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Fitness Class

After wearable technology and body weight training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the top fitness trend, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). HIIT training involves short, intense intervals of exercise followed by short periods of recovery or rest. These intense workouts usually last no longer than 30 minutes. One of the more popular HIIT programs, Tabata training, utilizes eight rounds of intense exercise lasting 20 seconds each, followed by 10 seconds of rest/recovery. This type of short-burst workout can have cardiovascular benefits, and improve both athletic physical conditioning and glucose metabolism.

History of Tabata

In a 1996 study featuring Olympic speed skaters, Dr. Izumi Tabata and Coach Irisawa Koichi put athletes through a test on a mechanically-braked cycle ergometer. At an intensity of 170% of VO2max (maximum volume of oxygen an athlete can use), the skaters exercised for short bursts of 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeated for four minutes; a total of eight cycles. The athletes trained using this method (Tabata named the IE1 protocol) for four days and added a fifth day of slate training (continuous training with no rest). A second group in the study performed steady slate training (70% VO2max) for five days.

The Tabata group achieved similar aerobic gains as the second group who worked out continuous. At the end, the second group did have a higher VO2max (from 52 to 57 mL/(kg•min), but the Tabata group, which started lower, gained more overall (48 to 55 mL/(kg•min). In addition, the Tabata group saw a 28% gain in their anaerobic fitness level.

Benefits of Tabata

The main purpose of Tabata training is to get the maximum benefits in the least amount of time. You can see why this type of exercise training would be appealing to Olympic athletes. It has been known to raise metabolism and the heart rate immediately, which also makes Tabata a great training program for weight loss. The protocol is so intense that your metabolism stays high, even after the workout is complete. As a result, you continue to burn fat for hours. The technical term for this is Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), also known as the “after burn” effect. Additional studies have shown that Tabata can burn up to 13.5 calories per minute.

One of the highlights of Tabata from a trainer’s standpoint is that it gives trainers the ability break down the exercise series to include short bursts of exercises such as push-ups, burpees, squats and sprints for example. Don’t forget each exercise is done at high-intensity for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in-between. If done correctly, athletes can really take advantage of the benefits Tabata training can give them.


Tabata Is Not For Everyone

Due to the intensity of this program, Tabata is not for everyone. Since you are already P90X LIVE instructors and are used to training at a high level, you may find Tabata to be a comfortable transition, but when leading a class, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Participants who normally consider themselves strong exercisers have been known to be caught off guard by Tabata training; many find it hard to catch their breath while others are just not physically able to handle the intensity of this workout. It is encouraged that all participants get clearance from their doctors before starting a Tabata training program and be forthcoming with their instructor on any injuries they have.  It is our recommendation that participants let their injuries heal before taking on this program. Also taking advantage of these short rest periods is vital. This is a good time to practice breathing exercises and keep moving even at a slow pace to keep the blood flowing and muscles limber. Of course, you are not training to be Olympic speed skaters, so as P90X LIVE instructors you will be provided with a predesigned workout that will be a variation of the Tabata program.

With any HIIT training, proper nutrition is important as well. Tabata is not a program you want to show up to on an empty stomach. But, don’t weigh yourself down with too much protein or carbs either. Some fast digesting protein and carbs can fuel your muscles with the essential amino acids you’ll need. You can also suggest clients consult with a registered dietitian to find the right nutritional balance for them.

While Tabata is a tough training program, it can also be a fun, challenging workout that participants will enjoy. And, you will be instructing on a valuable tool for both exercisers and athletes, how to get maximum benefits of a full workout, in a shorter length of time. Or, as they say on Wall Street, “more bang for your buck.”

Kevin McGuire is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has been writing on topics of health, fitness and nutrition for 10 years. He can be reached at mcgurk1266@gmail.com.



Tabata, Izumi; Nishimura, Kouji; Kouzaki, Motoki; Hirai, Yuusuke; Ogita, Futoshi; Miyachi, Motohiko; Yamamoto, Kaoru (1996). “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 28 (10): 1327–30.doi:10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018.PMID 8897392.

Tabata, Izumi; Irisawa, Kouichi; Kouzaki, Motoki; Nishimura, Kouji; Ogita, Futoshi; Miyachi, Motohiko (1997). “Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.29 (3): 390–5. doi:10.1097/00005768-199703000-00015. PMID 9139179

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