Triathlon Magazine Canada - - T1 - BY KERRY HALE

Not enough hours in the day and crav­ing a time-ef­fi­cient work­out? Need some va­ri­ety in your ex­ist­ing train­ing rou­tine? Look­ing for a short blast of high-oc­tane fo­cus to stim­u­late car­dio re­wards and fat burn? Train­ing that can be done any­time, any­where, with­out need for equip­ment? Ta­bata might be for you.

The Ta­bata train­ing prin­ci­ple is not a new phe­nom­e­non, but it re­mains a very sim­ple and highly ef­fec­tive one. Timed in­ter­vals of 20-sec­ond move­ments per­formed at max­i­mum ef­fort fol­lowed by 10-sec­onds of rest and re­cov­ery. In a com­plete Ta­bata work­out, eight sets of four dis­tinct ex­er­cises – cho­sen ac­cord­ing to in­di­vid­ual fit­ness goals and abil­i­ties – are per­formed with a short rest af­ter eight sets are com­pleted.

Ath­letes have the op­tion of ei­ther com­plet­ing all eight sets of the same ex­er­cise be­fore mov­ing on to the sec­ond ex­er­cise, then the third etc., or al­ter­na­tively do­ing one set of each of the four ex­er­cises, then re­peat­ing this process eight times. The piv­otal el­e­ment of Ta­bata train­ing is the 20:10 prin­ci­ple.

De­spite the sim­plic­ity, Ta­bata is a se­ri­ously in­tense and ex­haust­ing burst of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Nowa­days, Ta­bata train­ing is one of the most widely used forms of high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing (HIIT) that po­ten­tially uses a greater range of mus­cle groups than a tra­di­tional car­dio work­out in a shorter amount of time. It forces ath­letes to work above lac­tate thresh­old to build strength, flex­i­bil­ity and im­prove car­dio con­di­tion­ing.

The name­sake of Ta­bata is Ja­panese sci­en­tist Dr. Izumi Ta­bata, who per­formed re­search at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Fit­ness and Sports in Tokyo in the mid 1990s. Dr. Ta­bata was hired by the head coach of the Ja­panese speed skat­ing team to an­a­lyze the ef­fi­cacy of the team’s train­ing pro­gram, which was char­ac­ter­ized by ro­ta­tions of short bursts of high ac­tiv­ity and short rest pe­ri­ods. Dr. Ta­bata and his col­leagues com­pared anaer­o­bic and aer­o­bic ben­e­fits be­tween peo­ple who ex­er­cised at a mod­er­ate level for a con­tin­u­ous pe­riod of time and those who per­formed these in­ter­mit­tent high-in­ten­sity bursts. Amaz­ingly, the study found that in­ter­mit­tent ex­er­cise max­i­mally works both aer­o­bic and anaer­o­bic sys­tems, in­clud­ing VO2 Max and anaer­o­bic ca­pac­ity, com­pared to those who worked out at mod­er­ate in­ten­sity.

The Ta­bata style of train­ing can be used as a stand-alone train­ing pro­gram, but eas­ily al­lows for in­te­gra­tion within a wide va­ri­ety of fit­ness pro­grams, in­clud­ing triathlon. There is an in­fi­nite num­ber of pos­si­ble Ta­bata move­ments, in­clud­ing body weight ex­er­cises, free weight move­ments, ket­tle bell ex­er­cises, sta­tion­ary bike spin­ning, sprint­ing, short hill re­peats on foot and even sin­gle lap re­peats at the lo­cal pool. In­di­vid­ual cre­ativ­ity is en­cour­aged in or­der to con­struct one’s own Ta­bata work­out us­ing per­son­al­ized ex­er­cises. The pri­mary fo­cus must al­ways be on main­tain­ing a top-level ef­fort through­out the in­ter­val while com­plet­ing all in­ter­vals (eight, or fewer for be­gin­ners) be­fore al­low­ing the body to fully re­lax.

This type of train­ing does come with a warn­ing at­tached: Ta­bata train­ing is bet­ter suited for in­ter­me­di­ate to ad­vanced ath­letes who are com­fort­able with high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise. Ad­di­tion­ally, there is al­ways a greater risk of in­jury when per­form­ing high-im­pact, high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise. For this rea­son, ath­letes should en­sure they warm up ad­e­quately, start with fewer sets and take sev­eral weeks to build up to a com­plete Ta­bata work­out. You shouldn’t do these work­outs more than three or four times a week. Cor­rect form is vi­tal, so ath­letes need to stay on top of their tech­nique.

Ta­bata, in essence, is a short, build-your-own-ad­ven­ture fit­ness reg­i­men that will pro­duce a heady burn and af­ter­glow in a time pe­riod that al­most any­one can af­ford. It’s cost-ef­fec­tive, fun, su­per chal­leng­ing and, by ad­her­ing to the 20:10 prin­ci­ple, pro­duces re­mark­able re­sults.

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