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Tabata's method – a miracle method or not?



Energy pathways during sportsFor those of you who have never heard of Tabata a short explanation: the Tabata Protocol is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, who was the coach of the Japanese speed skating team. I think it is useful to mention that Japanese skaters are very good at sprinting, but their longer distances over 500 meters are a lot less impressive. This does not mean that this method should be immediately burned.
Tabata intervals are 20 seconds of (almost) maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds rest. One repeats this until you can’t do it anymore, but normally about 8 repetitions is the most anyone can do. This is seen as a popular method particularly among bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, although there is more talk about it than actual practice :-)
 
So in theory, to the layman this sound likes something not so hard to do, but here is something to help you put this method into prospective:

 
A world class 200 meter runner does this distance within approximately 20 seconds. If he would adopt the Tabata method of training, he would have to run close to 200 meters during the first 20 seonds, then take a 10 seconds pause and then repeat the exercise.  Well, anyone who has ever run the 200 meters will know that it is absolutely impossible to do for 8 times in a row at that pace. In order to be able to achieve the 8 repetitions, he would have to choose the right pace, and that is not 100% flat out; that pace would proberly be more around 800 meter kind of pace. 

Further, let’s have a look at the duration of the effort – 8 x 30 seconds (or 20 + 10 seconds) makes 4 minutes. So you mean a complete effective workout in just 4 minutes? That sounds attractive, but how would that turn out in practice? If you don’t do a good warming up before starting a Tabata, you would sooner or later tear a muscle without any doubt. So you need to warm up, take a least 10/15 minutes to do a proper warm up including a short rest before you can start.

And now the execution - if you do what you are supposed to do, and stop because you really cannot do another rep, then you are almost exhausted. It will take at least 5 minutes to come back in the land of the living. And after that you definitely need an easy cool down to get your blood flowing normal again. So a Tabata takes 4 minutes? Well not really, it most definitely will cost you half an hour if you do it properly. possible training effect!here are roughly three energy paths that man has at his disposal, which of course run into each other, but they are clearly distinguishable:



The shortest one,alactic anaerobic, duration up to 20 seconds approximately at maximum physical effort. The pure sprint, this alactic fuel, is gone after 20 seconds maximum effort; but with a short break you can quickly restore it.
The middle system, Lactic anaerobic, lasts between 20 seconds and 2 minutes. This is the extended sprint: think about skating a 1000 meters, running 800 meters or swimming up to 200 meters. If you use this system to the maximum it takes a long time before you are restored.
The third aerobic power or our endurance capacity take up and uses oxygen. This can theoretically be sustained unlimited, depending on how much energy you have stored in your body, but in practice that is not possible. In practice it can last between 20 minutes and hours if the effort is not to hard.   
If we look at the duration of the Tabata's, we can see that all three energy systems are used and trained. It's just long enough to stimulate the oxygen uptake system but only just. The intervals cover just 20 seconds before you take a break; that works the shortest energy system. The short breaks reload that system partially, and the going on until failure ensures that the Lactic system gets used maximally. So looking at this, the method is especially suitable to train for short and long sprint and the middle distance numbers.

First a brief explanation here: It would be a panacea to burn fat! But how would that work in practice? Near maximal efforts consume almost no fat, only carbs, so the protocol itself will not burn much fat directly. If you add everything you have to do together, warm, tabatas, cool down and the time it takes for you to get the metabolism back to resting it is another matter. It will help, but a miracle method? Sensible diet and adequate exercise over time is the only miracle method. Everything else is a lie.

Finally, If you are really doing Tabata’s as required, then they are very stressful and you need long recovery times. They are suitable for building the real peak shape after a good base has been built. If you use the method too often or too long this work will certainly be to demanding and get you over-trained, so use it very carefully and wise.
 
This might be more suitable for very well trained (top)athletes. If one is not extremely well trained, the efforts should be adjusted to fit the level of the athlete. Training should always give your body an impulse and should not destroy your body.
To hard will lead to overtraining, to soft will mean undertraining. 
 
 
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