What is Tabata

Tabata – High intensity interval training

  • Tabata is a type of high intensity interval training [HIIT]
    • Shown to help improve fitness with shorter exercise duration

Tabata – History

  • Named after Dr. Izumi Tabata a professor, researcher and coach from Japan
  • He was hired to analyse the interval style training regime of the Japanese speed skating team
  • He used their 20/10 interval structure as the basis of his research
  • What is now known as the ‘Tabata protocol’ is the most well researched HIIT design

Tabata – Protocol

  • 1 Cycle = 20 seconds of very hard exercise followed by 10 seconds rest
  • 1 TABATA = 8 cycles = 4 minutes

Tabata – Workout design

  • You must choose how many ‘TABATAs’ you wish to do;
    • 1 X TABATA = 4 minutes
    • 2 X TABATA = 8 minutes
    • 3 X TABATA = 12 minutes
    • 4 X TABATA = 16 minutes
    • 5 X TABATA = 20 minutes
  • Due to the nature and intensity of the workout, it is not common to go beyond 5 TABATAs (20 min)
  • You must also select your exercises;
    • Traditional design: 1 exercise per TABATA
    • Alternating design: 2 exercises per TABATA
    • Circuit design: up to 8 different exercises per TABATA
  • Dynamic (requiring movement) or combination exercises are most commonly selected in order to achieve the ‘very hard’ (RPE 17-18) level during the 20 second interval


  • TABATA/HIIT is considered safe for most individuals. Studies have been conducted on individuals with coronary artery disease and heart failure, comparing those who participate in HIIT programs to those participating in traditional steady state exercise. The risk was similar between both groups. Most research done on HIIT in the cardiac population was done within supervised settings and baseline screening was conducted. Please speak with your doctor if you wish to engage in HIIT.
  • Exercise intensity level is subjective. It is important to listen to your body and follow your own targets when participating in HIIT.
  • Do not start a HIIT program if you have had recent changes in your health status, symptoms or medications.
  • It is recommended that you have already been participating in some moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise prior to engaging in HIIT.
  • Follow standard exercise safety guidelines: perform a warmup and cool down with each workout, do not begin a workout if you are experiencing any symptoms. If you develop symptoms during your workout – stop! Seek medical attention if required.

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