The “Tabata Protocol”…An Effective 13 Minute Fat Burning Workout

September 26, 2007

Have you ever heard of the “Tabata Protocol”? It isn’t a brand new way of performing cardio, but it is rarely discussed in fitness circles anymore. It is really too bad, because I think many people could benefit tremendously by incorporating it into their workout routines.

Tabata Protocol Japanese Speed Skating Team
(The Japanese Speed Skating Team…A force to be reckoned with! They have used the Tabata Protocol to increase their performance for years)

So What is The Tabata Protocol?

The Tabata Protocol is an interval routine developed by the head coach of the Japanese Speed Skating team. It is named after Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., who was the former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports. He took the coach’s interval routine and conducted a study on its effectiveness. The results were outstanding to say the least.

So How Is This Interval Routine Different?

Get this…the interval routine is six to eight hard 20 second intervals with only 10 seconds of rest in between! The whole routine only takes 3-4 minutes total. The reason I put “13 minute fat burning workout” as the title is that it is smart to warm up for 5 minutes and cool down for 5 minutes…in reality, the actual work part of the workout is only 3 to 4 minutes.

How on Earth Can 3-4 Minutes Burn Body Fat?

This type of short-term intense interval training has been shown to jack up your metabolic rate for many hours after the workout is finished. You will burn a lot more total calories after the workout is complete. What they also found is that this version of interval training is extremely effective at burning fat without compromising muscle tissue.

This Interval Training Routine is NOT Easy!

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the Tabata Protocol is easy. Done properly…it is a tough 3 to 4 minutes. It was reported that many of the athletes had to stop at 6 intervals their first few times through the workout. Besides torching body fat, this routine dramatically improves both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity…making you a better athlete.

What Exercises Can You Incorporate Into the Tabata Protocol Workout?

This is what excites me the most about this method of cardio…you have a ton of choices. I think the easiest would be an exercise bike, elliptical or running at a track. It wouldn’t be a very good for the treadmill, because the treadmill takes to long to get up to top speed. You could use almost any piece of cardio equipment that allows you to reach maximum effort quickly. This would be the ideal jump rope routine. Here is a link to a post I did on jumping rope and its benefits: Jump Rope Workout

This Is Also a Great Routine To Become Better in Your Chosen Sport

A Boxer, you could hit the heavy bag for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. A basketball player could jump and try to touch the rim numerous times for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. A swimmer could do a crawl stroke, butterfly stroke, etc…You get the picture. This is actually a good, high-level method to increase athletic performance in many sports.

How You Can Fit This In With Your Regular Workouts

This is an intense form of exercise. I tried it about 3-4 years ago shortly after the study came out…I was a mess! Anyway…I will most likely begin to do it again twice a week, replacing the normal high intensity interval training that I do on those days. It will feel good to have a couple shorter days each week. Obviously, just incorporate this into your workout as you see fit. If you give the Tabata Protocol a shot, please comment below.

Note: All comments are moderated now, so it may take up to 6-8 hours before they show up. Please continue to comment…because I love it when people share their experiences with some of these methods!

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Rusty Moore

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

G. September 26, 2007 at 6:20 pm

Hi Rusty,

i have trained using the tabata protocols too.
It is an awesome workout when performed correctly.The elliptical machine is fantastic because you can adjust the intensity so quickly.However i also do the workout outside on the track…..WOW…..totally tests your fitness but even more so your mental fitness.It can be as gruelling as you make it.
Quick description of how i perform the traing on the track:

10 minute warm up (walking)
20 sec all out sprints followed by 10 sec walking(repeat 8 times)
10 minute warm down (walking)
then collapse…..only joking

Its a great way to train, however like yourself, i wouldn’t do it more than twice a week because of the intensity.

Bye for now

john September 27, 2007 at 9:11 am

yea, i jump rope like this…i do double jumps for the all out part and jogging in place for the active rest periods…i always thought of it as maintaining good conditioning rather than anything else.

TNAFitness.com September 27, 2007 at 11:27 am

Hey Rusty,

Glad to see this info on here. I’ve been discussing this type of cardio for years, ever since I saw this info in a scientific journal.

Personally, do to the all out short intensity duraction, I don’t like doing this on any machines. I prefer outside workouts doing either sprints (I sprint the length of a soccer field, jog back, repeart), jump rope, or do hill sprints where I sprint up all out, walk down to recover and repeat. Talk about brutal! Ouch!

Keep it up.

Gregg

alberta September 27, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Great Article Rusty,

This is an extremely effective workout. Through tough lessons, I have found that if you’re just starting this routine, and you go all out in your first 20 seconds, you’ll have nothing in the tank to finish. I have found that you should make your first 5 or so 20 second sprints intense enough that it’ll make make finishing that last 3 (particularily the last one) absolutely brutal. Like I said, if you run like a person on fire in the first sprint, you’ll have nothing in the tank to finish. Once you get used to this workout- up the intensity.

Alberta

admin September 27, 2007 at 2:04 pm

Gregg,

I tried it yesterday on an exercise bike. I alternated between level 15 and level 9 on the bike. I would try to get the RPM’s to about 120 when I was hitting level 15 for 20 seconds…and I was just trying to keep the RPM’s low for my 10 second recover period.

That 10 second recovery period is the shortest 10 seconds ever…LOL! The last 3 sets of the 20 seconds burst of speed, went by extremely slow. What was great about this is that I felt energized after the workout. I think I’ll just incorporate it once or twice a week, when I’m short on time. I still prefer a longer version of HIIT for the most part, but this workout definitely is usefull when you are strapped for time and want a quick metabolic boost.

Alberta,

I just did the indoor version…now it’s time to hit the track! I’ll tell you how it goes. I know it is going to be rough. When I first tried this a few years back I went to my highschool track…and my lungs were burning!

Rusty

Angie September 28, 2007 at 10:22 am

This was something I looked up a while back, but never actually did it. Looks challenging, but thats what I’m all about! Thanks for reminding me Rusty!

Christopher M September 28, 2007 at 1:02 pm

I tried this on my bike on the street today, and it was pretty tough, much to intense to do on the street as I was exhausted way too fast and couldn’t do too many intervals and still be safe, its much more challenging than it sounds!

Seems like it has potential though, im going to try it on the stationary bike tomorrow.

Burak October 5, 2007 at 7:35 pm

I’ve been doing this with sprints on an indoor track prior to lifting for the past week and a half or so. I jog a half mile, stretch, jog another quarter mile, walk 10 seconds to complete my warm up and then explode with these intervals. I cool down with a jog that I slow down to a walk as I feel my heart rate drop.

I’ve noticed that the “HGH flush” (or what feels like one) that Rusty has mentioned in previous posts to be significantly more pronounced when I do this. Even more so than any of the other interval cardio routines I’ve been doing.

One thing I’m not sure about: Rusty, is it a good idea to be doing this prior to lifting? I feel great after the entire workout, and I’m seeing results, but I’m just wondering if you see anything inefficient about this.

Thanks,
Burak

admin October 6, 2007 at 2:25 am

Burak,

Doing this before lifting is just largely a matter of preference. I like to lift first and then do cardio, but I really have no reason for doing so. If it feels better to do the cardio first, then do it that way. I’m sure it will work well.

Some people tell me that after doing cardio, their body feels more “alert” when they lift and they feel a bit stronger.

Get back to me and tell me how it ends up working after a few weeks!

Cheers!

Rusty

Gators October 9, 2007 at 5:46 am

Rusty
g’day from Australia, fantastic website. always been into the more ‘athletic’ look and being a tennis player who used to play pro, am finding these new tips very motivating and have always enjoyed HIIT. am also doing a personal training course to help others with more the outdoor training side of things rather than gym instruction. a question for you with regards to exercise science. my course is telling me that HIIT aka short sprints uses the phosphate system, middle distance uses phosphate/lactate and longer distance uses aerobic and it’s aerobic which is the only sytem where fat is broken down and advises for fat loss to choose aerobic exercises over a longer duration. realizing it all depends on fitness levels and i’m a huge fan of HIIT but was just curious on your thoughts on the above 3 systems our body uses for energy consumption and if we only do HIIT then how this affects us. thanks heaps and keep it up!

admin October 9, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Gators,

It looks like I know what I am going to write about tonight. Thanks for the idea. HIIT actually burn fat by creating a negative energy balance throughout the day (you are burning more calories throughout the day than you are ingesting in food).

Like you said, aerobic exercise actually uses fat for energy as you are working out. Obviously there is a place for both of these methods, so that is what my post will be about tonight.

Here it is, but not quite as detailed into the various energy systems…I’ll do a post on that in the near future
Balancing Steady State Aerobics With Interval Training

Thanks for the idea!

Rusty

PS: I love it that I have a decent amount of readers from Australia! I need to visit your county ASAP, because I enjoy the sun, the beach, BBQ’s, beer, and beautiful women…plus everyone I have met from Australia just seems friendly to me.

Grant October 10, 2007 at 12:21 pm

You can also do tabata w/weights. Two of the most effective exercises are the front squat and dumbbell thrusters. Just using the barbell for front squat is very effective.

Richard October 13, 2007 at 10:08 pm

I’ve adapted the Tabata protocol to swimming. I warm up and warm down for about 10-15 minutes. I sprint 25 yds/mtrs and rest 10 seconds for a total of 8-9 lengths, which takes about 4 minutes. When I’m done I can barely hold my head out of the water. Unlike the other contributors, I’m exhausted afterward and don’t recover that day. Maybe it’s my age (50), but I’m surprised that anyone could feel energized after such a brutal regime.

admin October 13, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Richard,

Doing Tabata protocol while swimming HAS to be tough! I am not a great swimmer, so this would kill me.

“50 is the new 40″…so no age excuses…LOL! What is funny is that the older I get, the younger that 50 seems to me.

The thing about Tabata is it is as hard or easy as you make it. You make it tough, so you probably get a lot more out of it than someone who doesn’t push as hard.

Keep it up!

Rusty

jack October 25, 2007 at 1:57 pm

try doing with pullups, then pushups, then situps. helped me kill on my pft in the coast guard, though it feels like it will kill me every time..you can always go to failure with it, because once you can do reps the whole time, you can speed up, i’m almost always a little sore when i do this

admin October 25, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Jack,

That sounds rough…especially the pull-ups. I am not the best at pull-ups…probably because of my height, but they are extremely effective. I need to do a post on bodyweight exercises!

Good comment buddy!

Rusty

PS: Did you see “The Guardian”? How realistic was that?

Brandon January 29, 2008 at 9:10 pm

this workout is frickin tough! I play basketball so I just jumped as high as I could for 20 sec then rested 10. I really couldnt jump at all after the 5th set, I felt like I was gonna die lol. I really liked it though. Im gonna try to do it 4-5 days a week if possible because my body looks soft to me. Rusty, you probably recommend against this, but im a young kid so i think I can take it. I’ll write back with results.

admin January 30, 2008 at 1:40 am

Brandon,

I like your enthusiasm, so I bet you will do well. Only you can tell how much your body can take. Basketball is a great workout by the way. It is my favorite sport to watch…I have “zero” game! I kick butt at things like ping pong, frisbee golf, and skimboarding (most people don’t know what that is, but I grew up on a big skimboarding beach).

Get back to with your results Brandon!

Rusty

Bob February 26, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Hi Rusty,

Did a search for ‘Tabata Protocol’ and found your site. Been doing high intensity for many years along with aerobics and weight training. Two years ago I went to short, intense workouts exclusively, no aerobics, only body weight. Still do recreational downhill and biking. I’ve known of Tabata for some time, but never tried it till last night. The first interval of front squats with a forty pound sandbag was so easy I thought it’d be a breeze. Not! I made through six intervals. This is good stuff. Never found anyone interested in joining me in these workouts. The instinct to avoid pain is too strong I guess. So it’s nice to know there are others out there! I’m sixty-two by the way.

admin February 26, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Bob,

I want to be kicking butt with hard workouts at 62 as well! I guess the key is to never quit…and I don’t plan to. Yeah…I love the idea of doing tabata with lifts. What a great way to get a good fat burning workout at home!

Keep it up!

Rusty

matt hensarling May 13, 2008 at 4:35 pm

So I’ve been doing “the tabata” for a couple of months now and its kind of funny because now my legs are actually way bigger than they ever were when I would use different “hardcore” leg workouts from main-streams fitness magazines. Seriously, I’ve always had “chicken-legs” and nothing has ever worked. Now out of nowhere my legs look like normal human legs and I never once worked them directly. Which is very cool!
-Matt

Tiffany January 21, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Hi there….

I am using a slightly varied (more like intervals) of the tabata…..

I do 30s. at 90-100% Maximum Heart Rate (for me 177 is MHR and 90% is 160 and above)

then 1 min total rest.

I am using the stairs in my home to do this and after 4 rounds of this I could barely walk or breath. I was nauseous. It took me 1/2 hour to stop sweating and my HR and breathing to return to ALMOST normal. I felt like the original test subjects (rolling around on the floor and such giggle)

I check my HR after each “sprint” to ensure i am at 90% or more then let it go back down to 70%. then start over.

I can attest to the same as others (maybe on other sites) who say that this routine alleviates soreness from other workouts. i

My goal is to get up to the 8 rounds and to shorten my rest time and eventually do the “real” tabata. It is a process and I am SO very sure that I will attain it. If you all knew where I was just a month ago in terms of my physical fitness/aerobic/anaerobic capacity.

skujo May 3, 2009 at 3:18 am

Hi matt ,

just wanted to know what exercise you used in your tabata.Was it by any chance sprints ?

thanks

pjnoir July 25, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Tabata rules. It can be used with many different forms of exercise, not just sprints or running like HIT. The ‘secret’ s of course the rest5 interval. I have gotten far better results with Tabata using HEAVY weights- low reps many sets as a cardio work-out, then any long distance jog or walk. I wear a heart Monitor and the numbers don’t lie.

matthias November 8, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Hi rusty, love your website. I was wondering, are tabata sumo squats good for weight loss?

rick December 9, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Rusty,
Tabatas are the bomb. I only use a stationary bike(like Dr. Taabata). I’ve been doing them for about 6 months, at least 3 times a week. I weighed 203lbs when I started with a BMI of 15%. I’m now 208 with a BMI ov 11.5. I do these in conjunction with resistance training. Tabatas make the fat literally melt away. I do them EXACTLY like the good doctor told his atheletes…every time.

Rick

Chris January 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Hi, I am running my first marathon in May ( Copenhagen) and I would like to hear your opinion about using the tabata or Hiit for this. Of course I have to run distance ( 15-20 km) as a part of my training but could I cut down on distance by using tabata more often. Distance make my legs sor for 3 days and Hiit doesn`t. Are there any study on using Tabata as a tool to run a marathon?

Would this do for a Marathon ( I got four month)

Training scedule:

Hiit: Monday

Tabata: Wendsday

Hiit: Friday

Distance: Sunday

Chris

Melanie June 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Jan 23, 2010

I workout at a CrossFit gym where Tabata is a staple in a lot of our workouts. We do 8 min tabatas (20 sec of work, 10 sec of rest) and we do this with every kind of exercise. Some of my favorites; burpees, box jumps, push ups, pull ups, air squats (with no weight…it’s killer).
I just joined this website and have done a lot of reading. It’s definitely not the conventional advice you hear these days but I’m going to try it to melt away the final 10 lbs I seem to be holding on to.
Melanie

St├ęphanie March 4, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Hey Rusty !

First of all, thank you for your web site, amazing stuff in there ! :)

I’m 16 years old, and I’ve been training in various sports for a while now. I heard about Tabata training not long ago, but never tried it out… Reading your article and all those great comments gave me the motivation to try it out. Well I did it tonight, with my staircase at home, and I must admit, It’s a killer! Was out of breath after a couple rouds, but I feel great afterwards!
I will definitly include it in my training!

Thanks again ,

St├ęphanie

Gaby A. November 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Hi Rusty, I know this is a few years late, but this was a good intro on Tabata and HIIT that still holds up. If you’re still monitoring this thread, curious if rather than one routine in Tabata (e.g. front squats only or elliptical only) have a mini-set thrown in, corresponding to each round. For example, Squats (20/10), Pushups (20/10), Pullups (20/10), Mountain Climbers (20/10), and then repeat…still going intensively with each. Does it really matter or would incorporating those specific exercises have an added bonus?

Niko - noeXcusefitness December 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Lately I have been using the tabata protocol as finishers to my weight training sessions. I pick an exercise that utilizes a body part that hasn’t been hammered during my session. It only takes 4 minutes to complete. It’s not only a great way to finish my session, but it’s a great way to finish fat.

Niko - noeXcusefitness February 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

For those that are interested here is my take on Tabata training:

http://www.noexcusefitness.com.au/training/fat-burn-cardio/

Cheers
Niko

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