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Gavin Aquilina’s Tabata Training 101

In this article, Gavin Aquilina says we need to ask “why?” more often, in order to be better fitness professionals.

Tabata training doesn’t work!? How can somebody say that?

Tabata training would be one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in cross training, fitness and fat loss.

Quite often a high intensity circuit using a 20-second work effort followed by a 10 second recovery, repeated 8 times, is called a Tabata circuit. It might use for example, burpees, push ups or mountain climbers as a Tabata exercise and sometimes a combination. After a period of recovery the circuit is repeated 3 or 4 times over a 40 minute time period. This is not true Tabata training.

True Tabata training, is a warm up, followed by 20 seconds of work at 170% of your VO2 Max with a 10 second recovery (VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise). This is repeated 8 times for a 4-minute workout.

This true Tabata protocol is very effective at increasing VO2 Max and explosive anaerobic power over a 6 week period. And in its true form, it is only a 4 minute workout. Therefore Tabata may spike your metabolism BUT it is not of great enough duration/volume to promote significant calorie burning and in turn fat loss.

The timing protocol of 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds recovery, reflects the Tabata methodology. Determining 170% of VO2 Max for many of the selected exercises cannot be done. For example in a park or gym floor, it is very hard for me to measure and therefore do, 170% of my VO2 Max on burpees.

In actual fact if you complete  the true Tabata protocol (20sec + 10 sec x 8 repeats) on an exercise bike or cycle ergometer and then give yourself a 4 to 5 min low intensity active recovery, it is impossible to complete another sequence of the Tabata protocol for 8 repeats. If your lucky you will possibly achieve 6 repeats or 3 minutes. Give yourself another 4 to 5 mins recovery and once again the numbers will drop down to around 4 repeats or 2 minutes.

It is important we ask questions such as, how can we:

  • Apply Tabata for fat loss?
  • Apply Tabata for fitness?
  • Complete in field VO2 Max tests and calculate Tabata speeds/distances?
  • Is Tabata better than long duration for increasing VO2 Max?

It is so important as an industry, that we ask more WHY’S and don’t just blindly follow a trend. Understanding what and why we are doing something is so very important.

Ask More WHY’S!

Article by Gavin Aquilina. Gavin is the Global Master Trainer for Life Fitness Academy, Education director for Life Fitness Australia, Guest Coach at Australian Institute of Fitness and PT Business coach. He is soon to be launching a new weight loss nutrition coaching course called ‘Cut the crap’.

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