Warning: This article deals with a highly advanced exercise routine. Attempt at your own risk, and make sure you’re physically fit enough to do so.
There are hundreds of websites, workout DVDs, and equipment that claim to make you lose 20 lbs, build rock-hard muscles, and look like Hercules in just a few minutes a day. They’re all full of crap…or so I thought. It turns out one method ACTUALLY WORKS: Tabata.
Developed by Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Tabata is a method of exercise that lasts only 4 minutes long but absolutely kicks your ass. Here’s what you do: pick an activity and go all-out for 20 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat this cycle 8 times straight for a total of 4 minutes.
Does it work?
Dr. Tabata took two groups of elite atheletes and put them through 6 weeks of training (5 days a week). Group 1 Ran 60 minutes a day at 70% capacity, while Group 2 did sprints in the Tabata principle (sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10, sprint for 20, etc. for 4 minutes. At the end of the 6 weeks:
- Group 1 increased only their aerobic capacity (how long you can run) by 9.5% and anaerobic capacity (how long you can run at maximum effort) by 0%.
- Group 2 increased their maximum aerobic capacity by 14% AND increased their maximum anaerobic capacity by 28%.
For more information on this study (that goes WAY more in depth), read this article.
You might think you can survive a measly 4 minutes; however, if you’re not in great shape, Tabata workouts are probably too intense. If you’re just starting out with fitness and looking to work your way up to Tabata, start with regular interval training (explained in detail here) first until you’re ready. Then, mix in some Tabata by starting with only 2 minutes of exercise (4 sets of intervals) and work your way up to 8. Concentrate on safely going all out so you don’t pull a hamstring or hurt yourself. Remember, this was developed for Olympians, and at the end of 4 minutes it left them lying on the floor. It will take both physical and mental strength to get through these routines on a consistent basis. Mind of matter!
Which exercises should I do?
Start with a 5 minute warm-up to get your heart pumping and loosen up your muscles. Always end with a 5 minute cool down/stretch to bring yourself back down to earth. You want to try and pick exercises that recruit the most muscles possible for maximum fat burning:
- Sprints – Simple enough. Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10. Sprint for 20, rest for 10. This is tough to do without a partner yelling out your times to you. I run with a stop watch with big numbers and glance at it around 20 seconds to make sure I stay on time.
- Elliptical Machine – Less wear and tear on your joints, but tougher to go “all out” because it can only go so fast. Crank the resistance all the way up if you can handle it.
- Rowing Machine – Ow. This will explain why guys that rowed Crew in college were freaking ripped.
- Stationary Bike – It’s a bike. Pedal like hell.
If you can, have a friend help you for the 4 minutes to both motivate you and keep track of time. Tomorrow morning will be my first attempt