The Tabata Protocol

The Tabata protocol was developed by Dr Izumi Tabata at the National Institute of Fitness and Sport in Tokyo, Japan. It sets out an ultra high-intensity exercise plan that definitely falls into the insanity workout category.

Originally, Tabata carried out research on cyclists, but the principle has been adopted across all exercises as the benefits of this type of training are huge!

Typically, one circuit of the Tabata protocol lasts for 4 minutes. And one circuit is all you need! For the very fit, you could repeat a Tabata circuit maybe 3 or 4 times (with a one minute rest between each) but no more. If you feel that you are able to do more circuits, then you simply aren’t working hard enough.

But as I said, especially if you are new to interval training, one circuit is enough!

These workouts, along with other interval training like HIIT training and Fartlek training, are amongst my absolute favourites. The intensity is unbelievable and the duration really short. As I get older I like the traditional long endurance type sessions less and less.

The Structure of the Tabata Protocol

The 4 minute circuit is split into 8 ultra high intensity intervals each of 20 seconds duration. Between these intense intervals you get a whopping 10 seconds of rest.

When I say ultra high intensity, I mean all out maximum effort! No holding back. That’s why the Tabata protocol is so insane. After your third interval you will be thinking of nothing but the end of your workout. Or even quitting the session (dare I say that!).

With regard to your rest periods, this differs from traditional HIIT training whereby you actually do nothing but rest! You have only 10 seconds to recuperate, so make the most of it.

This protocol can be used across any aerobic exercise. Cycling, running, rowing, cross-training, swimming, etc. Or even circuit training exercises.

In fact, the Tabata training principle has become massively popular with circuit type exercises in weight loss regimes. And that is basically it.

The Benefits of the Tabata Protocol

There are many benefits of interval training but I’ll name a couple here just to give you a taster.

For starters, Tabata found that the aerobic capacity (VO2 Max) benefits were very similar to traditional endurance type training.

This is great news as it means you can make great aerobic gains without having to pound the roads for mile after mile, hour after hour. All you need is very short, but very intense training sessions. (Obviously, if your ultimate goal is to run a marathon, then you have no option but to bang out the miles.)

Also, your metabolism is super charged after these workouts for at least 24 hours, in some cases up to 48 hours! This means that you burn more calories – great for losing that excess fat.

Tabata Workouts

You can create a Tabata workout out of any aerobic exercise. But they are especially good for circuit type exercises.

Pick four or eight exercises and perform each one for your intervals. For example, you could start with 20 seconds of burpees, followed by 20 seconds of squat thrusts, followed by 20 seconds of squats, and so on (with 10 seconds of rest between each interval of course).

You could even just pick one exercise. A good one I’ve seen recently is the Tabata squats. It’s a great body weight exercise and 8 intervals of all out squats is an absolute killer.