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Izumi Tabata, the researcher who performed the famous study and gave his name to the training protocol.

The Tabata interval training is the best known name in High Intensity Interval Training, but the original protocol is rarely used.

1 The Tabata Workout

The Tabata workout comes from a 1996 study by Izumi Tabata and it has the general format of a 10 minute Warmup, followed by 7-8 repeats of 20 seconds at high intensity with 10 seconds recovery [1]. This workout produces a near maximal oxygen debt[2]. The Tabata is considered an example of High Intensity Interval Training. (The workout was created by the Japanese speed skating team's coach, Irisawa Koichi, who asked Izumi Tabata to perform the study which then became famous[3].)

2 The Tabata Intensity

The intensity of the Tabata workout is often described as 'all out' or 'maximum effort', but this is not the case. Tabata actually uses a workout intensity that is 170% of the V̇O2max intensity[1]. In the Tabata study they measured the power output on a stationary cycle at V̇O2max, and then required 1.7x that power output during the intervals. For most runners, V̇O2max corresponds roughly with their one mile race pace, so the Tabata pace would be 1.7 times as fast. The Tabata workout terminated when the subject could no longer maintain the required effort. If the subject could complete a more than 9 intervals, the workload was increased next time. Below is a sample of the Tabata paces for different fitness levels (VDOT). For each level, the 5K and marathon times are given, along with the Tabata pace that corresponds to 170% of VO2max. (You can get the paces for your fitness level from the VDOT Calculator.)

VDOT 30 35 40 45 50 55 60
5K 30:38 26:57 24:05 21:50 20:00 18:28 17:10
Marathon 4:49:37 4:15:51 3:49:27 3:28:10 3:10:33 2:55:49 2:43:08
170% V̇O2max 6:37/Mile 5:40/Mile 4:58/Mile 4:25/Mile 3:58/Mile 3:36/Mile 3:18/Mile

3 The Wingate style Tabata (WinTab)

Very few athletes use the 170% VO2max intensity that Tabata used. Instead, the most common approach is to use an 'all out' intensity, rather like the more common Wingate style of HIIT. Because the intensity is not fixed, the WinTab normally has 8 repetitions of 20 seconds all out plus 10 seconds rest, taking 5 minutes (plus Warmup).

4 Tabata style strength training

The use of the Tabata interval pattern (8x [20s+10s]) for strength training has become popular, but I am not aware of any studies that have evaluated this form of training.

5 Frequency

The Tabata study used the full interval workout 4 days/week, with a 5th day of training at 70% V̇O2max for 30 minutes followed by 4 of the intervals.

6 Benefits

The 6 week Tabata study showed that the interval training program, which took about 15 minutes, produced slightly greater improvements in V̇O2max compared with the aerobic group that trained at 70% of V̇O2max for an hour per day, 5 days/week. The interval training group also showed a 28% improvement in anaerobic capacity compared with no improvement in the aerobic group.

7 Tabata for Endurance

The Tabata workout has been shown to improve V̇O2max which is an important component of endurance performance. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the Tabata workout will improve the muscular endurance needed for long distance running, or replace traditional forms of endurance training. On the basis of the available evidence, Tabata workouts should be used to supplement traditional endurance training rather than replace it.

8 Running Tabata

The original Tabata study used a stationary bike, but a similar workout can be performed with running. However, unlike cycling, where a higher intensity comes from the same motion with more force, running at a higher intensity requires a longer stride and sometimes a faster Cadence. At the pace needed for a Tabata, the running motion becomes dramatically different to most people's normal stride, requiring much greater flexibility. Unlike the stationary bike where the load can be quickly changed, running requires rapid acceleration, something endurance runners typically do not practice. These factors create a significant risk of injury, so care should be taken when attempting a Tabata workout with running. I would advise that you gradually build up the pace over a number of workouts, incrementally building up to the target speed.

9 Tabata on a Treadmill

A Tabata workout cannot reasonably be done on a treadmill. This is partly because the intervals are very short, with a dramatic change in pace between interval and recovery, so a treadmill acceleration becomes a problem. A treadmill may not be able to go fast enough for a Tabata, and if you cannot maintain the programmed pace, you could be injured by falling off the back.

10 See Also

  1. Introduction to Workout Types
  2. Introduction to Interval Training

11 References

  1. 1.0 1.1 I. Tabata, K. Nishimura, M. Kouzaki, Y. Hirai, F. Ogita, M. Miyachi, K. Yamamoto, Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max., Med Sci Sports Exerc, volume 28, issue 10, pages 1327-30, Oct 1996, PMID 8897392
  2. I. Tabata, K. Irisawa, M. Kouzaki, K. Nishimura, F. Ogita, M. Miyachi, Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises., Med Sci Sports Exerc, volume 29, issue 3, pages 390-5, Mar 1997, PMID 9139179
  3. Izumi Tabata,, Accessed on 9 February 2013