Tabata protocol (HIIT)

Having a crazy lifestyle one does not always have enough time to work out. But still no one wants to fall out of schedule and lose the results and that great feeling when you are full of energy and positive mood for the day. That is why High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become widely popular for the last year. It has all began with the research results which has totally changed the concept of power and endurance training. We shall talk about the sensational Tabata protocol.


In the mid 90s the head trainer of Japanese speed skating team addressed the doctor Izumi Tabata in order to get help in analyzing the effectiveness of the training conditions arranged. The essence of the method was in alternation of short intervals during which the maximum efforts were used with short rest periods. The scientist started analyzing the training mode of professional speed skaters. And in 1996 Tabata published the research results. The research showed that aerobic (endurance) and anaerobic (power) qualities could be trained together. It has become a wide revelation, as before that the referred two qualities had been considered as two absolutely different ways of training.
During the research process Tabata studied several different protocols, but he chose the specifically important eight sets of intervals where 20 seconds of intensive work alternated with 10-second interval of rest. The research results showed that those were the most effective intervals for improving the level of VO2max (index showing how effectively you can take in and assimilate oxygen), endurance, etc. The research was conducted on stationary bicycles, but this protocol is now applied to all the variety of functional movements including squats, chin-ups, pushups, row, kettle bell training, running and so on. As a result, this scientific research gave an impulse to developing a new flow – HIIT.

How does it work?

The original Tabata protocol takes 16 minutes including warm-up and cool down. And it can sound very attractive for those who hate doing cardio sessions. But do not think that short means easy in this case. Even though the time of this workout is not long, but you basically train yourself to exhaustion.
The group of researchers headed by Jill MacRae at Royal University, Kingston, Canada conducted an experiment. One group was performing exercises according to Tabata protocol during 4 minutes, and another one – regular exercises for improving endurance for 30 minutes. As a result of the experiment, both groups showed the improved level of endurance and VO2max. Therefore, the scientists drew a conclusion that Tabata-style workouts 4 times a week gave the same results as traditional endurance-improving workouts. The conclusion is forced upon you. If you do not have much time, then Tabata protocol may be the best choice for you.
You may find a huge variety of this type training. The choice is always yours. You should definitely do what suits best for you. Longer sessions will considerably increase the amount of oxygen consumed within the next 24 hours after finishing the workout. And this gives you an additional advantage, as it increases the amount of calories burned at rest after training.
For example, the research conducted by doctor Trap and his colleagues in Sydney proved that 20-minute interval training 3 times a week had resulted in lower level of insulin on an empty stomach, lower body fat level, lower subcutaneous fat layer in legs and stomach for overweight women compared to those women who did traditional cardio sessions 3 times a week. Tabata is also good for those who wish to keep their muscle mass. Unlike the traditional cardio, high-intensity intervals can help build and keep muscles due to the fact that it stimulates fast-twitch muscle fiber (which is liable to growing most of all) work harder.

Additional benefits

Interesting results were also shown in a research for diabetics. The protein gluco-transporter which is found in skeleton muscles helps glucose to absorb into those muscles faster. This fact is important for diabetics, as thanks to this type of protein production stimulation they can improve their glucose metabolism. This is one of the most important reasons for such people to start physical activity on a regular basis. Izumi Tabata conducted additional researches and discovered that high-intensity exercises were effective for increasing the level of gluco-transporter production.

How should you begin?

If you never tried anything like that or your last cardio session was a long time ago, you should prepare your body well first. Choose some moderate level of loads in order to cope with the task and to estimate your physical condition level. Prefer full-body workouts.

Workout routine scheme:

1. Start with a 10-minute warm-up.
2. Begin an interval workout:
20-second intensive work, then a 10-second rest
Repeat this round for eight times (4 minutes total)
3. Two minutes for a cool down (recover your breathe rhythm by walking around in a slow mode).

Tabata-style training can be considered as a separate type of training. But you can also add some exercises in Tabata-style before and after a weight workout. It is important to estimate how well your body copes with this type of activity. Tabata can also be a great way to 'explode' the body part trained after the weight training. Try to 'kill the muscle' after some basic exercises in such style.

Tabata protocol looks attractive considering results, scientific approach and novelty. Looking for the way to diversify your training process you should not avoid this variant. Just remember one thing – Tabata protocol should never be like a walk in the park. People often use this method incorrectly. Their 20-second intervals are too easy to increase their aerobic and anaerobic rates, as well as to increase post-workout oxygen consumption. That is why you should try different variants, choose exercises carefully and be result-oriented.