Tabata Training Explained

Another Way to Work With Intervals: Tabata

Tabata. These three simple rhythmic syllables when uttered by a personal trainer can make a person sweat with nervous anticipation. And the nervous sweating will be followed by lots of actual sweating once the workout begins. After hearing rumors of this intense workout, yesterday my Equinox trainer Lauren decided it was time to introduce me to Tabata training; today my abs, glutes, and upper back feel quite well acquainted with the interval-style workout. Although originally created for sprint intervals with speed skating and cycling, you can Tabata anything (yep, I just turned it into a verb).

Tabata is a very concise way to organize intervals of work and rest. You perform your chosen exercise, jumping rope or doing burpees with a BOSU, for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds maintaining this on/off sequence for a total of eight cycles. Each full round is four minutes long, and you keep repeating the four-minute structure with different exercises. You want to work as hard and as fast as you can in those 20 seconds — no dilly dallying. I did a total of nine cycles after running for 10 minutes as warmup. To keep things exciting, Lauren organized my workout around three pieces of equipment (eight-pound medicine ball, BOSU, cable pulleys), using each piece for three exercises. The hour flew by, and I burned almost 500 calories. Look for Tabata classes at your gym — circuit Tabata classes usually have you go through 12 to 15 exercises in 60 minutes.

You don't need a trainer hovering over you or a class to keep track of your cycles; create a Tabata workout at home using this loud and colorful Tabata clock to track your time so you can get your sweat on without worrying about the numbers. If you are using weights in your workout, start out light. What feels right the first couple of cycles may be way too much when you hit the sixth one.

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