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The Fitness Zone

What is Tabata? - Australian Institute of Fitness
October 12, 2016

The gruelling, high intensity, calorie obliterating, ‘thank gosh’ it’s over style of training always has you finishing your workout with a heap of endorphins. But with free time hard to come by, between work commitments, and life, squeezing in an decent workout regularly can be challenging. That is where TABATA training is perfect, and Mitchell Jones, Fitness Coach from the Australian Institute of Fitness is here to share all of its AMAZING benefits.

What is Tabata?

The concept was first introduced by Dr Izumi Tabata in 1996, in an attempt to find a more time-efficient means of exercising over the old ‘block run’. His study indicated that a four minute, high intensity interval training (HIIT) session triggered similar benefits in aerobic conditioning, as well as a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity (our ability to train at high intensity with minimal oxygen supply, when compared to a 60 minute run). This paved the way for all of the different variations of interval style training that we recognise today.

Tabata is an all-inclusive style of training, and all participants to work at their own intensity, which is great if you are a PT running bootcamps or group training with clients who have different fitness levels. It is similar in style to a circuit class, with participants aiming to move straight between exercises with short rest breaks in between rounds. Those with a high level of fitness are able to undertake numerous repetitions, while newcomers can experience the exercises at their own pace. The key is about managing your work to rest ratio.

Tabata training sessions:


When you first try TABATA, like everything new, it is always best to pace yourself. TABATA is all about training at a high intensity for a short period of time, with small recoveries, so you want to find a challenging but healthy work to recovery ratio.

For example, for your first TABATA session, your ratio may include 10 seconds of exercise followed by 20 seconds of rest, times 8 rounds. Ten seconds of exercise may not sound like a lot, but remember the goal is to work at a HIGH intensity.

As your fitness progresses, you can start to vary the working rations from 15 seconds of work,  followed by 15 seconds recovery, times 8 rounds, and when you are feeling really game, try 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of recovery. This will be sure to spike your heart rate, increase your fitness, and burn a bunch of calories. The aim of each round is to increase the number of reps of each exercise, in every round.

Check out this four minute session you could try for a few rounds, all you need is a stopwatch!

ROUND ONE: 20 seconds of SQUAT JUMPS, followed by 10 seconds of rest

ROUND TWO: 20 seconds of PUSH UPS, followed by 10 seconds of rest

ROUND THREE: 20 seconds of BURPEES (YES, burpees), followed by 10 seconds of rest

ROUND FOUR: 20 seconds of JUMPING JACKS, followed by 10 seconds of rest

ROUND FIVE: 20 seconds of HIGH KNEES, followed by 10 seconds of rest

ROUND SIX: 20 seconds of MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS, followed by 10 seconds of rest

ROUND SEVEN: 20 seconds of CRUNCHES, followed by 10 seconds of rest


How to do Tabata


#1 - Aim for exercises that use minimal equipment (consider resistance bands or medicine balls) so that you can transition across exercises quickly.

# 2 - Try some explosive power movements such as plyometric exercises (eg. Squat Jumps, Box Jumps or clap push ups) to increase the muscle recruitment and up the intensity of the session.

#3 -  If you forget your stopwatch or timing device, there are some great TABATA apps for both iPhone and android devices. They’ll give you a countdown to each exercise and help you record all of the workouts you’ve done!

#4 - You should still include a warm up of at least 5 minutes prior to your first round of TABATA and a cool down after you’ve finished your last round.

#5 - Don’t forget about technique! When you’re fatigued and trying to improve reps, always ensure that your form is paramount, reps are the goal, BUT technique should always come first.

TABATA is a great way to workout, whether you are time poor, looking for an effective and challenging way to increase your fitness, or looking to mix up your training. You can create your own sessions, or even attend TABATA style classes at your local gym.

We hope you enjoy your next TABATA session, and good luck! 

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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