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Are You Ready for Tabata?

By Michael K Butler B.A.; P.T.A.; CSCS*D; RSCC*D; NMT

There are so many exercise programs available these days that it can be a challenge to figure out what is right for you. Everyone is built differently – some are athletic while others are overweight and have never worked out before. Therefore, it is always recommended that you consult your doctor and find a qualified strength coach or trainer to help establish the right program for you.

Tabata training is a new program which is not time consuming, produces results and will give you a quick and effective butt-kicking, but you must be physically and mentally ready to perform this program.

This popular program was invented by a Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata, and much of the research and development was done at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Tabata and his team studied two controlled groups of athletes, one training at moderate intensity and the other at high intensity. The moderate intensity group worked out for one hour five days a week for six weeks. The high-intensity group worked out for less than 20 minutes four days a week for six weeks.

The results showed that the high intensity group had a much greater increase in both aerobic (cardiovascular) and anaerobic (muscle) systems, while the moderate group showed an increase in their aerobic system, but no increase in their anaerobic system. In summary, high intensity workouts for shorter periods of time can produce more comprehensive results.

From this data, Tabata and his team developed a program to mimic the high intensity group program – a format that includes 4 exercises lasting no longer than 4 minutes performed at maximum effort with only 10 seconds of rest between each of 8 sets. Even without weights this is quite challenging (so be careful in choosing your weights!).

The selected exercises can be varied and this factor is always a debate, but I believe upper and lower body should be involved daily (vs. one section of the body one day and the other section the next). Here is an example:

  1. Standing cable chest press (4 minutes): 20 seconds/rest 10 seconds x 8 sets; rest 1 minute before going onto the next exercise.
  2. Sit to stand bodyweight squats (4 minutes): 20 seconds/rest 10 seconds x 8 sets; rest 1 minute before going onto the next exercise.
  3. Bent over rows w/ light bar (4 minutes): 20 seconds/rest 10 seconds x 8 sets; rest 1 minute before going onto the next exercise.
  4. Mountain climbers (4 minutes): 20 seconds/rest 10 seconds x 8 sets.

Try incorporating this program into your fitness routine initially 2-3 days a week. You will want to change your program every 2-3 weeks as your body will get accustomed to the movements. You can also change the load of each exercise but remember each exercise must be done at 100 percent of your ability to get the maximum results. Fat loss and an increase in lean muscle mass should be noticed after 6-8 weeks.

Michael K. Butler is co-owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center. He is a licensed physical therapist assistant, a certified strength and conditioning coach with the highest distinction honors, a full body active release therapist, and author. His new book Par Fore the Course Golf Fitness is available on

Source: 1) Rosenzweig, Fara, “What is Tabata Training?”

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