T Nation

Does Tabata Actually Work?


Reading all this stuff about tabata.


This study suggests that Tabata (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest, repeat) would increase your anaerobic as well as your AEROBIC fitness faster than performing longer intervals (30 seconds work, 200 seconds rest)

I thought that to work the aerobic system properly you would have to do at least 20 minutes of exercise in that system. So why would a high intensity 4 minute workout benefit it?


Haven't read the article but I was always told that tabata training was great for fat loss, not for any form of fitness. But, saying that, I'm blowing out my arse for a good half an hour afterwards; so maybe fitness does improve.


Depends really. Do tabata as written, and it'll be very unpleasant. Do tabata press-ups, and you'll be wondering what the fuss is about.

I've done a few with things like swings, or light squats, and that's ok. Tried it once on a bike set up on a turbo trainer, and didn't get very far. I don't wonder if a lot of people (myself definitely included) aren't actually fit enough to get through it as it was designed. We were never the intended targets. And, perhaps watering it down isn't anywhere near as effective.


The protocol is very specific. Diluted arrangements would be circuits, intervals, super-sets, etc., but would not qualify as tabata.


Tabata training (the proper protocol) has been shown to improve VO2 Max, which is generally regarded as the best measure of aerobic fitness. However it is impossible to measure the effect this has on actually completing a distance event due to confounding factors such as pacing, fatigue management, economy of movement etc.


True Tabata is kind of like extending an extremely difficult set. I would take it as far as to say your really not resting as your catching your breath. Have you ever ran a 100 meter full out sprint before? 10 seconds is not rest, you MIGHT barely catch your breath at 10 seconds. So doing 6-8 of those is pretty much like sprinting a 800m. It would be better to run an 800 meter but if you couldn't why not try to do it with 10 second rest in between. So considering the lack of rest it is very aerobic. The anaerobic portion is a little tricky because it's training the anaerobic system, not the actual power your muscles produce.

Aerobic in science terms tends to be more VO2 max, while Aerobic in training and conditioning terms tends to be endurance, which is where you get the 20 minute theory.


Just dug up the studies on this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19826281 <-- This one is interesting as it takes more measurements, most notably lactate production does not decrease with interval training, but does with steady-state.


I think of Tabata as a great finisher that will fire up your human growth hormone which burns fat. It works great with some exercises. Burpees, Goblet Squats, Sprints, Kettlebell Snatch. Others it's not that tough.


Horseshit....you do not understand how to properly perform tabata. Several of the exercises you listed are appropriate, but if you get to the end of the four minutes and can make the statement 'it's not that tough'. You have performed the work at an intensity level well below what is stated in the protocal. Interval work and tabata are two different things.


Totally agree with this. I see people doing programmes with multiple Tabatas and they're just clearly not doing a Tabata. It's not the kind of thing you can do more than once a day if you do it right, nor on consecutive days unless you're of the caliber of the Olympic speed skaters originally tested.

I don't see a problem with people doing that stuff if it gets them results, they just shouldn't call it Tabata.

In response to the OP - yes it works. But it is far more mentally and physically demanding than most people could handle imo.


Spot on. If you look at the original protocol the subjects were going at a level well above 100% of VO2 max. Most people claiming to do Tabatas are nowhere near that level of effort - most don't even hit max HR. What they're doing are intervals and it's why you see them using all kinds of exercises where it's impossible to tax the CV system at the level called for before the muscles they are using give out. Nothing wrong with intervals and most everyone will benefit from doing them. It's just that what most people call Tabats ain't it. It's more than a 20 second interval with a 10 second rest.


try to do 10 tabata workouts the correct way.. one a week for ten weeks..i bet you complete 1-2..

if you do complete 1, i bet your next tabata workout, a week later, you wont finish because you will mentally loose it knowing how much you suffered from the first time..

done correctly, you gotta be a super stud, physically and mentally..


^Further to what KBurnett said, the original test was performed at 170% VO2 Max.

Jab1: The Tabata study did not use Speed Skaters, however the protocol which is now known as 'Tabata' had been used by the Japanese Speed Skating team for several years.

Tabata tested physically active male students, most of whom were varsity sportsmen.


It works, the downside is it only works if you do it.


Are there any books you can get to teach you about the tabata protocol?


To Mr. Dreadlocks;

The book you seek is written by Dan John, more of a philosophy rather than a protocol. Read his works.

If you are interested in tabata, put 25s on the the bar and front squat 8 sets of 8 with 10 sec rest between sets. That's tabata. If you aren't sucking oxygen on the verge of vomit, try 35s.


Which title? Easy strength?


As I said: "read his works".


This. Also I think it's a fair assumption that the more highly aerobically adapted you are the less of an aerobic adaptation you'll see from performing tabata sets.

I didn't read the study, but this isn't surprising. My bioenergetics knowledge is a bit rusty, but lactate production should increase in response to anaerobic glycolysis. Since this doesn't occur below the anaerobic threshold, an adaptation to aerobic training will be a reduction in lactate production.

Though I really should read the study before I comment on it...


I don't think the method is really complicated enough to require an entire book on the subject.

Here is Dan Joh's original Tabata article:

And one with a few more variations you can use: