Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Izumi Tabata: mystery of the effective 4min workout


Tabata has come to mean  interval training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but it features the following characteristics:

1. very very high intensity 
2. a rapid dense workout 
3. short periods of rest 
4. as many repetitions as possible (up to about 8)


The Tabata Protocol was created by Dr. Izumi Tabata alongside Irisawa Koichi, head coach of the Japanese speed skating team. Tthey were increasingly aware of the apparent success of including short bursts of very intense exercise within the training. The results seemed to indicate such a training method was just as effective as moderate, longer duration exercise.  In a 1996 study, Tabata found that this type of high-intensity interval training showed excellent results for boosting a person's aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

Tabata Seminal Study

One group of moderately trained students performed an hour of steady cardiovascular exercise on a stationary bike five times a week. The other group did a 10-minute warmup on the bike, followed by four minutes of Tabata intervals, four times a week – plus one 30-minute session of steady exercise with two minutes of intervals.

The results were startling. After six weeks of testing, the group following Tabata's plan – exercising for just 88 minutes a week – had increased their anaerobic capacity by 28% and their VO2 max, a key indicator of cardiovascular health and maximal aerobic power, by 15%. The control group, who trained for five hours every week, also improved their VO2 max, but by 10% – and their training had no effect on anaerobic capacity.

Tabata-style sprinting improved anbaerobic capacity while the long-duration group did not.

Hidden Benefit

However there was another important benefit. Tabata protocol burns approximately an extra 150 calories in the 12 hours after exercise, even at rest, due to the effect of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption

HIIT vs Stead State

HIIT/tabata seem better than the same amount of steady state (even) activity. Tremblay et al.  compared HIIE and steady state aerobic exercise and found that after 24 weeks subjects in the HIIE group lost more subcutaneous fat, as measured by skin folds, compared to a steady state exercise group when exercise volume was taken into account (Table 1). More recently, Trapp et al. [5] conducted an HIIE program for 15 weeks with three weekly 20-minute HIIE sessions in young women. HIIE consisted of an 8-second sprint followed by 12 s of low intensity cycling. Another group of women carried out an aerobic cycling protocol that consisted of steady state cycling at 60% for 40 min. Results showed that women in the HIIE group lost significantly more subcutaneous fat (2.5 kg) than those in the steady state aerobic exercise program (Figure 2(a)).

 Mourier et al. [40] found a 48% reduction in visceral fat, measured by MRI, compared to an 18% decrease in subcutaneous fat following an exercise regimen consisting of steady state exercise two days per week and HIIE one day a week for 8 weeks in type 2 diabetic men and women

Which Exercise?

Although the original conducted involved using a stationary exercise bike these also work well:
  • Rowing machine
  • Burpees
  • Squat thrusts
  • Hill climbers
  • High knees
  • Squat jumps
  • Sprints
  • Shuttle runs
 Further Reading

A. Tremblay, J.-A. Simoneau, and C. Bouchard, “Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism,” Metabolism, vol. 43, no. 7, pp. 814–818, 1994. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar
A. Mourier, J.-F. Gautier, E. De Kerviler et al., “Mobilization of visceral adipose tissue related to the improvement in insulin sensitivity in response to physical training in NIDDM: effects of branched-chain amino acid supplements,” Diabetes Care, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 385–391, 1997. View at Google Schol
G. Trapp, D. J. Chisholm, J. Freund, and S. H. Boutcher, “The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women,” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 684–691, 2008. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at PubMed · View at Scopus


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