Staying strict with the 20- and 10-second intervals is critical. to do so, you can download any number of free tabata apps to your smartphone that show countdown clocks, or you can use a stopwatch or wall clock with a second hand. you can also download apps where the music alternates fast and slow tempos for 20 and 10 seconds, respectively, for exactly four minutes.
M&F: How effective is tabata at burning fat vs. higher-volume programs?
Professor Tabata: We haven’t done specific experiments on burning body fat. However, our research has looked at calorie burning. So we know that Tabata not only burns the same calories in four minutes as an hour of steady-state exercise (biking or jogging), but there’s also a significant “after burn” effect, where an additional 150 calories are being burned up to 12 hours after you leave the gym.
How is it possible to get in better aerobic shape with such short bouts of training?
This is because the Tabata system stresses both the aerobic and the anaerobic systems maximally. Tabata training—if done correctly—is very demanding during that four minutes, and the body responds to this stress by rapidly increasing its capacity to increase oxygen uptake, which is the best measurement we have of fitness.
A standard Tabata circuit is four minutes long (broken up into intervals of 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest). How many Tabata circuits do you typically recommend someone do in a single workout to ensure that enough work is being done while also avoiding overtraining?
If you are doing Tabata correctly (and many people do not) you would only be able to ever do one round of it—and indeed you’d be unlikely to even finish that before complete exhaustion set in! So if you want to find out how to do it correctly, you will have to join us at tabataofficial.com.
M&F Modified Tabata
Tabata intervals are typically recommended for body-weight exercises and cardio activities like rowing and pedaling on a stationary bike. Many lifting exercises simply aren’t feasible with the Tabata method; the 10-second rest periods don’t always allow for enough recovery. That said, if you pick the right type of exercise and keep the weight light, you can effectively target a particular muscle group in Tabata fashion. We recommend machine-based exercises like Hammer Strength rows for back, machine overhead presses for shoulders, and machine curls for biceps. You might also try an isolation move for a larger muscle group—for example, machine flyes for chest or leg extensions for quads.
- 20 seconds of all-out intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest
- Repeat 8 times