Terrible Tabata

This is a four-minute workout consisting of 20 seconds of very high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. The original six-week study compared the effects of this method with those of a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. The results surprised a lot of people.

The four-minute group performed the Tabata Protocol four days per week (16 total minutes), plus one additional 30-minute steady-state workout each week. The total work was 95 minutes for the week since each interval was preceded by a 10 minute warm-up. The aerobic group performed five 60-minute workouts (300 total minutes) per week.

The result? The aerobic group showed less than 10% improvement in aerobic capacity and no improvements in anaerobic capacity. The Tabata group showed a 14% improvement in aerobic capacity and a 28% improvement in anaerobic capacity, literally and figuratively knocking the wind out of the argument for long, slow, steady-state cardio.

How It Works

Set yourself up on an Airdyne, Assault Airbike, spinning cycle, or other stationary bike. You'll like the Airdyne-style of bike because it brings the upper body into the exercise and gives you escalating resistance – the faster you peddle, the greater the resistance.

  1. Set the monitor for 14 minutes: 10 minutes of steady-state as a warm-up, then 4 minutes of sprint intervals.
  2. Once you begin the intervals, make sure to peddle as fast as you possibly can for 20 seconds. The original study was conducted at 170% of VO2 Max, which requires a substantial effort.
  3. Rest for 10 seconds, then start the next 20-second sprint.
  4. Do 8 rounds, totaling 4 minutes.

Think of it as 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest. Do that 8 times. If four minutes of Tabatas isn't the hardest thing you've ever done, you're doing them wrong.

Related:  The Rise of the Cardio Machines

Related:  5 Indoor Cardio Drills For Tough Guys