Tabata – a Review

I originally wrote this article last year for a local newspaper;  a Tabata workout will be written and posted tomorrow (hopefully):



A lot of people have been asking me, “What’s one thing that I can do to burn fat and incorporate NOW into my workout program?”. My answer is always the same: Tabata intervals. Below, I will give you the background on Tabata intervals, then tell you how to incorporate them into your training program.



In 1996, Izumi Tabata conducted a study with two groups of athletes lasting 6 weeks. Group 1 (steady-state group) trained 5 days per week using steady state-training (70% of VO2max) for 60 minutes a day. Group 2 (tabata group) trained 5 days per week using intervals of 20 seconds of intense exercise (170% VO2max), followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 8 cycles (4 minutes in total).

After the 6 week period, the results showed Group 1 and Group 2 to have similar gains in VO2max. Group 1 (steady state group) had an average VO2max gain of 5mL/kg/min, and Group 2 (tabata group) had an average VO2max gain of 7 mL/kg/min. Also, Group 2 (tabata group) gained anaerobic capacity benefits, while Group 1 (steady-state) gained little to none.

Also, in 1994, Tremblay experimented with similar intervals and found that high intensity interval training is very beneficial in burning fat and increasing metabolism.

What does this all mean? Group 2 (tabata group) trained for 5 days per week for only 4 minutes per day! Compare that to Group 2 (steady-state group) who trained 5 days per week for 60 minutes per day. Both groups benefited similarly aerobically, but anaerobically, in ONLY 4 minutes per day, Group 2 gained more.



Personally, I recommend doing a 4 minute tabata 3 times per week. When I workout, I usually do my Tabatas at the end of my workouts as a finisher (recommended by Robert Dos Remedios). I’ll jump onto the treadmill, increase the incline and speed, then do my tabata. I will sprint for 20 seconds, jump off onto the side rails and rest completely for 10 seconds, then jump back on for another 20 seconds. I will do this for 4 minutes until the full tabata is finished.

Jon Chaimberg ( recommends starting off on a 10 degree incline and 6 mph speed. Then progressing up to a higher incline and a higher speed as you improve.

You will know that you have chosen the correct speed and incline when you are finished the tabata. If you feel like you can do another 20 second round, then you did not complete the tabata with the correct intensity. When I finish a tabata, I do not have enough air to even speak out loud, and sometimes I feel like puking.

Remember, in Izumi Tabata’s study (1996), the group doing the Tabata intervals are working at 170% VO2max. This means, when you are doing your Tabata intervals, you should be sprinting.



Overall, if you want to get the most out of your workout in the least amount of time, Tabata intervals are the answer. For only 4 minutes per day, you can get done what you used to accomplish in 60 minutes or more per day. For more information on the subject of tabatas and interval training, check out Robert Dos Remedios’ new book Cardio Strength Training. I recommend this book for men and women.


Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, et al. (1996). “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max”. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28 (10): 1327–30.

Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C (1994). “Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism”. Metab. Clin. Exp. 43 (7): 814–8.