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You can do anything for 20 seconds, right? No sweat.

But, have you met Tabata?

Tabata training is a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that incorporates intense periods of work followed by low-intensity segments or rest. It’s designed to be performed in intervals, which increases your aerobic and anaerobic capacity at the same time. HIIT is often a shorter workout because you use big levels of energy all at once, which revs your metabolism, burns adipose tissue, or body fat, quickly and can result in quicker muscle growth.

It should also leave you exhausted.  

The core concept of Tabata is one movement done over and over. Here’s how it works:

  • Choose your exercise (for example, burpees, thrusters, squats, mountain climbers)
  • Perform the exercise at your maximum level for 20 seconds. Pause for a 10 second rest, and repeat. These are your intervals.
  • The number of intervals are up to you. So your workout may be as short as five minutes, or you may opt to push yourself longer.
  • Some training incorporates different exercises into one Tabata workout or mixes the level of intensity, and while not true Tabata style, these workouts can be effective.
  • During your 20 seconds ‘on’, you should be going at your highest maximum output. Your heart rate should be at 100% (more than other forms of HIIT) and it should leave you feeling utterly drained.

Because you’re working both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, Tabata drills can be extremely effective in burning fat, revving your metabolism and boosting your entire threshold for athletic performance.

As a side note, Tabata is a pretty fun word, and you should know that there was in fact someone named Izumi Tabata who developed Tabata training. His 1996 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that intense four-minute workouts, five days a week for six weeks improved participants’ VO2 max and anaerobic energy supply system. Still debating on whether I’d rather my last name be Tabata or Burpee.

Ode to the Tabata:
I hate you.
I love you.
I hate you.
I love you.

Aaron Hewitt PA-C is a Physician Assistant with OrthoCarolina’s Sports Medicine Center. He is a former Assistant Athletic Trainer with the Minnesota Vikings (NFL), and is an orthopedic provider for UNC-Charlotte and Myers Park High School. He also is a Physician Assistant Team Lead for Sports Medicine, Spine, Hand & Pediatrics and a Clinical and Surgical Preceptor for Physician Students. In addition to CrossFit, Aaron is dedicated to running, yoga and clean eating.

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