13 Feb 2012

Applying Tabata Protocol to Fitness Training

With the previous week nothing more but a not so distant memory, I am looking forward to getting my butt kicked at the gym this time round.  Between the gym instructors, my personal trainer and one of my mates helping me, I will be doing a grand total of six and a half hours of fitness this week.  Considering I ended last week's cycle of training with heavy weights while doing Tabata-styled reps for my single cable flies and pull downs, I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can push my physical boundaries this week. 

Hopefully soon I'll be adding pics of me training, but need to figure out the camera thingy on my latest cellphone. 

In the interim, let me talk about my latest love affair:  Tabata Training.

It's a form of interval training and one of the most effective types of high intensity interval training.  Short and sweet, lasting around for minutes per exercise, the programme gives you maximum results at the shortest time possible.  This training technique was discovered by Dr Izumi Tabata, along with a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo.  Ideal for aerobic training, the technique helps in building up muscular endurance in the same manner as a 45-minute cardio workout.  Studies indicate that people who used this technique increased their anaerobic capacity by over a quarter as well a substantial increase in their aerobic fitness.  It's versatile too, as you can use Tabata for weight loss as well most improving performance in most aerobic and anaerobic sport.

This is what Dr Tabata had to say about his technique:
During my time working with the Japanese speed skating team, the head coach, Mr. Irisawa Koichi, had me analyze the effectiveness of his training regime that involved a rotation of short burst of maximum effort followed by short periods of rest. Although Coach Irisawa pioneered the idea, somehow it became named after me (laughs). The current regime consists of repetitions of 20 seconds of intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This means that, excluding warming up and cooling down, the exercise can be completed in only 4 minutes if repeated 8 times, more than enough to make even a fit person exhausted. The idea has become bigger than I imagined and now if you search this on Google, you will get about 200,000 hits.

In general there were two types of exercises, low-intensity exercises for longer periods of time that improved endurance, and exercises such as sprints that improve your ability to sprint, but have no effect on aerobics or endurance. In contrast, the Tabata Protocol draws on the advantages of each.
 Sourced from Ritsumeikan University

I use it as part of my weight training and cardio work, where I push hard and practically go nuts for twenty seconds and rest for ten, only to repeat it eight times.  And yes, it all adds up to a simple four minutes.  Having said that, it's the longest four minutes. 

When you do it, it feels like time stands still.  The bestest best part about it is that you could do it anywhere, at home or in your office during morning tea or lunch break.  If you want to do it, regardless if you're on a wheelchair or flat on your back in bed or wherever, I would suggest squats, leg raises, sit-ups, crunches or push-ups.  If you have weights nearby, I would suggest going light and work up until you find your limit.  Then again, don't be surprised if you'll end up doing more then you thought possible.  The secret to making this effective is in your sprint interval. You have to go all out, give yourself no quarter, so do as many reps as you can in the 20 seconds, put it down for 10, then pick it up again and go for broke for another 20 seconds.

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