Monday, March 25, 2013

Tabata hits the showbiz big time

So I was reading a standard journalists piece about the Tabata protocol - you know: "Get fit in 4 minutes!!!" and all that.  So far so good - this stuff keeps popping up every now and again as a journalist discovers interval training and decides to break it to the world.

Anyway, what was different in this one was that they actually spoke to Tabata himself.  He stressed something that I mentioned in the Wingate post - you need to work very very hard:

"....I often go on YouTube and, while I am honoured that people are doing it, some are doing it wrong because they don't realise the intensity you need to work at," says Tabata.

Tabata is addressing this by staging his own PR campaign:

It's slightly surprising, therefore, that the plan is still the preserve of the serious athlete and musclehead crowd – although that may change now that Tabata has agreed a deal with Universal Studios that will lead to a network of instructors and a DVD range released towards the end of the year. 

So we are facing an official Tabata instructor and DVD programme.

The story is at

The Tabata workout programme: harder, faster, fitter, quicker?

Oh we go.


Unknown said...

I think that for most people "high intensity" has a different meaning than it does for well-conditioned people.

I think that if they keep it honest the instructors and DVD will come with a lengthy legal disclaimer for when someone keels over.

Dane Thorsen said...

One of the principal justifications for these kinds of short burst, high-intensity workouts is to reduce levels of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that causes the body to store calories as fat.

It's one way to go about it, I suppose, but there are far less stressful ways to achieve the same results.

Anonymous said...

"Less stressful ways?" The body adapts to the demands we place upon it, hence it adapts to various stressors. Everybody talks about how hard these intervals are but, define hard. Yes, the work interval is very hard but it's short..., the whole workout should be short IF one does it right and goes all out. This only has to be done two, maybe three times a week to reap the health benefits, body-comp changes, etc. When I think of hard, I think of having to get up at 5 a.m. 4-5 days a week for a 30-60 minute run. Not fun. Tabata intervals, 30 seconds on, 1 minute off, 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off..., it's really all the same. Didn't we do this as children, playing tag in the school yard? Run full speed to get away, over and over again, and then wind up to find yourself climbing a set of monkey bars. Pretty intense if you ask me. The difference is that we didn't think about it back then..., it just came to us. As adults we lose that ability. We look at something like an all-out sprint and think, "That's too stressful and unsafe for my body." No, it's not. I could certainly understand if one has not been engaging in that high of a level of intensity for a while, then yes, said person needs to be gradually built up to the point where he/she can go all out safely. But, to say that there are less stressful ways, I simply disagree with.

Anonymous said...

Too stressful in the sense that it is likely to kill a healthy individual ? Probably not. Too stressful in the sense that it is unnecessary for the vast majority ? Probably yes.

js290 said...

Tabata in his abstract defined "hard" as 170% VO2max, which clearly is anaerobic. Most people spouting off "tabata" only get the duty cycle of 20s-on & 10s-off, completely missing the 170% VO2max part of it. And, only highly trained athletes can even come close to that.

The takeaway message from Tabata isn't the duty cycle. It's the intensity. Same thing Dr. McGuff talks about in BBS: you have to stress the anaerobic side of metabolism for exercise to be useful. And, it doesn't have to happen that often.

Stuart Gilbert said...

170% VO2 max doesn't have to be reached for the anaerobic process to come into play. There is a continuum between the aerobic / anaerobic sides of the spectrum. therefore anaerobic processes can be utilized at lower levels. I've read Winett's description of the modified Tabata protocols using bodyweight exercises, and his account of his own version on the recumbent bike. Having tried the revised protocol with 3 different body weight exercises ( mountain climbers, squat thrusts and low height fast step ups ) I can say that the modified version is enough for us mere anyone not at elite athlete level. By the 8th 20 second segment you know you've been working, but the first few aren't so daunting to make you want to give up.
There were some questions raised as to how sustainable the Tabata protocol would be in the long term anyway. I should imagine, without supervision and outside motivation....not very. Doing intervals where a constant pace is targeted throughout, and where the last few are only "really" hard, seems effective enough, and sustainable for most of us. It's similar in nature to one hard resistance set done HIT style and 4 sets of say 10 reps, where only the last set is taken to failure. If progress is made, they both get to the same destination. I've always done my intervals in the slightly less intense method, and always made progress over the long term. That was the key, I could mentally sustain it LONG TERM, and not burn out after a few weeks. I was able to mentally leave something in the tank, and therefore return the following week, making slight adjustments to account for progress, while not fearing what was to come so much, that I was already making excuses not to do it.
Winett's conclusions are very sound, and based upon his desire to make his training sustainable both mentally AND physically, in order to preserve his structure and joints for his main passion of resistance training, and in order not to negatively affect his life outside the gym. His account can be read here....

Ken said...

I think this kind of program will be hard to follow daily. I love to exercise but I won't be able to focus or dedicate myself in this kind of strenuous training program. The intensive exercise definitely shows results but you will have to go through a lot of muscle pains and recovery along the way.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who wants to Tabata is free to knock themselves out.

That said, I doubt that even most competitive athletes will ever have to exercise this hard to excel in their respective sports.

And certainly no one needs to exercise this hard for health.

js290 said...


In Tabata's experiment, they measured 170% VO2max. Which to me was just the technical way of saying "anaerobic." I agree that for most of us 170% VO2max is not realistic or necessary, but anaerobic is.

Anonymous said...

How they measure 170% VO2max ?
Is there a practical way to check it without any devices?

Thanks, Ferry

Anonymous said...

There is ample literature suggesting that modified Tabata protocols with regard to interval duration, number, and intensity seem to accrue physiologic benefit when compared to LISS training in a fraction of the time. I think that heart rate monitoring is an easily measured and objective metric to assess intensity with the goal of reaching more than 90 % of maximal heart rate (not calculated but determined by actual practice). Tabata's contibution is the identification that there is a threshold effect for adaptation and physiologic benefit attainable by intensity rather than duration/volume. Don't get too caught up in trying to mimic his protocols (initially done with olympic athletes), just be certain that you are working near capacity--sort of like reaching momentary muscular failure on HOT resistance training protocols.

Physical Therapy upper saddle river said...

I have leg pain and I want to get relief. I think the workout can help me. I will try it and hope I will recover soon.

Billy Oblivion said...

"Everybody talks about how hard these intervals are but, define hard"

Very hard==I threw up.
Hard==I felt like throwing up.
Good==hand were shaking, didn't feel like moving.
easy==breathing heavy, some sweat.