Four minute fitness.....
By Stuart Turner, Apr 14 2015 09:04PM
It's been all the rage in the fitness industry for a few years now. It's great for fitness, it can be good for fat loss, it's brilliant for busy people, and it only take 4 minutes.
But what really is Tabata? Well Tabata is a workout method originating in the mysterious world of Japanese speed skating, it became mainstream after the research of Professor Izumi Tabata et al. in 1996. He looked at whether cardiovascular endurance (aerobic fitness) and muscular endurance (anaerobic capacity) would improve using a 4 minute exercise protocol. To cut to the chase, yes it did! Anaerobic capacity improved by 28% with just 4 minutes of exercise 5 x a week for 6 weeks. Brilliant, only 4 minutes, we can all do that, thank you very much Mr Tabata.
The method is very easy and if you have done any fitness classes or personal training in the last 10 -15 years you may have already come across it. Do 20 seconds of high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds rest, repeat 8 times. That's 4 minutes of exercise job done.
What's not to like? Well this is the bit that no one really mentions. During his experiment the group doing the Tabata method, worked at 170% of their maximal aerobic capacity (VO2 max). That means after 4 minutes you should feel like crying, throwing up, and unable to walk at all let alone in a straight line. If you're not working at this intensity then unfortunately its not tabata, its just a scaled down intervals workout.
So the intensity needs to be really high but the benefits speak for themselves and I think we are all aware that if you want to make progress with your fitness then there is going to need to be an element of hard work. As a note of caution here however, if you're pregnant, have high BP or a preexisting heart condition then you should avoid, but if you're fit and healthy you can dive straight in.
170% of max aerobic capacity sounds a bit "sports sciency" so an easier way to measure if you're working hard enough is to track your heart rate. You want to be working at max HR by set 4 and maintain this till the end. Bodyweight exercises that are often used such as lunges and press ups probably won't cut it, squats and planks definitely not and isolation work is out too.
Burpees would work well for beginners but beware as you get fitter they will become a little bit too easy. Sled pushes and Tyre pulls are great as are rowing machine sprints and bike sprints (this is what was used in the original research) you can also try hill sprints either outside or on a treadmill. if you have the strength and technique front squats and hang cleans would work quite well too.
As I said its not for novices but if you want to push your fitness on a level then give it a go.