Despite the buzz over “Tabata” training, many fitness clients—and some fitness pros—aren’t aware that they’re not doing true Tabata, meaning the protocol that was first analyzed and reported on in a 1996 edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Tabata et al. 1996).
“When professor Izumi Tabata performed his breakthrough research, the Tabata protocol was performed on high-level athletes on specialized cycle ergometers at 170% VO2max versus a control group exercising at steady state, 70% VO2max,” notes Bryce Taylor, DPT, a physical therapist at Downtown Physical Therapy in Indianapolis. In the study, the Tabata protocol was executed for 4 minutes at a time.
Of course, average fitness clients don’t really need to be doing true Tabata. In fact, it’s probably a good thing they aren’t: “If group instructors pushed their clients to this super-elevated heart rate for 4 minutes, class retention would be very low,” says Taylor.
Regardless of what you call it, the goal is to get people active and enjoying it. However, since Tabata has received a lot of media attention as a time-saving workout with astonishing results, it’s a good idea to instruct clients on what they can and can’t expect.
|This table summarizes the differences between Tabata and other HIIT methods.|
|Why we call it that||named after Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata||stands for high-intensity interval training|
|Interval ratio||2:1||varies (e.g., 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 1:2, etc.)|
|Length of intervals||20 seconds of work/10 seconds of recovery||varies (e.g., work/recovery intervals—in seconds—are 30/30, 45/15, 60/30, etc.)|
|Number of cycles||eight total (4 minutes)||varies (e.g., 2.5 minutes, 3 minutes, 6 minutes, etc.)|
|Intensity||anaerobic||anaerobic or aerobic|