A grad student, triathlete, young professional friend of mine turned me onto a high intensity interval training regimen called Tabata. She’s a pretty fit lady so I’ll take her word for it (check out her website). Basically you build your own workout routines that last 4, 8, or 12 minutes which is perfect for a high intensity athlete who has a very busy school/work/training schedule and doesn’t have time to spend an hour at the gym lifting weights. The way you set them up is you choose which muscles you want to work (abs, shoulders, legs, etc). You can choose to repeat the same exercise (i.e. lots of squats) or you can choose four different exercises that target that muscle group. Generally they’re all body weight exercises. You do those four exercises at the highest intensity you can for 20 seconds a piece with 10 seconds of rest in between. Thus when you do one set, it takes 2 minutes, then you repeat until you can’t handle it anymore. You shouldn’t be able to go for more than 8-12 minutes or else you’re not trying hard enough.
I chose to focus on my abs, mostly because my arms were sore from climbing and P90X. I chose four different exercises: one hanging knee raise, one standing and alternating side crunch, one plank knee in crunch, and one laying down crunch. I did each of these for 20 seconds with a 10 second break in between and repeated until I wanted to throw up.
I have to say that I liked the intensity of the workout but generally I’m not a huge fan at trying to exercise as fast as you can. The faster you go, the more opportunity you have for poor form. I felt like I was yanking myself through some of my ab sets simply because I was trying to go fast. I certainly wouldn’t rely exclusively on Tabata training as a way to maintain my fitness because most of the sports I do are endurance: hiking, running, biking, etc so the short explosive workouts should only act as a supplement to my endurance training. With only 8-12 minutes per workout, I could do one in the morning while my french press is making my coffee for the day which takes about 10 minutes after it’s all said and done. I recommend trying it if you’re looking to mix up your workout routine and don’t have the time to go for a long run, bike, or gym session, but I wouldn’t recommend it as your only form of exercise as you lose out on endurance.
Here’s a website with a little more information on it http://tabatatraining.org/ however, I think my friend Funk Roberts from FunkRobertsFitness.com explains it perfectly:
(I didn’t catch any heart rate data because I forgot to turn on my watch, bummer)