What are Tabatas?! Tabata Protocol sprints are actually a really cool way of getting in better shape really fast
Tabata sprints aren’t easy, but they improve your physical ability very quickly. Much faster than simply starting to jog again to get in shape.
What are Tabata Sprints?
Dr. Izumi Tabata was a researcher at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan. He studied the workout routines used by the Japanese speed-skating team to train for the Olympics, and tried to find the most effective aspects of the program.
Tabata theorized that the most dramatic gains were made from brief, high intensity workouts. So he designed a framework to test this theory and, lo and behold, came up with an extremely effective exercise regime that can be used for any sport, from speed-skating Olympians to running enthusiasts!
Tabata first measured the effect of six weeks of regular, moderately paced endurance training. He found that, after six weeks of moderate exercise five days a week, his subjects’ aerobic aerobic capacity hadn’t improved much at all.
Then Tabata took seven subjects and had them do his protocol five days a week, for six weeks. At the end of that time he measured them again and found that their VO2max and aerobic fitness doing that specific exercise had really increased!
So, here’s his protocol for you to use…
How You Can Use The Tabata Protocol
The Tabata Protocol, as the workout routine is called, is very simple. It’s made up of just eight 30 second intervals.
Here’s how each interval is structured:
- 20 Seconds of Intense, All-Out Effort
- 10 Second Rest
That’s it. Ludicrously simple. And your entire workout will take about 4 minutes to complete!
If you’re using a Tabata protocol for running, here’s how it might work. First, just do five or so minutes of jogging to warm up, and then set your wristwatch alarm to 20 and 10 second intervals. Then sprint as hard as you can for 20 seconds, walk/rest for 10 seconds, and repeat those intervals until you’ve done four minutes worth… or collapse from exhaustion.
That 20/10 sequence is the ‘textbook’ Tabata Protocol. However, you can take that idea of brief, high-intensity training and apply it to running in different ways.
One way I do this is with hill sprints. After I warmup, I’ll head over to a hill near my house and sprint up it, as hard as I can. Then when I can’t sprint anymore, I’ll walk down to the bottom of the hill. And do it again!
While the Tabata Protocol has experimental results to validate its effectiveness, you can use his ideas to bring more intensity to your workouts and make faster progress. Integrate some high intensity intervals to push yourself to your limit for a few minutes, and then rest. Whether it’s hill sprints or regular sprints.
It’s much more efficient than getting in shape the ‘traditional’ way, with lots of jogging. And I happen to think it’s way more fun to be pushing yourself as hard as you can!
1. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30. PubMed PMID: 8897392.