FITNESS: Tabata's on again, off again training melts calories away

Oct. 24, 2010 at 5:24 a.m.

A new and growing trend in the world of cardio is the Tabata interval. This specific training technique is named after a Japanese researcher named Izumi Tabata who works at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan.

This very intense interval can boost aerobic capacity by as much as 15 percent in six weeks of training. And even better, one four-minute cycle of Tabata training can burn as many as 60 calories.

The basic formula is 20 seconds of very high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this routine for eight rounds and a total of four minute. At the end of the 20 seconds, you should be so tired that you can't keep going. For the next 10 seconds you get to stop completely and focus on catching your breath. Each successive interval will probably be a little slower, because you are so tired.

I usually put this at the end of my client's exercise routine for several reasons. First you are already warmed up. Second, this high-speed cardio will leave you feeling like you just accomplished a major feat. Finally, finishing up with this technique allows you to ramp up your post-exercise calorie burn. (This is the elevated metabolism that your body stays at for up to four hours after a workout.)

One thing that is often misunderstood about high-intensity exercise is that it is not necessarily high impact. The difference between jogging and sprinting would be an example of a high-intensity exercise that is also high impact. For some people, this is counterproductive and can cause injuries. You can raise your intensity and still keep your impact low. One example of this would be on an elliptical machine. When it is time to do your 20 second sprint, raise the incline as high as possible and go as fast as you can. After 20 seconds, you should be completely winded. I like machines that use both your arms and legs for an all out effort. Another good example would be a rowing machine.

Because this technique is so intense don't do more than a single four-minute set per day at first. As you get stronger, you can add more cycles. When you can do more than 1 four minute cycle, intersperse it between other strength training moves. For example after your warmup, you might do all your arm work, than a Tabata interval followed by core work, leg work and finish up with another Tabata interval.

Stretching after such intense exercise is vital. It can help keep you from feeling sore and relaxes you after a hard workout. It also allows your heart rate, core temperature and breathing to return to normal before you leave the gym.

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Melissa Bagnall is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in physical education. You can email her at



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