Less time than energy? Tabata to the rescue

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Certified Health Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

The results are in! According to the Ninth Annual Survey conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, one of the hottest fitness trends for 2015 is high-intensity interval training, popularly known as HIIT.  While many sports enthusiasts are already following this format on the treadmill or stationary bike, group exercise classes are popping up which cater to this fast-growing phenomenon.  

An example of such a program is Tabata, discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Tabata and his team conducted research on two groups of athletes during a six-week period.  The first group trained at moderate intensity, while the second trained at a much greater level of intensity.  The moderate -intensity group exercised five days a week, with each workout lasting 60 minutes. The high -intensity group, however, trained only four days a week, with each workout being a mere 4 minutes and 20 seconds in duration (with 10 seconds of rest in between each set). 

At the end of six weeks, group one had increased their aerobic system’s capacity but demonstrated little or no improvement in their anaerobic capacity. Group two not only showed marked increase in their aerobic system, but also had also elevated their anaerobic capacity by 28 percent. In fact, Dr. Tabata demonstrated that a routine of this nature had the potential of increasing maximal aerobic capacity as effectively as 45 minutes of slow cardiovascular exercise!   The added bonus is that a HIIT program such as this raises the body’s metabolic rate not only as it is being executed in the gym, but for several hours afterward. 

If you are ready for the toughest short workout of your life — short, as in 4 minutes — give this basic Tabata routine a try:


Using any large-muscle-group exercise you choose (squats, push-up, or rows, for example), push yourself to your limit for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, and repeat for a total of 8 rounds.  If that merely whets your appetite for more, continue with another exercise, maximizing the workout using 4 different exercises.  The end result is 20 minutes of fat-burning, high-intensity intervals that will leave you breathless but proud!

Tabata programs are an efficient way to enjoy a quick workout if you are short on time, or if you desire an improvement in sports-specific endurance or speed. Whether you choose the 4-minute segment or decide to expand to the 20-minute variety, you are sure to see positive results in a jiffy!