. And so you will find protocols for long distance runners to help them run a faster 10k or protocols for swimmers to help them increase their aerobic capacity. But there is one protocol that has risen to the top, becoming extremely popular, especially if weight loss is your goal; it’s called The Tabata Protocol.

History of Tabata

The Tabata protocol was invented by Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team in Tokyo back in 1996. While testing different Time Protocols with the aim of finding ways to increase both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning in athletes they came across one called 1E1 ( The one we know as Tabata today ) that seemed to do just that. After 6 weeks of testing this protocol Dr. Tabata noted an increase of 28% in anaerobic capacity and a 14% increase in aerobic capacity. The conclusion was that you can boost your aerobic and anaerobic capacity more in just 4 minutes of doing the Tabata protocol than an hour of steady state cardio.

But Why Use Tabata

The Tabata protocol soon proved to have a few more tricks up its sleeve than just increasing one’s aerobic and anaerobic capacity. It was noted that it can increase metabolic rate for up to 24 hours, helps reduce body fat levels and even spares lean muscle mass while doing all the former. Combine all that with the fact that Tabata workouts can be done in 15 minutes or less and it is no surprise that it has become so popular amongst such a wide audience, from body builders who want to keep their fat % under control while not losing muscle mass to housewives looking to burn more fat with each workout.

How to Use it

Although the Tabata protocol was originally designed to improve the performance of Olympic Speed skaters, we as mere mortals can also use it to get amazing results. The first thing to remember is that this is an advanced protocol and it is best to build up to this through some normal HIIT protocols that might be a little easier on you. That said, performing the Tabata protocol isn’t rocket science and couldn’t be easier. It simply works on intervals of 20 seconds high intensity and 10 seconds of low intensity. You can use a normal piece of cardio equipment like a stationary bike ( Like in the original test ) or by doing some form of weight training such as the increasingly popular kettlebell swings. So after warming up for around 5 to 10 minutes you simply pick an exercise and start with the 20 seconds high intensity interval. You want to really push it here and go as fast and as hard as possible. Once your 20 seconds comes to an end you go into your rest or active recovery period. Make sure you start drinking water from the start to stay hydrated through this workout. As soon as your 10 seconds is up you are back on the 20 seconds high intensity interval and going hell for leather. You continue this until you have completed your pre-determined amount of cycles. One cycle consists of a high intensity interval of 20 seconds and a low intensity interval of 10 seconds (30 seconds in total).  The original test was completed for 4 to 8 minutes but you can even start at 2 minutes and eventually progress to 10 to 15 minutes. And that is it!

So are all other cardio now useless?

So does this mean that old fashioned slow and even HIIT cardio is now useless and should be avoided?  Not at all! See what HIIT protocol s has done is provided us with a greater arsenal to help make our cardio workouts more effective and maybe also a little less boring.
This resembles what weight lifters have done for years. For example, you don’t go into the gym and do the same number of sets and reps for every workout every time. No way! One day you will do high reps, the next low reps, and then you might throw in some forced reps, drop sets etc. Why? Well mixing things up has proven to stimulate your muscles even more and so get better results, and that is exactly what a protocol like Tabata is all about. Take note that Tabata training requires a serious amount of dedication and determination so you might want to start doing it only once or twice per week and then move onto your normal HIIT workouts or even steady state cardio for your other sessions depending on your goals.