The Tabata Protocol is a simple and sinister conditioning protocol, possibly more classified as a raw test of will-power.
The original structure of the Tabata Protocol looked like this:
Round 1: 20sec work/10sec rest
Round 2: 20sec work/10sec rest
Round 3: 20sec work/10sec rest
Round 4: 20sec work/10sec rest
Round 5: 20sec work/10sec rest
Round 6: 20sec work/10sec rest
Round 7: 20sec work/10sec rest
Round 8: 20sec work/10 sec rest
4 minutes in hell.
What is the Tabata Protocol?
The Tabata Protocol was conducted in 1996 to observe the effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. That’s a mouthful. Using a braked cycle ergometer, participants worked through 7-8 sets of 20:10 (work:rest) at 170% VO2max. This training protocol was performed 5 days per week for 6 total weeks.
Who is the Tabata?
Yes, Tabata, is actually a person.
Profesor Izumi Tabata is a former researcher at the National Institute for Health and Nutrition and is currently a professor and researcher at Ritsumeikan Unversity.
I thought you should at least know what the guy looks like…
Why is it NOT relevant to YOU?
I know you work hard in the gym, but trust me, there is another gear that everyone can tap into. 110% exertion is beyond the governor that most of us are calibrated with.
A lot of us will never know what 110% effort is like.
The original Tabata Protocol involved training at an effort that would left nothing at the end of the 8th round.
You can work “hard” during your Tabata, but you won’t touch the intensity the subjects in the study put forth. Sorry. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get some kind of training effect from it!
How to make the Tabata Protocol Work for you…
You can start by calling this type of training what it really is… negative work to rest ratio or maybe a “20:10 workout”. Meaning, the amount of time you are going to spend in your work sets is longer in duration that you rest periods during each rep/round.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’ll never touch the 170% VO2 max.
170% of your VO2 max looks something like this…
170% VO2 max = Eyeballs popping out of your head + lungs being vomitted
Tabata protocols is an advanced conditioning workout.
You are going to find that your fatigue levels are going to increase beyond what you are accustomed to, draining your energy reserves rather quickly, which means that your output in the later rounds is going to be shit.
The Tabata Protocol never looked at fat loss, and the actual subjects who were engaged in this type of training actually used a 5th day of aerobic exercise during the study.
This is what happens sometimes when research hits the mainstream. Magazines need something to write about and trainers need a way to set themselves apart, so new modalities are formed, and the general population bites on the hype.
What we do know is that high exertion/intensity exercise is effective as hell for jarring our system and creating an environment that is more likely to burn fat. There is no question about that.
But picking up heavy things and building muscle will also get you lean, so don’t get tunnel vision on interval training.
I would use the Tabata as a finisher if you are short on time at the end of a workout.
Get your strength training in, rest a few minutes while you set up on the bike, then rip out 8 rounds of hell.
I know that you will get a positive training effect assuming you put forth an effort that is way out of your comfort zone.
I have used the 20:10 protocol a lot. I can tell you that I have never touched the 170% VO2 max effort that the subjects put forth in the study. Mentally, I am not even there. Most times I am pressed for time after my resistance based work, and the 20:10 method is quick and effective solution. 8 minutes is all you need.
I always use 20:10 type work on my Schwinn Airdyne. There is nothing like an Airdyne. I found mine on Craigslist from an old lady, best investment ever for low impact cardiovascular work.
Do I find the Tabata structured protocol difficult? Hell yes. Like anything, try it for yourself. Make your own decisions. Negative work to rest ratios leave a person gasping for oxygen. I don’t care how well-trained you are, oxygen depletion in that short of a time is going to leave you “well-done”.
Let your heart guide you…
As always, I encourage you to wear a heart rate monitor and see where you end up. You’ll notice the lag time between the end of your last 20:10 round and your heart rate, as your heart rate will continue to creep up. This is normal with anaerobic work. See where you get and chart it. How long does it take you to recover to 130bpm after your last rep? Chart that. If you used a bike (which I encourage) how far did you go during your work sets… chart that too. Aim to increase your distance each time.
Give it a shot and let me know how it goes in the comments section…