The Science Behind Tabata Training

At the American College of Sports Medicine annual conference, leaders from all over the fitness world are meeting to discuss their latest research and findings. And exercise physiologist Dr. Michele Olson—we know her as Dr. Abs—is dropping quite a bombshell during her presentation on Tabata Training. You may not have heard of Tabata yet, but chances are you will soon: Turns out, it can burn a whopping 13.5 calories a minute—and double a person's metabolic rate for 30 minute afterward.

Tabata is an early form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), started in the 1990s by Japanese professor Izumi Tabata. (He used it to get speed skaters in shape for the Olympics.) It involves short, four-minute bouts of explosive interval moves done for 20 seconds each for eight rounds, with a 10-second break between each round.

MoreTabata for Beginners

Olson, who measured study participants' calorie burn before, during, and 30 minutes after a Tabata bout, found the routine to be an extremely effective way to boost metabolism fast. "It would take five times the amount of typical cardio exercise, like a 20-minute brisk walk, to shed the same number of calories that result from a 4-minute Tabata," she says.

Now that Tabata has been scientifically shown to produce such amazing results, she says, expect to see fitness instructors incorporating these techniques into personal training sessions and classes. And you can even try incorporating Tabata techniques into your own routine, she told SELF: "It's low-tech, low-cost. You really only need a timer to mark your eight rounds (each with 20-seconds of intense effort plus 10-seconds rest)—like a stop watch or nearby clock with a big second hand."

And the cool thing abut Tabata is you can do it with any type of cardio. Olson likes using squat jumps, which are great for the back, abs and hips, she says, but you can also use non-impact moves like sprints on the Spin bike or even in the pool. (Or you can try our 8-minute Tabata-style CrossFit workout, guaranteed to torch calories.) "Just be sure to put out an effort that's your best, all-out effort," she says. "That's the key to this method."

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ACTIVEx Tabata Workouts App

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Want more Tabata?

Download the ACTIVEx app, the world's first community-based fitness app.

The app features customizable Tabata-based interval workouts and group training experiences with in-app coaching. You can create and find "packs" to play with, download training plans for 5Ks, 10Ks and more, and celebrate your successes with friends and family.


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About the Author

Amanda MacMillan

SELF gives you great advice on being healthy, happy, slimmer, fitter and less stressed.

SELF gives you great advice on being healthy, happy, slimmer, fitter and less stressed.

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