The Road to Better Cardio: The Tabata Method

If you’ve read my article on high intensity cardio training you already know about the benefits of interval training. If you haven’t heard a thing about this subject, I would say that it’s probably the most important thing you should learn about if you want to get better cardio. Simply, interval training focuses on short periods of intense exertion followed by quick periods of rest. What I love most about this type of training is the short amount of time that it takes to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love working out, but I would always rather work on my kickboxing or my slap-shot than do sprints in the park. This means that if I have an hour and a half to train, I will do 1 hour of technique in the sport of my choice, and finish with 30 minutes of conditioning. A few years ago, I would have done the opposite.

When I first learned that I didn’t have to run 40 minutes a day to improve my cardio, needless to say, I was sceptical. Like many of you, taught that jogging over long periods of time was THE way to achieve better cardio. I would see the people running the marathons and think that this was the way to improve my soccer or hockey game. So, I ran a lot. I was good in sports, but it never felt like I was truly improving, it was like I had reached a plateau with my cardiovascular endurance.

Then, a few years ago, I decided to put some thoughts into my training and look up the most recent improvement in terms of conditioning. It was then that I learned about a japanese man named Izumi Tabata and his revolutionary 1996 study.


Tabata called his experiment the IE1 protocol. He took two groups of athletes and made them train using only a stationary bike.

Here’s what his study demonstrated:

The first group did (cardio training at moderate intensity)

-60 minutes of training at 70% VO2max (moderate exertion)

-5 days a week

-During 6 weeks

-30 hours total of training

The second group did (high intensity interval training)

-20 seconds of effort at 170% of VO2max (intense exertion)

-10 seconds of rest

-7 to 8 times in a row

-5 days a week

-During 6 weeks

-Each training regimen lasted 4 minutes

-2 hours total of training

The results

The group who did interval training showed more improvements in their VO2max at the end, and were the only group who gained anaerobic benefits. High intensity training proved to be better in improving your cardiovascular endurance and your anaerobic performance.

Now, if this all new to you, you should be excited. If you work out already, this means that you can possibly achieve more results in less time. Isn’t that what we always want? On the other hand, if you are just beginning to train, you now know that it is possible to lose fat and get in shape with a workout that lasts less than 10 minutes.

The popular myth that fat loss occurs after 30 minutes of training

If you’re like me, you’ve heard some variations of this proposition before. To this day, scientists have shown that HIIT (high intensity interval training) can burn more fat effectively than the old-school method of cardio training. There are many factors that contribute this, such as an increase in the resting metabolic rate when one does interval training. Basically, you continue losing fat even after you’ve finished your workout as your metabolism is accelerated. HIIT also lowers insulin resistance and causes skeletal muscle adaptations that results in enhanced skeletal muscle fat oxidation and improved glucose tolerance. Not only will HIIT make you lose fat, it is also a good way to prevent type-2 diabetes.

Are there downsides to the Tabata method?

All of this talk about interval training, the tabata method, and cardiovascular endurance might have made it all seem to easy to you. In fact, when I tell you that you can work out 10 minutes a day, and get better results than from your 40 minute jogging sessions, you might think it sounds too good to be true. The fact is that interval training is HARD. During these 20 seconds sprints, you absolutely have to work at your maximum level. Basically, you have to train like a madman every time you perform an exercise. Interval training will improve all aspects of your life, and won’t take you more than a few minutes to do, but believe me, these minutes will be painful.

This is not to say that you won’t get to like it after a while, I certainly do, but the first few times won’t be easy. You might want to scream, and you might want to stop, but know that the next workout will be easier. This type of determination and endurance translate perfectly to competition and sports in general. Push your body to its limits, and you’ll get a huge advantage over your competitors.

With that said, I would suggest setting up a meeting with your doctor to make sure you can start implementing interval training into your workouts. If this seems too hard at the moment, don’t worry, stick with standard moderate training methods, and slowly start incorporating Tabata exercises.

Here are a few Tabata exercises to implement into your training routine.

Here’s your reminder when doing these exercises:

1. Do the exercise at full speed for 20 seconds

2. Rest 10 seconds

3. Repeat 8-20 times total

-Squats: Standard and hindu squats will work perfectly. If you want to make this exercise even harder, hold the squat position during the 10 seconds rest.

-Burpees: My favorite body-weight exercise, get in the push-up position, stand up, and jump!

-Sit-ups: All variations are also good.

-Jumps: As high as you can, lift your knees in the air,

-Bicycle sprints: Sprint for 20 seconds, take off your feet from the pedals during the resting period

-Jumping rope: Cardio and coordination combined!

-Swimming: If you have access to a pool, sprints are excellent to improve your overall endurance.

-Sprints: The easiest exercise, and possibly the hardest, try sprinting.

What Tabata will do for you:

-Improve your aerobic endurance

-Improve your anaerobic endurance

-Help you lose fat

-Improve your appearance, increase your confidence

I hope this article has taught you a few things about interval training and the benefits of the Tabata method. Do not hesitate to read more about this subject, there are many, many more exercises that can be adapted to this method. Whatever happens, stick to a schedule, and you’ll get the results that you want in no time.

Source by Charlie Roy


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