Tabata Protocol

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Tabata Protocol Review

Tabata Protocol has been called the world’s most effective fat burning workout. But does it actually work? What kind of equipment do you need for the workout?

Find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Tabata Protocol workout routine today in our review.

What is the Tabata Protocol?

The Tabata Protocol gets its name from Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese medical researcher. Tabata claims that with only 8 minutes of cardio exercise every 3 days, you can supercharge your body’s fat burning processes.

Sound familiar?

It should. Virtually every major cardio workout routine makes similar promises. The Tabata Protocol, however, does a few things differently.

First, it relies on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) techniques. These techniques involve pushing your body as hard as possible for 20 seconds, and then resting for about 10 seconds.

The original Tabata Protocol was developed during a study conducted at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. During that study, researchers studied highly-trained endurance athletes in peak physical condition.

Ultimately, the researchers found that the Tabata Protocol was one of the most effective ways to burn energy, lose fat, and kick your body’s natural energy production processes into high gear.

You can view the study’s abstract here. It was published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal way back in 1996. Ever since, the Tabata Protocol has attracted a niche following in the exercise community.

Tabata Protocol

How Does the Tabata Protocol Work?

The Tabata Protocol – and HIIT – builds up your endurance by activating your aerobic and anaerobic systems. In ordinary cardio exercises, our body only activates the aerobic system, which uses oxygen to burn fuel.

The anaerobic system only gets activated when your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. It’s like a “fight or flight” survival backup plan wired into human DNA.

You know how when you’re running so fast you’re breathing in short, fast, gasps?

That’s the feeling when your anaerobic system kicks in.

In short, the Tabata Protocol requires you to run past the point where you can breathe enough oxygen to supply your body with the fuel it needs. When you move past that point, your body starts turning to other sources of fuel – which is when it activates the anaerobic system.

The original Tabata Protocol program involves three steps:

Step 1) 5 Minutes Of Light Warm-up

Step 2) 8 Intervals Of 20 Seconds Of All-out Intensity Exercises Followed By 10 Seconds Of Rest

Step 3) 2 Minutes Of Cool-down

Most modern Tabata Protocol routines copy this plan. Some have slight variations – like for weight lifting, running, or rowing.

Let’s say you like biking. You should bike at your maximum RPMs and maximum resistance for 20 seconds, then cool down for 10 seconds.

You repeat this 8 times, so the total workout shouldn’t last more than 10-11 minutes.

One of the most important things to know about the Tabata Protocol is how to calculate your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is typically calculated as 220 minus your age.

So if you’re 40 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute (BPM). If you’re serious about following the Tabata Protocol, then you will need some type of heart rate monitor.

The Tabata Protocol will be extremely difficult when you first start out. You may find your heart rate pushing past 200 beats per minute. You might find that you can’t complete all 8 cycles of the high intensity workout.

That’s okay. One of the most important goals of the Tabata Protocol is to build up your heart and lung capacity gradually over a period of time.

To keep track of your heart and lung capacity, record your maximum heart rate (the highest heart rate achieved during your workout) as well as your recovery heart rate (recorded at the middle of your two minute cool down).

This information will tell you two things:

— Your Progress Over Time
— When It’s Safe To Increase Your Resistance Level

Ideally, you’ll do the Tabata Protocol three times per week, allowing one day in between each workout for rest. Your body needs time to recovery, build muscles, and build up the strength of your heart and lungs.

Scientific Evidence for the Tabata Protocol

The Tabata Protocol is a controversial workout routine. Some people claim that it’s all hype with no scientific evidence. Others claim that it’s just as effective as other circuit training routines or high intensity interval training.

Here are some of the important studies involving the Tabata Protocol over the years:

Original 1996 Tabata Protocol Study

In the original study on the Tabata Protocol, Japanese researchers (led by Dr. Izumi Tabata) took a group of high-level speed skating athletes. They separated the group into two. Both groups trained five days per week, but performed different workouts on those days.

One group performed a full 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week. The second group performed eight 20-second sprints of high-intensity cycling with a 10-second rest period in between – also working out five days per week. On the fifth day, the interval group also performed 30 minutes of steady-state exercise at 70% of their VO2max, followed by a rest period and four intervals.

The group that did the HIIT program were observed to have a better VO2max and anaerobic capacity than the group that did the ordinary cardio workout.

The study was published in 1996. From that moment forward, the HIIT routine was known as the Tabata Protocol.

Multiple Studies Show Benefits of HIIT Plateau After 3 Weeks

Studies on the Tabata Protocol have varied widely. One conclusion, however, appears to remain mostly the same: the benefits of HIIT peak between the 2nd and 3rd weeks. After three weeks, VO2max and anaerobic capacity plateaus – even when athletes were given an increasing work load.

Meanwhile, the group that performs ordinary cardio exercises continues to increase their VO2max and anaerobic capacity – they just do so at a more gradual rate. Eventually, they catch up to the HIIT group – it just takes a longer amount of time.

This effect was observed in the 1996 study. But it was actually seen long before 1996: in the 1950s, running coach Arthur Lydiard observed that “only 3 weeks of interval work were necessary to sharpen his athletes.”

So if you want to maximize the anaerobic, VO2max-increasing benefits of the Tabata Protocol, then you should perform the routine for three weeks.

2012 Study Shows Interval Training and Tabata-Style Weight Training Produce Identical Results

In 2012, researchers at Queen’s University sought to discover if and why high intensity interval training was more effective at boosting athletic performance.

The researchers recruited 25 active women and divvied them into two groups. One group did 30 minutes of treadmill running at 85% of their maximum heart rate, while the second group did eight 20-second sets of a single exercise (like jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees, or squat thrusts) with 10 seconds of rest between sets.

Both groups were observed to have increased their VO2max by the same amount: 7% to 8% after four weeks of training.

That may not seem significant until you realize that the Tabata Protocol-style group exercised for just 4 minutes, on average, while the traditional cardio group exercised for 30 minutes, on average. Despite the huge difference in workout times, the two achieved identical increases in VO2max.

Of course, some people claim that this study didn’t really involve the Tabata Protocol: the participants were performing basic workout moves, like jumping jacks and burpees, over a brief period of time (20 seconds). They weren’t really performing at their maximum athletic output.

Nevertheless, the fact that a group of women were able to exercise for four minutes and obtain the same results as a group of women that exercised for 30 minutes is significant.

Criticisms of the Tabata Protocol

One of the main criticisms of the Tabata Protocol is that it only measured VO2max levels. VO2max levels are used to assess your aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels – which typically correspond to how athletic you are.

None of the high intensity interval training and Tabata Protocol studies have measured things like fat loss, calorie burning, or muscle growth.

It’s possible that the Tabata Protocol is the best fat loss program out there. It’s also possible that you burn the same number of calories, or a fewer number of calories compared to traditional cardio workouts.

We just don’t know.

The only thing we do know is that the Tabata Protocol is the best program for increasing your aerobic and anaerobic capacity over a three week period.

Who Should Use the Tabata Protocol?

The Tabata Protocol is one of the most popular high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout routines available today. It’s straightforward to follow – but difficult to master.

We all have a fight or flight response hardwired into our DNA. In times of “flight”, our bodies absorb as much oxygen as possible. When that oxygen supply is depleted, we have a backup system called the anaerobic system that kicks in.

By activating this anaerobic system, you can increase your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, which means better endurance. That’s what the Tabata Protocol will do for you.

The Tabata Protocol isn’t easy, and it can even be dangerous if you push yourself too far. But if you follow the instructions as given, and can spend 10 minutes per day working out, you can achieve your target weight in a short period of time with the Tabata Protocol.

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