Friday, February 3, 2012

What Tabata is Not

There are many names for it. Surge, Burst, HiiT, The Tabata Protocol, and my favorite, Four Minutes of Hell. No matter what you call it, the Tabata method of interval training is the most effective way to train both the aerobic and anaerobic metabolic pathways. It only takes four minutes, but those 8 sets of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest, are the longest in your life if you do the protocol correctly. 

Tabata Myths

More is better : Tabata intervals are a an exercise where you work for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds for a total of 8 sets. Easy peasy, right?
WRONG. For those 20 seconds, you are to go ALL OUT. you are meant to use up all the gas in your tank, you are supposed to bonk. I have seen tons of videos and write ups about intervals that last 20 minutes or more with the name tabata stamped on it. Those aren't Tabatas. If you give it everything you got and can only do half the sets, you are doing it right!!! 

You are a pro athlete, you say? Doesn't matter. Your 100% effort may take you farther, lift up heavier things, hit harder, but 100% of your effort is still 100%, you simply CAN'T do any more and that is what Tabatas are all about. Finding the bonk.

The bonk actually brings you to the anaerobic, hardcore level that you are looking for. Sure it helps with fat loss, almost all cardio does. The difference with tabatas, is that it seems to target fat as the primary energy source, so it leaves muscle tissue alone. Need a visual? Think of a 
sprinter and compare that picture to a marathoner, which body do you want to have?

Any Exercise can be done Tabata style: No it can't. Tabatas are all out effort and you simply cannot divide your attention with things like proper form. So leave the deadlifts for a weight training day. 

Choose an exercise that doesn't take much thought. Sprinting, stairs, box jumps, jumping jacks, burpees, jumping lunges, punching a heavy bag, switch kicks are all great exercises. Skip anything that takes thinking or form to do properly.

Keep it simple. Some people will have you do a different exercise for every set, like sprint for 20 secs, the next set will be jumping jacks, the next set will be burpees. If you are like me, that is too much to remember. I can't even count when exercising, never mind what exercise comes next. Besides it is only four mintes, so pick one thing and follow it through.

Funny thing about black belts: they can't do this interval with a heavy bag. The drill is about all out effort, tossing aside form and technique. They have been practicing form for so long that they cannot just plain hit like a drunken sailor. So when I do this at the end of kickboxing, I always try to choose an exercise they can't think too much about.