Thursday 8 December 2016

Tabata: Intense interval training

Damien Maher

Published 13/06/2011 | 05:00

Library Image. Photo: Getty Images
Library Image. Photo: Getty Images

The recent brief blast of sun was a sharp reminder to some that summer is (hopefully) almost here. In my experience, as the temperatures pick up, so does the sense of urgency about looking good and feeling comfortable on the beach.

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If you are one of these people and are starting in a gym, aerobic activity like walking, cycling or, if you're not overweight, jogging will help you build up your fitness.

Another option is to engage in weight-training exercises with minimum rest periods to work your heart in a peripheral heart-flow motion, from lower body to upper body.

However, over time aerobic training becomes counter-productive to fat loss. People will adapt to continuous aerobic workouts after eight weeks, so anything more is a waste of time.

Aerobic training can also make you weaker in the weights room and slow down your speed in sprints, as you have less strength now to generate power, and it increases oxidative stress in the cells, which can accelerate ageing.

Cardio, done continuously for long distances, raises the stress hormone cortisol, eats your fat-burning muscle and increases your body fat.

In 1996, a study by Dr Izumi Tabata and his colleagues at the Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, tested a system of training that has become known as Tabata training. Dr Tabata conducted two studies, published in 'Medicine and Sports in Exercise' in October 1996.

In a nutshell, the study demonstrated that 60 minutes of exercise a day for five days over six weeks produced worse results than interval training for a fraction of the time.

Intense interval training is more effective for fat loss, as it raises your metabolic rate and EPOC long after your training session is finished. EPOC is the excess period of oxygen consumption and energy consumed during your workout that must be paid back.

The oxygen deficit is determined by the intensity of the exercise and the workout being performed. The bigger the oxygen consumption, the more your body will need to replenish the energy stores that have been used up and reload the depleted oxygen stores in the muscles and blood.

Tabata-style training is simple in its design. You choose your exercises based on your equipment availability and your fitness levels. You work as hard as you can for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. You repeat this sequence eight times and then you rest for two minutes.

You can then repeat the whole process again with the same exercise or choose another one.

Exercise can be on a rowing machine or spin bike, or push-ups, squat thrusts, battling ropes, prowler pushes, sled drags or boxing. The list is endless but you must be prepared to work hard and get someone else to time you or use a Gym Boss watch to set the intervals.

If your fitness levels are not where you want them to be, you may want to take it gradually, as per this example below, before embarking on a full Tabata workout.

Week 1

30 secs work; 60 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

Week 2

30 secs work; 45 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

Week 3

30 secs work; 30 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

Week 4

20 secs work; 20 secs rest x eight sets followed by two minutes rest.

Week 5

20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

At Be Fit For Life our clients sometimes use one set of Tabata intervals at the end of their weight-based workouts to deplete the tank for a bigger training effect. Or it can be done as a stand-alone workout in a peripheral heart-flow model as mentioned earlier.

By alternating between upper body exercises and lower body exercises with little or no rest between, the blood is constantly flowing from top to bottom, bottom to top.

This training method, credited to former Mr America Bob Gajda, keeps the blood from getting stuck in the muscles and it gives your heart and lungs a tremendous workout, as they work overtime to keep the oxygen flowing in the blood.

Beginner's example (do all A1 exercises, followed by all B1 and so on):

A1 Burpees -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

B1 Press-ups -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

C1 Spin bike -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

D1 Rowing -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

Advanced example:

A1 Battling ropes -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

B1 Bear crawls -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

C1 Boxing bag -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

D1 Prowler push -- 20 secs work; 10 secs rest x eight sets followed by two mins rest.

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