For those that are not familiar with Tabata training, it is simply a unique interval scheme that involves performing 20 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.
You are to perform this sequence 7 more times, for a total of 4 minutes of training. Over the years, the benefits of this technique have been completely blown out of proportion.
That is why I decided to write yet another article on this topic. I can, hopefully, present a more realistic picture of what Tabata exactly is and how it can help you in your fat loss goals.
Tabata Training Goals: Just Fat Loss?
A few months ago, I saw a disturbing article in Muscle & Fitness magazine which suggested using Tabata training for muscle mass. On some level, Tabata training can be used for muscle mass.
However, what was disturbing about it was that it basically took a typical bodybuilding program and plugged in the Tabata scheme. The problem with this is that some exercises are simply not effective with Tabata training.
There are two questions that come to my mind after reading that article: 1) Can Tabata training be effectively used to acheive other goals such as strength and mass, and 2) can you use any exercise with Tabata training?
In one of my previous Tabata training articles, I mentioned that participants of the original Tabata experiment with Dr. Izumi Tabata reported some level of muscle mass.
This was probably due to the huge amount of growth hormone and testosterone which is usually released with such high intensity training. However, I also mentioned thatTabata should not be used primarily to put on muscle mass.
This is because, from experience, I have found that effective muscle mass actually requires a higher volume of training. You can achieve this level of volume by performing lots of volume in one session, or spreading out the volume over multiple sessions.
Tabata training is just too intense for you to use any substantial volume in order to ellicit gains in mass. So, the final verdict is that although you will look a little bigger after a tabata training program, this is due to the fact that you’ve actually lost more fat.
Now, as for strength, does Tabata training increase your level of strength? I’ve personally never experienced such gains in strength. Although, yesterday’s post on Bodyweight Training and Strength does suggest that interval training does improve strength.
I think the main problem here is the rest interval. If you wanted to transform Tabata workouts into strength workouts, you would need to at least double the amount of rest between each set.
But then that would change the nature of Tabata training itself. Then you would not be able to call it Tabata. It’s just interval training for strength. Hence, you can not gain strength with Tabata Training.
Gaining Mass and Strength with Tabata Training
Wait a second, didn’t I just say that you can’t gain muscle and strength with Tabata training? I did, and I still stand by those conclusions. However, think about this: your body will be in such great condition after about a month ofTabata workouts, that the moment you switch to mass gain or strength workouts, your body will make drastic gains.
This is true for any sort of high intensity fat loss program. High intensity programs such as Tabata will improve your ability to recover, improve force production, and get you mentally prepared for heavy lifting.
Tabata Training Exercises
So the second question that came to my mind after reading the Muscle and Fitness article was – can you use any exercise for Tabata training? My belief has always been that high intensity ballistic exercises such as squat jumps, dumbbell snatches, and dumbbell swings work best forTabata.
However, exercises should not be too technical. For example, if you’re just learning to do cleans with a barbell, then don’t useTabata for it. Tabata will wear you out, and you will set yourself with injury if you use exercises you’re not very good at.
Looking back at the Muscle and Fitness article, should you use isolation bodybuilding exercises such as dumbbell curls and tricep extensions? Well, you can, but here’s the way I see it: Tabata training will push you.
You’ll be moving so fast, that your form will literally deteriorate. Hence, a bicep curl actually ends up being a “power shoulder get the dumbbell to your face as fast as possible” movement.
Do you see what I mean? Even a regular pushup ends up being ballistic at some point. If you perform movements slowly during a Tabata workout, then you’re wasting time and are not getting the most out of your 20 seconds.
Hence, stick to high intensity ballistic movements for Tabata training.
More High Intensity Workouts
There are many other high intensity routines you can use to help you build muscle and burn fat. One such program is the 1000 Calorie Accelerator plan by Kate Vidulich. Click here to learn more about this program.