2.23.2009

Tabata Interval Training

Introduction
With Tabata Interval Training, your days of resting longer than you are actually lifting are history. Doing a set that lasts 20-30 seconds and then resting 1-2 minutes before another half minute set? Not with Tabata. With this lifting program, your sets and rest periods are about to flip - you'll be lifting for twice as long as you break.

With Tabata Interval Training, you get short rest periods and high rep sets performed at such an intensity that you'll use roughly half your normal weight. You'll burn body fat, your muscles will grow, you'll get an aerobic workout and you'll increase strength and power. But it all comes at a price, and the only currency accepted is pain. It's a program as unique as it's name: Tabata.

History
Tabata Intervals were named after the Japanese man who first designed them: Izumi Tabata, PhD. Dr T. was looking for a method of gym training that would give the Japanese national speed skating team an edge on the ice. He discovered that when his athletes performed eight cycles of 20-second high-intensity bouts followed by 10 seconds of rest, they increased both their aerobic (endurance) capacity and anaerobic (quick power) output. Typically, these two items do not go hand in hand - training one typically means the other is taking a back seat. Not with Tabata. Tabata Interval Training offers the unique benefit of training both major metabolic pathways: those that provide endurance and those that create explosive energy.

What's In It For You?
Since it enhances endurance, Tabata boosts your body's ability to burn more body fat. And since it bolsters explosiveness, the kind you use in a typical set of bench presses, squats or deadlifts, it can help you get more reps with a given weight and/or use more weight to perform a given number of reps. So what used to be a set of 10 reps with 200 pounds could soon be 10 reps with 225. This crosses over not only to more strength, but also more growth, since a greater overload on the muscles will eventually lead to an increase in their size.

The benefits don't end there. Because of the program's relatively high rep counts and extremely short rest periods, you'll increase the number of blood cells in your muscle fibers. This will help deliver more oxygen and anabolic hormones to the muscles meaning you'll have more energy during weight training, not to mention better recovery and growth when it's over. And best of all, at least for those who loathe treadmills and elliptical machines, is the fact that Tabata is a cardio workout as well.

The Program
You'll do 2-4 exercises Tabata-style per muscle group. Do each exercise for eight sets of 20 seconds, performing as many reps as you can, with only 10 seconds of rest between each set. Once you complete eight sets of a given exercise, rest 2-3 minutes and then repeat for the next exercise. The timing is key.

Weight selection is also a critical component. If the resistance is too light, overall training intensity will be insufficient and results inadequate. If the weight is too heavy, you won't be able to adhere to the 20-seconds on, 10-seconds off intervals for all eight sets. Your rest periods will get bloated and you will no longer reap the aerobic benefits of Tabata training. Finding the right weight will take some trial and error. When you find a weight that allows you to complete a full 20 seconds of reps for the first five or six sets but has you failing on the last two or three sets, you've found the perfect weight. Your goal, then, will be ton complete the 20 seconds for reps for all eight reps (and stay true to the 10-second rest periods) before increasing the weight.

Because the Tabata program is both painfully intense and high in volume, it is suggested that you train each muscle group only once per week to provide ample recovery. Follow the Tabata Interval Training program for 4-6 weeks before returning to more traditional straight-sets training. Return to Tabata only every 2-3 months.




Sources
Muscle and Fitness Magazine

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