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4 Minute Workout Improves Fitness And Torches Fat

I’ve talked about HIIT and circuit training a couple of times as I think they are excellent methods for building a lean, fit body and shedding fat. I currently use both of these forms of exercise in my own training and find them to be extremely effective and versatile. What I want to talk about today is along the same lines but even more intense! So what am I rambling on about? Tabata Training!

What’s Tabata You?

Tabata training, or the Tabata Protocol as it’s also known, isn’t new. It’s a form of interval training based on a 1996 study by Dr. Izumi Tabata of The National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan.

Dr. Tabata set out to see if a shorter but more intense training session could be as effective as a longer but less intense training session.

The Result?

The shorter more intense training sessions were more effective than the longer less intense training sessions!

At the end of the 6 week study there was an increase in both cardiovascular (or VO2 max) and anaerobic capacities!

VO2 max is used to determine an individuals level of fitness, based on how much oxygen is consumed during exercise which increase in intensity over a period of time.

While anaerobic basically means exercise in the presence of insufficient oxygen, think short intense type activities like strength training, gymnastics or sprinting.

What’s even more impressive is that Dr. Tabata conducted his study using top athletes, who would already be highly conditioned, and they still saw big improvements in their fitness!

What The Study Involved

This next part is really just background information for those who are interested, and contains a lot of numbers, but don’t worry about the details too much, I outline what you need to know in the next section :)

Dr. Tabata conducted two experiments, each lasting 6 weeks.

Experiment One - moderate-endurance intensity exercise:

  • Each session lasted 60 minutes and was performed 5 days per week.
  • The intensity was 70% of VO2 max.

Experiment Two – high intensity intermittent training:

  • Each of these sessions were again performed 5 days per week.
  • This time however the sessions were made up of 7 to 8 sets intervals, with each interval lasting 20 seconds.
  • The intensity of this 20 second interval was 170% of VO2 max. So pushing as hard as possible.
  • Each 20 second interval was followed by a 10 second rest interval.

So the total time of the high intensity intermittent training session was 4 minutes. And still it was more effective than the hour long moderate intensity session. How is this possible?

A special type of stationary bike was used in the experiments

The Key Is Intensity

The reason for such dramatic results was down to the level of intensity of each 20 second interval. The volunteers in the second experiment had to work flat-out during each of those 20 seconds and only had 10 seconds of rest after each of the 20 second intervals.

I’m sure you’re thinking “how hard can 20 seconds of hard work be?”. Believe me, it’s a lot harder than you think. The first time I tried Tabata training I did it on a stationary bike, and I honestly thought I was going to die! Never have 20 seconds felt so long and 10 seconds felt so brief.

It’s this kind of intensity that will really boost fat burning capabilities.

Ways To Use Tabata Training

In the original study Dr. Tabata used a type of stationary bike for his experiments. A stationary bike actually works really well for doing for this type of training. Treadmills don’t really work that well because you can’t speed up and slow down fast enough. On a stationary bike you can simple stop pedaling.

A jump rope is an excellent choice too, as long as you are pretty familiar with using it for exercise purposes.

You could also use bodyweight exercises.  Exercise selection is important though. You want to pick exercises that use as many muscles as possible, to really engage your body. So bicep curls or tricep kickbacks, which are isolation exercises, wouldn’t be great choices. Instead choose squats, push ups, burpees or a jump rope,  all of which recruit multiple muscles.

Bodyweight Squat - Shirt optional?

Time The Intervals

It’s also important to use some kind of timer to keep track of the intervals. You can use a stopwatch, clock, or interval timer, anything that allows you to focus fully on the exercise.

Sample Tabata

Below is a really basic bodyweight Tabata workout. Don’t be fooled, if done correctly, you should be dripping sweat and breathing heavily by the time the 4 minutes are up!

Make sure you have warmed up adequetely before attempting the following workout. When I use include Tabata training, it’s at the end of a session so I’m already warmed up at that point.

I have selected two different exercises:

  • Squats for the first half (four sets of 20 seconds, with 10 seconds rest between each set)
  • Push ups for the second half of the workout (four sets of 20 seconds, with 10 seconds rest between each set).

Part One:

Squat    20 seconds

rest        10 seconds

Repeat x 4

Part Two:

Push Up    20 seconds

Rest          10 seconds

Repeat x 4

The total time will be 4 minutes.

Variations

You could just use one exercise and repeat it for the eight sets, or you could alternate between the exercises each set. You can even use different exercises. Just make sure you choose exercises that use multiple muscles and give it all you got!

How I Use Tabata Training

When I do Tabata training I like to use it at the end of a training session to really finish the workout and boost my metabolism. I like to use bodyweight exercises, because they don’t require any special equipment, and you can do them anywhere. Which is great, particularly at this time of year when the weather is good.

Let me know what you think. Have you had any experience with Tabata training?

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