- 02-22-2006, 02:58 PM
The Tabata Method
Fat Loss in Four Minutes
by Dan John
A couple of years ago, a company came out with an exercise machine that guaranteed results in only four minutes a day. The main problem? The $12,000 price tag. My car doesnít cost that much. Iím not sure I've ever spent that much on anything, including my education.
Well, I'm going to save you a lot of money today because I'm going to show you how to do the same thing without an overpriced machine. This "top secret" training method may do more for you than all your other training combined and leave you with 23 hours and 56 minutes to live the rest of your day.
But there's a price to pay. Think exhaustion, vomit and pools of sweat.
Enter the Tabata Method
Tabata is the name of a Japanese researcher who discovered an interesting way to increase both anaerobic and aerobic pathways at the same time. It's one of those strange training programs that seems to fit across disciplines: it's excellent for bicyclists, speed skaters, Olympic lifters, or the person looking to lose fat quickly.
This training method is so simple, yet so incredibly difficult, that athletes tend to try it once, acknowledge its greatness, and then vow to never speak its name again. What is it? It's simple: take one exercise and perform it in the following manner:
1) For twenty seconds, do as many repetitions as possible.
2) Rest for ten seconds
3) Repeat seven more times!
That's it! You're done in four minutes! Oh, and that thing you're trying to brush off your face? That would be the floor.
Eight sets of "as many reps as you can get done," followed with a brief ten second restó simple and effective. The two best exercise options for the Tabata method are the front squats and the "thruster," which I'll describe in a bit.
It helps to have someone record the reps of each set for you because, well, you wonít remember after you pass out. I use the "lowest rep number" of any of the eight sets as my measurement to compare workout to workout. If you go too heavy, that number might be two. If you go too light, you might find yourself getting around 15 reps or more.
Before we talk about the exercises, letís take a moment to be perfectly clear about what we're doing. This isn't "eight sets of eight," although the goal of doing eight reps in each of the twenty second clusters is about right. Instead it's "as many reps as I can get in" during the twenty seconds, followed by ten seconds rest.
And by the way, ten seconds is not racking the bar, getting a drink, talking to the cute girl on the bike, looking at the clock, walking back to the bar, chalking up, adjusting the belt, talking to a friend, then doing the next set. Ten second is ten seconds! No cheating!
You need to choose an exercise that uses a large number of muscles. I suggest the front squat. Now, you may argue, why not the back squat? Well, it's hard to dump the bar quickly into the rack with back squats, while with front squats, you can simply fall into it and start your ten second rest.
With something like a military press, you wonít be using enough muscles to allow you to survive in the last minute; you might only get one or two reps with your shoulders on fire. Deadlifts have been tried, but most people get a little worried about injuries doing them Tabata-style.
The front squat might be the single best Tabata lift. Having said that, if you donít know how to front squat correctly, the Tabata method might teach you to lift better than a thousand coaches. In the four minutes, it's easy to get 64 to 70 reps, which teaches the nervous system better than a PowerPoint presentation.
The bar will be held in the "front" of the body, with the fingers relaxed and the bar resting on the clavicles with the elbows high. Sit down "between the legs." This actually gets easier in the third and fourth minute as you just start to "drop" back through. As you rise back up, you donít need to lock out the knees; in fact, donít even think about it. Just get up and go back down.
Weight on the bar? Letís just say this: a guy with a 465 pound front squat puked with only 95 pounds on the Tabata front squat. Generally, I urge people to go "light," like 65 to 95 pounds the first time. There are those in this world who've gone up to 155 pounds and still got "eights" in the last twenty seconds, but those are very rare people!
The other great Tabata exercise is the "thruster." The thruster is one of the greatest lifts no one has ever heard of in the gym. Take two dumbbells and hold them at shoulder height. Squat down, keeping the dumbbells on the shoulders. As you rise up, press the bells to the overhead lockout position. You can either press as you rise or use the momentum to help "kick" the bells overhead. I find that I do a little bit of both in the four minutes.
Thrusters do things to your heart rate and breathing that I honestly canít describe. Go light! A 35 pound dumbbell in each hand is a very difficult thruster workout! Check your ego at the door for the first two minutes.
You need to be able to see a wall clock with a second hand during your four minutes of fun. Stop at twenty seconds, rack the bar (if you choose the front squat), rest ten seconds, grab the bar and go again. Watching the clock seems to help with the focus.
And remember this: you really shouldnít consider doing much after the Tabata workout. Your lungs will be going like a locomotive engine. Go ahead and plan anything you like, but donít be surprised if it just doesnít happen. I keep the family dog nearby to chase the carrion birds away while I rest on the sidewalk.
The hardest thing about this workout is staying focused for four minutes. Donít let your hands leave the bar or dumbbells, if you can help it. After you put the bar in the rack during the front squat, stay right there, an inch or two back from the bar, and stare at the second hand of the clock.
If you do thrusters, put the dumbbells on a bench and watch the clock with your hands ready. This little trick of staying with the weight seems to help make those ten seconds seem like, well, not much, really! But at least you donít have to move much to get the weights again.
I do either Tabata front squats or Tabata thrusters about twice a month. Iím sure someone will comment, "If it's so good, why donít you do it every day?" Go ahead, try it and report back after the second day.
240 Seconds of Pain
Why should you do this workout? The Tabata program might be the single best "fat burning workout" that I know. It might only be four minutes, but you seem to keep sweating and breathing hard for a long, long time afterwards. Moreover, it seems to teach the body the proper method of squatting far easier than all the instruction in the world.
One other thing: Tabata truly teaches a person the mental focus needed to push past pain and reach his body comp or athletic goals. It'll save you 12,000 bucks, too!
About the Author
Dan John is the Diocesan Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Salt Lake City and a full-time "on-line" religious studies instructor for Columbia College of Missouri. Originally from South San Francisco, Dan came to Utah to throw the discus for Utah State University and never left. He has Masters degrees in history and in religious education, as well as having done intensive work at the American University in Cairo, University of Haifa, and Cornell.
Currently, Dan is ranked number one in the world in the Highland Games, ages 45-49, broke the American record in the Weight Pentathlon last August, holds numerous National Championships in weightlifting and throwing and maintains a full-time free internet coaching site at http://danjohn.org/coach.
© 1998 ó 2004 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved
- 02-22-2006, 03:47 PM
03-02-2006, 12:40 PM
03-02-2006, 01:14 PM
I knew another Tnation article that says they have the BEST way to burn fat... Their plethora of strength coaches make me wonder, why do strength coaches hide themselves with zubaz pants and oversized seatshirts? Because they have not tried the Tabata method!!! nontheless interesting read LC...
03-09-2006, 05:21 AM
Im still new to this forum. But in my first official post i will say this. As i was going to do legs today anyway, i will just do this Tabata today! i will give feedback tomorrow, if i can.
03-09-2006, 08:24 PM
hmm,i will try this out. But this sorta jsut goes against everything ive learnedand read relating to fatloss and muscle gaining.
03-10-2006, 01:14 AM
I tried this tabata yesterday! While i was reading this discussion the first time it was clear to me that it will be hard, but i didnt actually think it would be like this!
Im not a huge guy so i did my front squats with 25kg only since i knew i would be doing so many reps. thats only about 50pounds?
i got a personal trainer friend to assist me and time me. The ten seconds rest feels like about 1 sec.
1st Set = 15 reps.
2nd = 15 reps
3rd = 13reps
4th = 13 reps (here i started feeling like my head was going to explode!!!)
5th = 10 reps (really started hurting)
6th set = 8 reps
7th set = muscle failure at 5 reps.
My muscles really isnt used to this kind of exercise so it was a huge surprise for me to see how this works.
I usually squat only about 120kg 10 reps quite comfortably. (240pounds?) Funny how this 25kg ruined my in UNDER 4 minutes. I will try again in 7 days! Next saturday!
03-12-2006, 01:55 AM
Just a little tid bit about the Tabata Method.
It is the only method that has been shown to improve both cardiovascular fitness and strength at the same time
Time to get back into them I think
03-30-2006, 05:02 PM
gonna try this out next workout.. seems intersting. just hope i'm not yaking everywhere..
"A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most." -George Bernard Shaw
03-30-2006, 05:46 PM
For anyone thinking of trying this, please take note of the above and have some kind of safety/spotting plan. This stuff gets rough. I've done squats like this, and when my knees were more than a sack of shaved glass I used to run like this. It's murder.Originally Posted by LCSULLA
04-06-2006, 01:35 PM
Anyone else try this? I think I will try the thrusters first.
Would anyone reccomend any special type of preworkout meal on this since you're doing aerobic/anerobic workout?
04-06-2006, 02:58 PM
Sounds like loads of fun! Do you only do legs with this or can other body parts be implemented? Who has tried incline dumbell press or something similar?
04-06-2006, 03:20 PM
well the thrusters sound like it incorporates your upper body pretty well. Do a google search and there are some other suggestions..i am reading it as we speak
04-06-2006, 05:21 PM
Cool how bout you post em. Thrusters seem more like a shoulder exercise... any suggestions for back/chest?Originally Posted by hamper19
04-06-2006, 06:12 PM
I don't think you'll find something really. Because of nature of the workout you need to mobilize as much muscle mass as possible so the main exercise should always involve a leg press. Big movement, covers a lot of ground... Nothing would be stopping you from doing bench presses tabata style. I never tried that myself, but it could work.Originally Posted by canadian champ
04-06-2006, 10:39 PM
thats the thing its "style", i mean the bottom line is the 20 seccond 10 seccond thing. Of course you do what you want. keep in mind its a "4 minuteworkout"..ok my space bar is stuckor something....anyway
thrusters, seem to cover legs, cause u squat then come up to a press, and then shoulders/upper back. Depending how in touch with your body your are (this could be just me)....you should be able to work whatever part of your body you want with most movements.
Think about it...if you are doing shoulder presses, you can get your chest involved if you wanted to. Just make it happen
I am also thinking, before we talk about what different movements to try, attempting anything in this style is going to be harder then we all thought...
04-06-2006, 11:22 PM
I have heard of people doing tabata push-ups, so I don't see why it wouldn't work. How well I don't know?Originally Posted by CDB
Most people that do them do things like burpees, thrusters, boot-strappers, and hindu squats.
04-06-2006, 11:56 PM
Originally Posted by LCSULLA
Those would be mainly for endurance no? I mean ur not using weights right.. Unless what i am thinking those moves are aren't really the right thing....
04-10-2006, 10:30 AM
Definitely a good read. This looks perfect for me to do on my vacation coming in 2 days . Light weights, and not much time consumed. It can wake me up in the AM (if I'm not hung over).
04-10-2006, 04:38 PM
04-13-2008, 05:24 PM
I've been doing this lately. A kid at the gym came over and asked if I would help him. "A spot? Oh, sure!"
He said 'No, the Tabata squat'. He explained the deal, and that if I did 'em with him, it would help push him. Um, sure? I mean, that sounds like a challenge, and I'll be damned if some kid will beat me in that.
So we were off. 3:30 later We're glaring at each other, drenched in sweat, knees shaking, and with the most knarly, massive quad pump I've ever had. I got something like 18, 18, 17, 17, 17, 16, 15, and failure on 14. He got slightly more, but not by much.
So now I do em once a week. I've noticed that I respond well to very high rep exercise. Jump rope grows my calves WAY better than calf raises; competitive mt biking gave me better quads than weights. Well, my quads LOVE the Tabata, regardless of what the rest of my body is saying (big middle finger!).
04-16-2008, 09:59 PM
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