The Tabata Interval and 2 Workouts

Ever wonder what the most effective way to train is?  How to get the best bang for your sweat and tears?  While there is no one-size-fits-all way to train, I believe there is overwhelming evidence that everyone should include interval training in one form or another into their fitness regimen.

What is Interval Training?

Basically, interval training goes like this:  high bouts of anaerobic (intense, short-term, maximum effort) exercise, followed by periods of rest.  Go balls-to-the-wall.  Take a break.  Repeat.  This allows us to tap into the numerous health benefits of anaerobic training, while STILL developing aerobic capacity.  And that’s the key.  You can develop aerobic capacity while doing this type of anaerobic training, but it doesn’t work the other way around.  No matter how you train aerobically (long, sustainable, minimal-moderate effort), you WILL NOT develop any of the things classically tied to anaerobic exercise, such as:

  • Burn Fat preferentially
  • Build Muscle (aerobic exercise actually BURNS muscle)
  • Increase strength, speed, and power
  • Creates fast-twitch (as opposed to slow-twitch) muscle fibers.  Fast-twitch muscle fibers naturally change to slow-twitch during the aging process, and anaerobic exercise COMBATS this while aerobic exercise actually AIDS in the conversion!

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise in a Picture

(Thanks to the folks at CrossFit Oakland for posting.)

Why not?

My feeling is that many people don’t do interval anaerobic workouts either because:

  1. They don’t know how.
  2. They think it will take too long.
  3. It’s really freaking hard (i.e. a maximal effort.)

That’s why I’m going to share with you a classic interval workout – the Tabata interval.  After this, you’ll know how to do an interval workout, you’ll be able to do it in 16 min. or less, and it will still be pretty freaking hard.  Can’t do anything about that last one, but we have to work to attain that freeing level of health and fitness we all want.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Fun with Tabata

The Tabata interval was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata who put athletes on stationary bikes through a 20 sec. on, 10 sec. off set, repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes.  When compared to athletes who did moderate activity on the bikes for 60 minutes, the 4 minute group actually had BETTER aerobic capacity development! So for 4 minutes of work, you get MORE benefit than someone who spent 60 minutes doing the same thing.  Sounds pretty good, right?  What’s more, this interval also works well for bodyweight exercises, which is where our 2 workouts for the day come in.

Free to Move Workouts

Each workout is composed of four, 4-minute Tabata intervals.  You complete a full Tabata interval on one movement before moving on to the next.  The two listed below are a couple of my favorite Tabata workouts, the first one inspired by a similar CrossFit workout (called “Tabata Something Else”.)

Tabata4 Workout 1

Pull-up, Push-up, Sit-up, Squat (air)

Tabata4 Workout 2

Handstand Prep Press, Dip (parallel bars), Back Ext., Lunge

Give those a try, and let me know how it goes!  You won’t be disappointed with the results.  Adding a Tabata4 workout into your Free to Move routine once a week/once every-other-week as one of your MOVE days is a great way to work towards that healthy, I-can-take-on-anything body that we all want.

Cheers, and stay healthy everybody.

6 thoughts on “The Tabata Interval and 2 Workouts

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  2. Marshall

    So, if I’m understanding this correctly, you’re supposed to do, e.g., pullups for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, do more pullups for 20 seconds, etc., for 4 minutes. Is that right? Do you just do them as fast as you can to get to “maximum effort?” Also, any suggestions on how to get the timing down (i.e., 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off)?


    1. Matt Post author

      Yeah, you’ve got it right. 20 seconds of performing reps followed by 10 seconds of rest. By “Maximum Effort”, I mean going as hard/fast as you can safely while maintaining good form. If you can do 12 pullups in 20 seconds, as compared to 8, you have done more work, and so your ‘intensity’ was up. As far as the timing, what I like to do is use a stopwatch and set it for 30 seconds on chimed repeat. After the 30 seconds pass, it’s beeps for 10 seconds to let me know the clock has restarted. So basically that means I rest during the beep, and go whenever it stops. Hopefully you can find a similar way to do it with your watch. In the end, if the timing is not exact, it’s okay. Just try to get some reps in at good speed, and then take a break. Repeat. As long as you can ball park it you’ll be fine. 🙂

      Hope that helps!

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