Tabata or Not to Tabata. That is the Question.

What can you possibly accomplish in just four minutes on the bike?

A lot, actually! All you have to do is ride as hard as you can. Better yet, instead of riding as hard as you can for four straight minutes, ride at your true maximum power-output level in several short bursts, resting just long enough between bursts to avoid a steep decline in power output from one burst to the next.

What will this hellishly challenging four-minute session accomplish? It will boost your aerobic and anaerobic capacity simultaneously, increase your fatigue tolerance and lead directly to improved performance in almost all fitness activities.

If you have ever cycled at DG then you are most likely familiar with this type of workout - Tabatas!

So, who came up with this crazy idea?

Tabata training was discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Tabata and his team conducted research on two groups of athletes. The first group trained at a moderate intensity level while the second group trained at a high-intensity level. The moderate intensity group worked out five days a week for a total of six weeks; each workout lasted one hour. The high-intensity group worked out four days a week for six weeks; each workout lasted four minutes and 20 seconds (with 10 seconds of rest in between each set).

Tabata's primary research interest was the effects of exercise intensity on fitness. Through his work he came to believe that exercise intensity was at least as important as, if not more important than, exercise duration. So when he heard about a workout that packed two minutes and 40 seconds of maximum-intensity work into a four-minute period (and that's for those who could do eight intervals), he was intrigued.

To test the effects of this workout, Tabata first transferred it from speed skating to stationary bikes. Then he recruited subjects and had them perform the protocol five times a week for six weeks. At the beginning and again at the end of the study period, Tabata and his team measured the subjects' VO2 max and their anaerobic capacity. To provide a basis for comparison, Tabata conducted a second experiment in which subjects pedaled stationary bikes for one hour at a moderate intensity (70 percent of VO2 max) five days a week for six weeks. Their VO2 max and anaerobic capacity were also measured before and after the intervention.

The results were staggering. Subjects in the moderate-intensity exercise trial improved their VO2 max by a healthy 9.5 percent, while their anaerobic capacity did not change at all. Subjects in the maximum-intensity intervals trial, despite exercising for only 20 minutes per week, compared to five hours per week for the other group, improved their VO2 max by 14 percent and their anaerobic capacity by a whopping 28 percent.

Needless to say, this study got a lot of attention when it was published back in 1996, and coaches and athletes began to adapt the protocol to sports ranging from swimming to boxing. Virtually everyone who tried the Tabata protocol made the same report: It was excruciatingly painful, but it was effective!

How do I Tabata?

The formula for a Tabata workout is simple: 20 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Again, just because it sounds simple and short, don't make the mistake of thinking that it's easier. These efforts will require max effort.

The intent of this routine is to pack as many repetitions as possible into 6 to 8 sets of 20-second work periods. As a result, when the sixth effort rolls around, your muscles will be filled with lactic acid, making a simple sprint more difficult that you could've imagined.

This difficulty is by design to get the best results. In Tabata workouts, you never have a full recovery between sets. Your heart rate should be at or near the max and you should be out of breath by the end of a four-minute session. This will leave you burning calories the rest of day by creating the “after-burn effect.”

I am ready! What do I do?

Take a cycle class! Whether it is a Split, Cycle with Bands, or Cycle 30 when you hit the interval training part push yourself to that max effort and focus on your intensions! You will walk out of the cycle room feeling amazing!


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