Tabata Training for Beginners
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Photo by Wanderlinse

Are you ready to take your HIIT to a new level?

Then it’s time to try tabata training.

Tabata training, or tabata intervals, came out of a 1996 study by Izumi Tabata. The study compared short ultra high intensity interval training vs. long steady state cardio (you know, the “fat burning zone” intensity on your favorite cardio machine). The study found that the tabata group, performing just 8 cycles of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, had similar VO2max improvements to the group performing longer steady state workouts. But the tabata group was the only group to show improved anaerobic capacity, meaning you can push a little farther and little faster when running, cycling or any other fitness activity. It also means you can get highly effective fat burning workout in very little time.

When I introduce clients to Tabata training I like to alter the original protocol by doing only 6 rounds and warm up with a short core workout before. This is, of course, after our usual dynamic stretching before any workout. Before you attempt this core/tabata workout I suggest you do the same, warming up with things like jumping jacks, arms circles and knee lifts.

You’ll only need an interval timer  or stopwatch for this workout. That’s the other great thing about tabata training – the best exercises require nothing but your body.

Start with two sets of the following core exercises:

  • Alternating Leg Lifts
    Lay face up with hands to the sides or under your tailbone. Start with legs in an L position – one leg parallel to the ground, one leg perpendicular – the switch for 10 reps on each side.
  • Supermans
    Lay face down with arms reaching forward and overhead. Squeeze glutes and low back to “take off” lifting hands and feet up in the air. Release with control and repeat for 10 reps.
  • Windshield Wipers
    Lay face up with knees bent and lifted above hips. Your arms should be out to side, making a T with the upper body. Your feet should be level with knees. Rotate through the middle, leaning the knees off to on to one side. Twist as far as you can without the opposite shoulder coming of the ground. Return to center and twist to the opposite side. Repeat for 10 reps on each side.

Now you’ll need your interval timer or stop watch. Set it for 6 rounds of 20 second of work and 10 seconds of rest. You’ll do each exercise for all 6 rounds before moving to the next exercise. Rest for up to a minute or two between each exercise if needed.

  • Reverse Lunges
    When lunging go as low as you can, bringing your knee to the ground if possible. Also the longer the step you take the more the emphasis shifts to the glutes. Alternate legs and make sure you keep your forward knee over your ankle.
  • Push Ups
    Push ups may seem simple enough but, if you keep good form, your chest and arms will be screaming by round 4. Drop to your knees for a modified push up if you’re at a beginner to intermediate fitness level.
  • Squat Thrusts
    “Burpees” work your body from head to toe. Be sure not to cheat on form for the sake of speed or volume. Protect your low back by making sure your abs are tucked in, pulling your belly button back towards your spine.
  • Table Lifts
    Take the table pose from yoga and add motion. Drop your glutes to the ground just long enough to tap them on the ground, then lift back up by squeezing your glutes and pressing the heals of your hands into the ground. This is also one of my favorite exercises for shaping shoulders and arms.

First time with Tabata style training? Let me know how it goes. If you’re already a Tabata fan, what’s your favorite exercise for intervals?

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